KuelLife Logo home 1000

How To Parent A College-Aged Dropout

Kim Muench January 2023

 Kim Muench, Becoming Me Thought Leader

My 21-year-old son has failed out of college.

I’m heart-broken as he had a full-ride scholarship and is so intelligent! He did great in high school, but seemed to get off-track with COVID. I believe the biggest problem is that he started smoking pot his freshman year away at school and I’ve watched him steadily deteriorate.

College-Aged Dropout:

“Tell me, how do you help your college-aged dropout find his way in the world?”

Now he’s home and does nothing but sleep all day and smoke when he is awake. I feel like he thinks he’s a failure and it’s killing me! Tell me, how do you help your college-aged dropout find his way in the world?

Great question! I work with parents every day who are struggling with some version of this challenge. It may be that their son or daughter didn’t go to college after graduating and has not really gotten a direction since, or they did go off to college and have a similar experience as you describe your son having.

I think the biggest struggle I see for parents is they know their kids are capable, however, the kids are struggling to find hope for the future or a belief in themselves. Often the pot use you describe starts as recreation, but then becomes an addictive way to cope with life.

3 Tips To Effectively Parent A College-Aged Dropout:

Parenting our kids between 18-25 years of age can be one of the most mentally challenging stages of parenting. Often we feel we should be in a place of not having to do much at all at this point. Since you, and any others, find themselves in these circumstances I’d love to offer you a few things to think about and actions to take.

1.) Is there “red flag” behavior?

Too much or too little sleep, major changes in appetite, isolating, no longer doing activities they once enjoyed, money missing, evidence of drug paraphernalia or smell, alcohol bottles can all be signs there may be a mental health condition that is being self-medicated.

A substance use or psychological evaluation would give you a clearer picture of what you’re dealing with. Based on the information received through that, therapy and/or medication may be in order.

“Finding clarity and confidence before sitting down with your young adult helps move the situation forward in a positive manner.”

Help Find A Direction:

2.) Would your son or daughter be open to career coaching?

Learning to use their unique strengths to help find a direction is one way to help them gain some traction. If that idea coming from you wouldn’t be welcome, is there a trusted adult in their lives you could go to who might be able to talk with them and share this idea?

3.) Combine forces.

Sitting down (with your co-parent if applicable) to work on a reasonable set of expectations, some non-negotiable boundaries, and a realistic timeline is a key step after making sure there isn’t an undiagnosed substance use or mental health disorder.

Need Help?

Some parents can come together to do this on their own, others use someone like myself to be a sounding board and be in a trusted space to work through the feelings that inevitably come up when a young adult is starting to flounder. Finding clarity and confidence before sitting down with your young adult helps move the situation forward in a positive manner.

I wish there were a magic answer or a quick 1-2-3 step process to share, I will say that no action or no meaningful consequences will likely keep your young adult in the same place, or things may become worse. Nagging won’t work, connection and a concrete plan is in order for this issue.

Did you enjoy this article? Become a Kuel Life Member today to support our Community. Sign-up for our Sunday newsletter and get your content delivered straight to your inbox.


Kim Muench Becoming Me

About the Author:

Kim Muench (pronounced minch, like pinch with an “m”) is a Jai (rhymes with buy) Institute for Parenting Certified Conscious Parenting Coach who specializes in working with mothers of adolescents (ages 10+). Knowing moms are the emotional barometer in their families, Kim is passionate about educating, supporting and encouraging her clients to raise their children with intention and guidance rather than fear and control. Kim’s three plus decades parenting five children and years of coaching other parents empowers her to lead her clients into healthier, happier, more functional relationships with compassion and without judgment. 

You can find out more about her mission and services at www.reallifeparentguide.com. She is on Facebook at Real Life Parent Guide, Instagram, and on LinkedIn as well.