It’s the toughest time in history to leave university and find a good job – and even harder for a school leaver or a first- or second-year student to find valuable work experience this summer. Parents can moan (and feel like they are failing) or leave kids alone (and feel like they are failing). So what should you as a parent do to find the right balance and be a positive support at this crucial time?
Even under normal circumstances, having your child move back home, be it for the summer holidays before or during uni or as a recent graduate, requires a certain amount of readjustment from all parties. Throw a pandemic into the mix and what you are likely to get are anxious young adults, back home with their parents, with nothing to do – no immediate job prospects, no travel, less socialising.
It is a highly unnatural situation and one that might make you feel as if you are treading on eggshells. You are keen to help and make sure that your children don’t lose out on important opportunities, but chances are your grown-up kids do not find it easy to accept advice from their parents and tend to interpret it as interference and criticism. Nagging can aggravate the situation further as it will most likely put an already defensive young adult on edge – thereby compounding a negative cycle. You are in a tough spot, and there is no blueprint or magic solution.
How do I know this? As the Co-Founder and CEO of Ten Lifestyle Group, the world’s most successful lifestyle concierge service, the wellbeing of our members and their families is my top priority. Which is why we interviewed groups of those members, who told us about the challenges they are facing right now, and what does and doesn’t work. I have also drawn on the expert advice of my wife – a qualified psychologist who runs her own ‘parenting through psychology’ practice http://theparentspace.co.uk/
So what advice?
Firstly, all kids are different. You know them better than anyone and you know the flashpoints in your home life – keep that in mind before implementing any of our suggestions.
Secondly, mental health professionals are clear that honest and clear communication is key – so talk about it. It shows that you care and that you are concerned. There are a couple of things to consider, however. Show empathy and praise effort and commitment. Don’t dictate. Ask your child’s opinion. The best way to go about this potentially challenging talk is to plan the conversation in advance – don’t wait for the topic to be raised in sudden frustration.
Timing is half the battle – the first day back home after finishing uni, when your child is tired post-exams, might not be the best time to set an agenda. As we all know, being stressed and anxious about an issue is not conducive to helpful or motivational communication, particularly with hormonally challenged teens or young adults. Instead, wait a few days, enjoy having your son or daughter back home, then plan the talk at a time when both of you are relaxed and open to discussions.
Whatever you do, do not be tempted to make your children’s lives easier by getting your Black Book out and ‘doing it for them’. One of our well-connected members offered valuable advice on this subject matter: when his older son graduated from university, he called a friend who ran a fast-growing e-commerce business and asked him to give his son a work placement. The well-meant interference backfired however – his son felt a sense of imposter syndrome, knowing that he only got the placement as a favour, and the internship didn’t lead to anything else. Last summer, when his younger son graduated, the father therefore decided to take an alternative approach – he did still share his contacts and offered suggestions, but let his son choose the target companies and manage the entire application process. The young graduate ended up getting an internship with a design agency that led to a standing job offer. This independent, proactive approach meant that he impressed the employer who was then positively predisposed and became confident in the son’s abilities from the start. It also built the inner confidence of that son and the positive understanding that it was ‘up to him’.
House ‘rules’ for grown-up children
You had the talk, now it’s time to set some expectations. Yes, they are adults and can make their own decisions, but they are back under your roof – and need to know that sleeping in until well past noon every day is neither productive nor helpful in any other way (which doesn’t mean however that they need to wake up at 7am – it’s all about finding the middle ground). A healthy diet and a certain amount of exercise are equally important – if your children are up for it (and many won’t be), consider cooking and exercising together, which will also buy you some precious quality parent-child time.
Making the most of the situation
Remind your children that without the usual holidays, travel, work experience, festivals and other commitments, 2020 might feel like a long, drawn-out summer – but that there are plenty of positive things they can tackle from home. Some of our members report that clear-outs, followed by eBay sales are a great hit, while others encouraged their children to help with local enterprises and community projects, start their own small start-ups, or offer remote tutoring. One member asked his son to organise a digitally produced, printed photo book of previous holidays, which turned out to be a huge success. It can be something small as long as it is meaningful and adds a feel-good factor – and brownie points for their CV.
Last but not least, they might want to consider joining our Employability Accelerator, the single best programme to ensure that their summer at home will lead to a headstart in their careers. The reason we set up the programme is so that parents can help their children without themselves getting overly involved.
The skills learned on the programme can be used to apply for jobs – and be more successful in securing them. It also provides direction and motivation that will help support other initiatives that the students might take, to build their skills, confidence and experience before the crucial first longer-term position.
Whatever happens, I hope you do enjoy this unusual summer – and trust that your children will be just fine.
Alex Cheatle is Founder and CEO of Ten Lifestyle Group
He is on the founding team of employability accelerator, a programme that supports young people to get the best mix of work experience, personal career coaching and skills training.