Supporting Young Adults Past High School Graduation

This is such a hot topic amongst my friends right now since many of us have young adults in the age range of 18-20.  We have debated responsibiity and freedom, future plans and goals or lack thereof, and how we help our young adults transition into being healthy, happy, independent adults.

We all kind of know the options – four year college, two year college, vocational or trade school, military, gap year, or full time employment.  The teenaged brain isn’t a mature one, and many teens have developmental needs that impact the timeline of further independence as well.  There really aren’t easy answers, and every young adult is different in what they need in terms of support.  It can get a little crazy at this age and almost becomes a pressurized comparision time just like it did way back in the  baby and toddler years of who is sleeping through the night first, who is walking first – only now it is who knows what they might like to do for a career, are they going to college, if they aren’t going to college what does that transition to independent living look like?

Things are different now than when we started out.  Financial constraints are real.  A full time job that pays federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour would require a 94 hour work week in order to afford a one bedroom apartment (typically).  You can see a breakdown of this by state here.  Also keep in mind employees that are tipped could make more or less than the minimum wage.  I also find many young adults who are used to a certain standard of living from their family (my area is a suburb that definitely has a mix of poverty and wealthy), are reluctant to try to branch out on their own  because they essentially want and expect what their parents have and probably built up over many years.

Student debt is real.  The student debt figures from 2017 stood at $1.4 trillion overall, with the average student loan debt in 2017 being $34,000.  Some students, depending on their major, have reported being underemployed or with difficulty entering the job market.

So, perhaps for some of these reasons, for  the first time in 130 years, according to the Pew Research Center, those 18-34 are more likely to be living with parents than married or living with a partner (see article here).  There was also a  super interesting article here at The Washington Post that pointed out another potential cause.  It suggested that there are many young able bodied men without college degrees that are happy being underemployed or unemployed, living with their parents and playing video games.   In part, this article said, ” The paper attributes one-third to one-fifth of the decline in work hours by less-educated young men to the rising use of technology for entertainment — mainly video games. The new study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, and the researchers say they are continuing to refine the precise figures. But other prominent economists who reviewed it for this story said it raises important questions about why so many young men have abandoned the workforce….[ He added], “They find evidence that a portion … of the decrease in work time of less-educated young men can be a result of the appeal of video games.”

So, if you are supporting your 18-19 year olds, or you are coming up to that age in a few years, what are some things you could be thinking about for this transitional period?

1 – Actually making it a transition.  Can they pay you rent if they are living with you?  How will you handle that?  What about responsibilities around the house?  Do they hold a job?  Why or why not?  Are they playing video games in place of employment?

2 – How can you help them with further training for employment?  What do they need to go to trade school or a two or four year college? Or will they work a job and get on the job training?  Is the cost of training/education realistic debt-wise in comparison to a salary that can be made?

3-What are their relationships like?  How can they tap into community? Is there something beyond screens that is healthy and satisfying?

4- Are you rescuing them?  The best way to prepare for life isn’t just a high school diploma or a GED, but  to learn is from mistakes and natural consequences.

5 – Do you trust your young adults to create their own lives, even if it looks different from what you envisioned?  

6- Do you know your own boundaries? What works for you and your family in relation to your young adult.  What are your expectations, your attitude, your ideas?  It’s easier to think about this before the situation comes up and you are in the middle of it.

Everyone has different stories and experiences.  Leave me a note in the comments and tell me what worked or didn’t work!  Would love to hear your tips and ideas!

Blessings,

Carrie

my teen is lonely!

It’s itneresting that I hear this not only from homeschooled families, but also from families who have teens in a school setting, and probably more from the families with teens in school.  The teen years can be hard in that teens are often figuring out who they are.  Cliques and bullying can be an huge issue, especially in the middle school grades of 6-8, despite everything said at school about inclusion and being kind to everyone. IN high school, this seems to dissipate, but friendships often fade away and shift, particularly around tenth grade typically.

It can be hard for parents to navigate this time.  Sometimes it can be hard to tell what is loneliness versus moodiness versus being withdrawn versus being anxious and depressed.  Teens may be moody (and when does that line cross from moody to depressed?), and  they can withdraw from groups of friends they previously enjoyed to be with a new group of friends (which many times is around 10th grade).  Maybe the teens feel as if they tried many of the clubs or things geared to their interests, but for whatever reasons, they didn’t make good friends out of it.

I have read some sources that say lonely teens go on to be lonely adults because they don’t learn how to function in groups and practice social skills.  Well, if that isn’t panicking to the parents of a  lonely teen, I am not sure what is!  And I don’t think that is necessarily true.  I have a different take. I think as human beings we are always changing, always growing, and that it doesn’t have to be that way.  Change is possible.  Some people are more introverted,  and if your teen is, they may be happy with a smaller circle of friends both as a teen and as an adult.  But if your teen is lonely, I think change can come  in the upper years of high school and in college, and often these teens garner friends for life in a different setting.

In dealing with this situation, I think it is very important that first and foremost your teen spend time with you and the family.  This connection is loving and grounding.  It may not replace the  friendships and peers that they are lonely for, but they will  know they will always be loved and that the family is the first place of friendship.  

And,  in this connection and grounding with us, we can help facilitate. No, you can’t set up  really set up playdates for mid to older teens, but you can talk to your teen about how sometimes we have a circle of acquaintances and that it is great to reach out to someone you don’t know as well to see if they would like to do something.  Providing that bit of emotional coaching can be really helpful.  I have seen that many teens are lonely, but none of them seem especially willing to reach out!  That is so hard.  We can also encourage jobs, volunteer work, and activities where teens spend a good amount of time with other teens for a common goal – sports, music, theater, robotics, speech and debate – whateve

For those of you with younger teens, you  can encourage groups of friends going to do something instead of having just only one friend that everything is done with.  This helps for the high school years where things dissipate a bit more. Tenth grade is particular seems to be an age where many friendships fall apart and the social circle shifts.  You can help your younger teen explore interests and connect with peers over that interest.

I would also make sure you as the parent are not projecting your wishes for your teen’s social life on to them.  Make sure that they are actually seeking friends before you offer any words or actions to them.  They may be happy with the way things are, and it is up to us to respect that.  So make sure it is true loneliness, and not just you projecting that you think they are lonely!

Lastly, teens connecting over the Internet has replaced much of the going and hanging out somewhere, so I think always being aware of your teen’s digital connections is important, whether they are lonely and seeking friends on-line or that they feel their social needs are met through on-line venues. It really is open to us to keep the lines of communication open on that and to set and use the  boundaries we set as a family regarding media usage.

I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions for parents dealing with their lonely teens.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

teens who don’t want to drive

Some teens are excited and ready to drive in the United States, but the latest thing that many parents are lamenting is that their teen doesn’t want to drive or even attempt to get their license.  This phenomenon has even hit mainstream news sources, like in this article by National Geographic.  It is definitely a national trend that I don’t think has an end in sight.  We are seeing a true shift that I think will last generations and may even extend as car technology changes.

I have read many of the articles on this subject, observed many of my teen’s friends, and have come up with some ideas of why this trend may be…

  1.  Teens are working less. You might wonder what this has to do with driving, but hear me out.   If the emphasis is placed on academic success rather than school being something one does in addition to other things, then the teen may not have the time or motivation to get a job due to so much homework and extra classes.  If they don’t have a job, they may not have money to pay for gas or insurance, let alone to save up for a car.  The teens I know who are driving the most  have a job!
  2. Teens have more friends on-line and are dating less than previous generations.  There is less reason to go out of the house.  Teens are no longer going to the mall and hanging out – they can hang out and shop in their rooms.  They may not be running out of the house to go pick up their girlfriend.   The digital age has changed the landscape of adolescence forever.
  3. Many teens have anxiety ( I have read estimates that span anywhere from 10 to 25 percent of the teen population, depending upon what criteria is used), and the feeling that you could die or you could kill someone while driving a car makes driving a less than  tantalizing proporition to many teens.
  4. There are alternatives – rides with friends, Uber, public transportation, walking, and yes….parents often started  driving their children to activities at earlier ages, and are continuing, so why give that up?

Here are a few of my suggestions in dealing with reluctant teens –

I think the philosophy is always that the parents will do things for their children until the child can take it over for themselves.  In general, this age might be determined just by readiness cues and  seeing how responsibile the child  is in doing what needs to be done under supervision and then independently.  In the case of driving, the ability to drive is dictated by state laws, by learning new skills under supervision,by testing,  and yes, I think by having incentive.  So if your teen is reluctant to drive, perhaps have a conversation about expectations and what is holding your teen back.  Are your expectations clear to yourself and to them?

If you want your teen to learn to drive, and they are already feeling overwhelmed with schoolwork and activities, you may need to clear some space so they have the time to learn to drive.  It isn’t like cramming for an academic test.  It requires time, space, practice.

They may not want to learn to drive with you.  Or they may not want to learn with all their siblings in the car.  Some will learn better with Driver’s Education, some will learn better with a trusted relative or neighbor.

Figure out the expectation for how to pay for gas, insurance, a car.  These things can really hold teens back. If they have no car to drive or no way to pay for gas or insurance because they don’t have a job, what is the incentive for obtaining a license to drive?

Address anxiety. Sometimes having a timeline, a driving instructor, etc can help an anxious teen break things down into steps that seem doable.  The idea of testing may also provoke anxiety.   And as much as I hate to say it, I know people who never were comfortable driving and nearly always lived in areas where there was good public transportation available.  It may be hard to think this way if you live in an area where good public transportation doesn’t exist, but that may be where your teen ends up as an adult.

Lower your expectations.  Most of the new drivers I know are driving surface streets to school and back (probably a 5 miles radius) or to a job that is also within a five mile radius.  Not every new driver is ready to drive all over the city.  Think about where your teen would be okay driving when they do get their licenses.  This is particularly important for homeschooling families, who many times do have classes or activities that are far away.  If you goal is for that teen to drive to those far away things, your teen may or may not be comfortable with that as a new driver.

Would love to hear your thoughts,
Carrie

Applying for College As A Homeschooler

I just attended a workshop about applying to college as a homeschooler.  One of the main ideas in this session was that  many college admission officers are asking homeschooled applicants:  “What did you do with the freedom of homeschooling?”  In other words, being homeschooled in and of itself is not that interesting anymore in regards to the college application process!  What could your student’s homeschooling experience bring to the college of their choice?

So what can make the college application of a homeschooled student stand out?

interesting experiences – internships, volunteer hours, getting involved with a passion through a club or community situation, working with mentors. It doesn’t have to be an inch deep and a mile wide, but demonstrating some sort of enthusiasm over time is important!

socialization is STILL a consideration that many college admission officers look for. How well is your homeschooler “socialized”? Yes, this term may still make us bristle as homeschoolers, but again, this goes back to the importance of being involved and being able to show that on a college application.

letters of recommendation by adults who know the student well.  These are important for homeschoolers as it again demonstrates a wider connection to the community and usually to a demonstrated passion that the student can highlight in their application

-the elusive “fit” :  you can check http://www.unigo.com to look at the student life on any campus and see how your student’s profile compares to the students there. More than just a generic college application essay, admissioners officers want to know how your student fits into their university. So, with that idea, any essay question for the college should be geared towards how the student fits into that university’s environment and really highlight the student’s story.

interviews are very important for homeschooled applicants, and many universities do require this for homeschooled students

social media presence:  one thing that is new that may have changed from when YOU went to college is the student pursuing the university a bit by attending open houses or student tours, taking advantage of programs the university may hold for high school students, participating in polls or  yes, even following them on social media.  This demonstrates your student’s interest and yes, it can tip the scales in the admission process.

That’s what I learned recently; those of you who have had homeschoolers go on to college (not dual enrolled, but the traditional application process) – how was it for you?

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

Financial Aid For College: What You Need To Know

In many countries, going to university is free.  Not so in the United States, where there is a complex process of garnering money from different sources and essentially what is the “price” of college may not be the final price once the financial pieces are put together. There are also comparisons to be draw between the systems of community college (usually a two-year degree), a public university system (usually done by state, like Univerity of Georgia or University of New York with multiple colleges falling into this system) or private universities.  Sometimes a private school, which has large private endowments, can end up with a comparable cost to a public university.

The cost of attending college includes both direct and indirect costs.  Direct costs are paid directly to the institution and may include things like tuition, room and board (board is essentially the meal plan) (check with the college whether or not your freshman has to live on campus; some colleges require this).  Sounds confusing?  It is, but here are some tips to help de-mystify the process a bit!

This information is accurate as of July 2018, but always changing, so please do check your resources.  Here are a few points about financial aid:

  1.  You have to apply for it and it doesn’t cost anything to apply.  You must apply every year starting October 1 of your student’s senior year of high school.
  2. Financial aid can be based on skills, abilities, etc but doesn’t automatically happen – you have to apply!  The four types of financial aid are grants, scholarships, student loans, and work study.  Grants and scholarships do not have to be paid back, but student loans obviously do need to be paid back.  Work study is often based upon financial need and assigned by the university, but some colleges offer work study to all students independent of financial need.  It depends upon the college.
  3. The FEDERAL Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) must be completed October 1 of your student’s senior year in high school and you must apply every year afterward.   Some colleges may require an institutional application for financial aid and/or something called a CSS Profile (this is usually for private universities) as well. State financial aid may have a separate application and deadline, so don’t miss the deadline for the state!
  4. The FAFSA is based upon your untaxed income and does not include retirement savings.  It includes information for both biological parents and includes the “prior prior year” – the incoming freshman class of 2019 is using the 2017 tax data.
  5. Sources for financial aid could include not only the federal governement but state awards, college and university endowments, private courses, civic organizations and places of worship, and employer. Most scholarships come from the local community – employers of parents of the student, credit unions/banks that the family does business with, civic groups, organizations the family belongs to.  Most scholarships are applied to tuition, not room and board.  Homeschoolers need to search out  local scholarships because this is the sort of thing that is typically funneled to a school guidance counselor, and since homeschooling parents are acting as the guidance counselor, we need to be on the lookout!

One number that colleges and universities work with is the “Expected Family Contribution”.  This number is used for calculating need-based financial aid and is a calculated from a federal government formula. Everyone panicks when they see this number, because it generates and parent and student contribution which is always a high number that no one feels they can meet.  The financial aid awarded is supposed to equal the cost of attending the college -the expected family contribution.

The other number that is important to know is essentially the net price for each college or university. You can get this number at studentaid.gov by entering your student’s GPA/test scores/financial data, and it will help you figure out what you might be awarded.

Blessings,

Carrie