One day you are changing their diapers, and then the next thing you know, they are taking their SATs. Our children grow up so fast, and we want them to be prepared for a future without us. You have pushed them on a direct path to college all their life in hopes that they will earn a great degree and become financially stable. What happens, though, when your child decides those aspirations are no longer for them? It can be devastating to hear your child does not want to go to college, and you may try and force them to go. Before it turns into a full-on fight, follow these tips.
Step back and listen.
College seems like a great idea, but there are reasons why it is not the right choice for everyone. Rather than thinking your child is just lazy, step back and ask them why they do not want to go to college. Your child may wish to pursue a career that does not require formal education or requires trade schools instead. They may be afraid of the amount of academic work too. If they struggled to get through high school, they might not be suited for a college classroom. Your child might also feel they are not responsible enough yet to take on that amount of debt. Rather than dismiss their concerns, make sure you listen to their point and discuss it thoroughly. At the end of the day it is their future, and they deserve to have their voice heard.
Suggest community college.
If your child is not ready to make the full leap to a four-year university, a community college where they can still live at home might be a better option. They will be able to get their associate's degree, which still opens the door for many opportunities. Many community colleges also have great relationships with nearby universities, so credits will transfer from one school to another should they decide to continue their education. It also ensures your child is at a pace they are comfortable with. This is an excellent compromise for both parties.
Discuss a gap year.
Not all teens are ready to go to college right after high school. Many kids do not know what they want to do at eighteen, and it is a big decision. This does not mean you failed as a parent, but rather your child might have a different path ahead. There are many things your child can do instead, like take up a travel-abroad program, get an internship, or other types of employment. There are official gap-year programs that are traditionally less expensive than college and will teach them essential life skills. This is a good compromise if you are not ready to give up the idea of college yet. You can make an agreement with your child to reevaluate their thoughts on higher education after they have a one-year break. It also allows them to show you they are responsible enough to take care of themselves should they decide college is still not for them.
Set up boundaries.
If your child does not go to college, you will need to talk through how you plan to support them still, if at all. How much money do you plan to give them a month still? Will you continue to let your child live at home, and what rules will be in place should they decide to stay? What expectations do you have for chores, having friends over, or staying out late? What privileges will still be available to them? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, and it is more what you and your child feel comfortable with. You know your family best, and setting up boundaries early will make all expectations clear. Take your time with this and change as needed. Make sure your child has a plan and does not think they will be able to watch Netflix all day.
Discuss employment options.
What job does your child want to do instead of going to college? Is it something they can grow with or will lead them to financial independence? A full-time job can teach children about money management, responsibility, and give them real-world work skills. A menial job can lead to much more if your child puts in time and effort. For example, your student may work in a restaurant as a hostess but find they have an interest in cooking and pursue opportunities as a chef.
Whatever you decide to do, understand that your child can still be successful without college. While you had great aspirations for them at a university, there are still many great opportunities available. Be rest assured that you have done your best that you can and that your child has the skills to grow into an independent adult. The rest is up to them.