When your kid picks a college/career choice you don’t approve of…
by Patience Domowski, LCSW
So your kiddo is all grown up. And now they are ready to spread their wings. But you aren’t quite ready to let them leave the nest yet. You’re really struggling to accept their choices perhaps, or you just want to slam down the hammer and tell them they have to listen to you. You want to protect them, you want the best for them, and you know more than they do too. But it often causes a lot of arguing and upset between parents and emerging young adult and makes the distance between you even farther apart.
Let’s think about their point of view. We all value our freedom and ability to make choices. Children have very limited choices and very limited freedom. Most kids can’t pick their school, teacher, class, etc as a child…until college. Now they suddenly have a lot of choices and a lot more freedom. They can pick their major, future career choice, college location, etc. They want to make their own choices, and parents also want to help them make their best choices too.
Often parents will be firm and tell their kids which college they have to attend or just give them a short list to pick from whether its about where the college is located (close/far from home, suburbs or urban), type of school (private, religious, public, etc), as well as what to major in, where to live (on campus/dorm, in an apartment, or at home with family), etc.
The problem is when your child disagrees and parent stands firm opposite them it will just drive a large wedge between you and really mess up the relationship. In order to continue to have a good relationship with your child you should try to hear their side/viewpoint, don’t just argue but really listen. You should present your reasons factually, not emotionally. And in the end let your young adult child make their own choice, because now they are becoming an adult and need to make their own choices and learn from them.
Maybe they will fail and come back to you crying that they learned their lesson. Maybe they will do great and surprise you. Either way it’s a good learning experience. While college and major is important it’s not going to ‘ruin’ their life to pick the ‘wrong’ one. Sometimes kids have to come home or switch schools after first semester/freshman year. And that’s okay. Try not to gloat if you were right, but lovingly welcome them back and help them figure out what to do next.