Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Educational Consulting with the "Failure to Launch" generation; what does independence really mean?

Last week, after spending the day at the School Connections meeting in Boston, MA, I treated myself with a date, a date with my college freshman daughter.  It’s always hard to get a few minutes with her, between her studying (ha!) and basketball practice/games and me running my own business, it’s a rare moment that this Dad can sneak away and have an uninterrupted dinner with his (now) adult daughter. 

During the course of our dinner between mouthfuls and small talk about her sister and my parents, there was a silence, and then she exclaimed, “You know I really do live on my own now.  Think about it, I get myself to classes, practice and games, get my own meals and don’t have to tell anyone where I’m going” Almost immediately I thought, well if you truly live on your own I guess I can pass along these tuition bills to you, but I suppressed that somewhat sarcastic response and just sat back, smiled and watched her as she explained to me the rigors of being in college.

After I got back from dinner I started thinking about what my daughter has talked about, and it got me thinking; what does independence really mean?  I’m sure we all have different definitions – is it living outside of the home?  On your own?  Or is it when you get your first job and that heavily coveted paycheck.  Maybe it is as my daughter says and it’s when you head off to college or basic training. 

Here’s the kicker; it doesn't matter what your perception if independence is; it’s what their perception is. 

Think about it, if a child feels independent, in their mind then they are.  Now what that independence looks like, and whether we agree that they truly are independent is a whole different discussion.  Also a different discussion is why we seem to have such a huge number of dependent, or failure to launch young adults on our hands these days.  Certainly theories abound; kids are growing up too fast, there’s too much technology, kids aren’t responsible enough, poor diets, poor parenting, they’re just lazy, we’re just lazy etc. etc. These are debates which are larger than this little blog, but whatever the reason(s) the reality is that there are a growing number of kids not taking what we consider the traditional path to adulthood.

This trend has impact across the board.  In the Independent Educational Consultant world, it means what we refer to as the young adult market has exploded.  While not a scientific study, anecdotally the young adult portion of Loeta’s business has gone from less than 10% in 2009 to nearly 50% today.  Coinciding with this has been an explosion of young adult programming in our field.  Whether it be wilderness programs, augmented rehab programming or residential therapeutic programs the choices are becoming wider and more varied. 

Some of these programs do a great job of giving these clients an avenue to utilize the tools they have gained over the years while getting them set up in a new city in school or the workforce, while others start from step one with intense therapy and/or treatment.  Some are a shorter more intense programs while others take up to a year to support their clients. A young person can now choose a college based on the college’s counseling and what kind of sobriety support they have; indeed we have come a long ways from Faber College.

At Loeta we spend a lot of our time on the road visiting these programs, just as we do with the adolescent programs, we get to know the people, we spend time with the clients, and we work with the clients on helping choose just the right program for them.  It’s a different process than the one when we work with families of adolescents, we acknowledge the independence of the adults we are working with, and work in conjunction with them, the programs and parents to help chart out a path.  It’s a very collaborative process, and one we are proud of.

So after dinner, I paid (of course), and we walked back to my “T” stop. After a hug goodbye, I watched her run across the street on her way up to her dorm and I though there goes a truly independent young woman, or, as I like to think of her, my little girl.