Bail­ing out your son in univer­sity is not the an­swer

FAM­ILY LIFE

The Hamilton Spectator - - LIVING - GARY DIRENFELD

Q: Our son is just fin­ish­ing first year univer­sity. We just dis­cov­ered he was barely at­tend­ing his classes this past se­mes­ter and likely won’t get his grades.

I read on­line about other par­ents who chipped in to help with their son’s es­says to just get him through so he wouldn’t fail. Do you think that is a good idea? A: This is a far more com­mon is­sue than most peo­ple think. How­ever, the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion is of­ten the out­come of an oth­er­wise in­dulged life­style where the now adult child hasn’t yet learned to fend for him­self. If your son keeps get­ting bailed out this way, he won’t learn coping skills be­cause he doesn’t have to.

How­ever, given that his univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion is at stake, he must have some skin in the game and take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the out­come. Bail­ing him out isn’t the an­swer un­less you also want to buy him a car, pay his in­sur­ance and have him live in the base­ment in­def­i­nitely while you do his laun­dry. As­sum­ing there are no men­tal health is­sues, I think it may be time to pull the plug on sup­port that he isn’t us­ing wisely.

You may want to set stip­u­la­tions for his next year if he re­turns to univer­sity. These can include him pay­ing at least half of his full-year tuition — or hav­ing him cover the cost of the first se­mes­ter with you pay­ing for the sec­ond se­mes­ter, as­sum­ing that all goes well.

But if you be­lieve your son has men­tal health is­sues or an ad­dic­tion, then by all means do help him find treat­ment for those prob­lems. The idea is not to have him lan­guish in pain, but to of­fer the kind of sup­port that fa­cil­i­tates his de­vel­op­ment and in­de­pen­dence.

If you meet re­sis­tance, and you likely will, the chal­lenge is to not cave in, re­gard­less of whether it’s an is­sue with in­dul­gence or men­tal health. Ei­ther way, those is­sues must be ad­dressed. If par­ents con­tinue to skirt the is­sue, things tend to get worse.

As­sum­ing your son is healthy but in­dulged, you can sug­gest he speak with his pro­fes­sors to come up with a plan to make his grades. Some of them will be open to ne­go­ti­at­ing to en­cour­age the stu­dent’s suc­cess.

If the is­sue is re­lated to his men­tal health, then please en­cour­age your son to look into stu­dent ser­vices for sup­port. All univer­si­ties and col­leges pro­vide ac­cess to men­tal health sup­port ser­vices.

Have a par­ent­ing or re­la­tion­ship question? Send it in a brief email to question@your­so­cial­worker.com. Due to the vol­ume of mail, not all ques­tions will re­ceive a re­ply.

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