Our college graduate needs to leave the nest

Dr. Cathleen McGreal
Question: 

Our son graduated from college last year, and moved back home. It was supposed to be temporary, until he found a job and moved out. But every job that’s available seems to have some reason he doesn’t take it. How do we motivate him to get a job — any job?

An Irish lullaby that I loved singing to my children includes lyrics that reflect the underlying aspects of your concern. Cáislean Droma Mhor includes the phrase, “Take heed young eaglet, till thy wings are feathered fit to soar.” As parents, we know that eventually our children will be leaving the nest and soaring into their own futures. An adult child returning to the nest can be challenging for both generations.

Reasons behind the lack of motivation. Your son has successfully earned a college degree and has desirable job skills or he would not have received the job offers he has chosen not to take. There may be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. An appointment with the family physician would be an excellent starting point. Even if a physical disorder isn’t discovered, it may be that the physician will notice depression or another condition that is hindering your son’s health. In that case, a referral to a psychologist or social worker may lead to positive changes.

Create a timeline for change. If there is no underlying health issue, you can create a timeline with your son about moving out. He might need to take a job that doesn’t incorporate his ideal working conditions in order to support himself. Since he has turned down jobs, it is reasonable to expect him to actively look for a job and accept the next one that is offered. Even if it isn’t the job he had hoped to find after college, he will gain experience and have the means to support himself.

Establish expectations for household chores. All members of the household should be active participants in the maintenance and upkeep of the home. Perhaps your son has fallen into a comfortable routine similar to that of his childhood and adolescence. But in the past, his primary responsibilities were attending school and working on homework. Now he has the time to contribute more to keep the household running smoothly, such as grocery shopping, preparing a meal or two each week, shoveling snow, etc. Make sure to follow through with the division of responsibilities, rather than enabling a life of leisure!

The duties of children and parents change over time. Our catechism highlights some of these transformations: “As they grow up, children should continue to respect their parents. They should anticipate their wishes, willingly seek their advice, and accept their just admonitions. Obedience toward parents ceases with the emancipation of the children; not so respect, which is always owed to them. This respect has its roots in the fear of God, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.” (CCC 2217) Pray that the respect for one another that underlies your relationship guides you through this time of transition.