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Welcome, medical contents search April 29, 2013
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College Dropout

My normal son became irresponsible, lazy, and unmotivated since going away to college and dropping out.

Likely this is the result of his being away from home for the first time, unsupervised and left to his own designs. You need to reinvest his self-confidence and motivation.

My son is 22 years old and his world has been turned upside down ever since he went away to college, quit after only two years, and came home to live with us in his old room. In high school he was an above average student and easily got into college to study computer science. He lived in a university dormitory and we had no idea that he was unable to study ever since the very first semester. Now, he sleeps until midday and his life is a mess, with no structure or goals. He has no desire for anything, never finishes what he starts, he's always exhausted, and he has no friends. I've tried sending him away to stay with relatives, but nothing helps in the long run. What can I do?

Unsupervised living away from home, such as occurs at college, can be a trying experience for some, especially for kids who were not encouraged to develop independence and self-reliance as adolescents. Used to depending on their parents to make decisions for them about how to live, such as managing time and money, choosing friends, etc., many young people are at a loss when it comes time to depend upon their own judgment.

Being intelligent and achieving good grades does not necessarily guarantee success in independent living. Sometimes it's the students who are average and cultivate other interests outside of academics who excel at independent living.

Sometimes, it's the students who helped with household chores or worked part-time who have an easier time of living away from home. It's clear that young people need to learn time and money management skills, as well as independent thinking, before going off to live on their own. Often it's the very ones who make the biggest fuss while still at home about not needing parental guidance, who are the least prepared.

Other times, the issues young people have are more serious, involving unresolved psychological and emotional problems carried over from adolescence that can suddenly re-emerge under a change of living conditions and lifestyle. Obsessive-compulsive disorders (see section entitled "Treatment For Obsessive-compulsive Disorder), panic/anxiety disorders, neurosis, even schizophrenia-all are dysfunctional conditions that tend to emerge when our self-defenses drop, in this case under the dual impact of first-time lifestyle changes and the enormous stress of college studies.

Regardless of the cause, measures to restore balance will need to be taken. Those with problems in independent living will need to be taught new skills. Others with psychological and emotional issues will need treatment and additional parental support.

In your son's case, his symptoms appear mild when compared to more serious maladjustments, and in all likelihood he is suffering from a lack of structure and the ability to cope with independence, compounded by his failure at school and guilt over disappointing his family. His exhaustion and sleeping also suggest that he likely is going through depression. Get him tested and treated, as the case may be. He may very well be in line for some counseling and behavior modification.

In the meantime, he'll benefit from being put on a schedule until he can initiate his own. Insist that he get at least a part time job to encourage independence and restore confidence and self-esteem. At the very least, get him to contribute to the household by helping around the house with chores. He needs to get up in the morning and do something constructive. Coddling him is not going to benefit him in the long run. Help him to stand on his own two feet-you and your husband are not going to support him financially for the rest of his life. There's no time like the present for giving him a jumpstart on his "brilliant career," as the generation-X kids are fond of calling their foundering at independent living after high school.

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