Floating 19 yr old, jr. college

Dear All:   My oldest grandson (soon to be 19) is in his 1st semester at a jr. college taking 3 courses--all math based.  He flounders.  He lives at home with my son, wife & his brother who just turned 15. (Younger brother wins trophies in whatever sport he chooses to play, makes super grades, is artistic, well -liked by 'everyone' PLUS he's about 3" taller than his older brother & already has hairy legs & a deep voice. ) Our 19 yr old plays poker with his friends and/or spends time with his girlfriend- he changes girlfriends every few months.  He also smokes marijuana.   He didn't get into a 4 year college (failing to send in required registration materials, such as simply forwarding his SAT scores.) Did he really want to go off to college?) 

    He's musically inclined, likes poetry, philosophy, writes and is quite good in math.  He's a caring & loving person whom we enjoy being around--- until he feels the need to go off & play poker at which point he'll cover up what he's really going off to do.  (For him, poker-- which I'm told he excels in-- isn't an addiction; it's a game strategy like chess.) 

   I write because his father/my son requests husband & I talk with this grandson.   A couple of nights ago he told his parents that his friends have moved on, but he's on a "a splintered path".  My son told him it didn't matter what he chose to do-- mechanic, store employee, etc.--but make it something he really wanted to do. (We all have advanced college degrees, except his mom & heretofore it's been mistakenly assumed this19 yr old was college bound too.)

     Sticking with anything has been an issue since he was a toddler. There's enough $ in the family that he doesn't HAVE to work. (As a single mother I had to raise his father differently--so my son needed a job to pay for his 1st car.)  Grandson has wrecked 3 cars in 2 years. When he worked this summer,--at local Y-- he quit after 3 weeks.   For several summers he's worked part time--- at local club teaching sailing.  His dad gives him gas money & a weekly allowance.  

    I suggested seeing a therapist-- but am told he's against therapy.  Maybe because older, half sister--- who has organic mental issues-- was in therapy for years with a charlatan who took the whole family for an expen$ive ride.)  Before beginning his senior year he wanted to change schools, from expensive private one to local high school, "to save money" (Dad's business was failing at the time).

    Would a life coach help?  I have no idea.  If you know of one in East Bay area will they work with someone out of town---via Skype? Would they know how to approach someone who doesn't like therapy?    

     I look forward to receiving insights/suggestions based on your experience---even book titles.    Thanks so much for your time.

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This sounds so typical of post high school to late 20 year olds.  You obviously care which is why you made the post.  But could it be you are trying to impose your values of what's successful and important in life on him?  Not sure if you are aware but thanks to the world of tech and the way MBA's are running businesses now a college degree which was once important for earning a good living is no longer important.  I have many friends who are making well over $100K now who never attended college and just barely finished high school.  At the same time I have many more friends who graduated from college and can't find a job.  Many of the "homeless" actually have jobs in Oakland and San Francisco and choose to live under a freeway overpass.  It's a different world and "kids" today have feel differently about the world today.

Poker is a strategy game a lot like chess but adds a few more dimensions such as being able to read someone's expressions, being able to deceive, and the element of gambling.  (Not that one can't bet on chess games or chess moves.)

Not sure he needs therapy or a life coach.  If he like gambling, then it sounds like adventure is something he likes.  Send him on a trip.  Have him crew on a sail boat to South Pacific Islands, or to Europe, Africa, Vietnam, China, Central of South America.  (Stimulate him.)  Or maybe send him on an eco-vacation to save whales, archaeological dig, save the rain forest, or teach English.  What you need to do is stimulate him  and give him ideas and possibilities instead of sending to a therapist (to tell him he has problems) or to a life coach (to say this is how you should live your life.)

Hope this helps.  An just know you are not alone.  Many parents/grandparents feel exactly like you do.  Looking back on life we know what we did to be successful.  Your grandson is 19 looking forward and has probably been board with school for the past 15 years.  Let him explore the world.  Seems to me you grandson needs an Auntie Mame.  Remember the musical...  "Life is a banquet and most poor sons of bitches are starving to death." 

Hope this helps.

Hi, I may be way off base here, but some of what you describe sounds like characteristics of our child (age 19) who has ADHD. Has he ever been tested?  But to your question, it sounds like what he needs is motivation, which for whatever reasons can take longertodevelop thanks it did for kids in our generation, and especially in generations before that (yours?)

not really something you can "coach" into a kid, but important I'd say to just continually let him know when he's making good choices (and gently reminding him of the consequences of poor choices). When he does become motivated, as I believe they all do though not necessarily on our timing, he's pretty well set up to have a pretty great career, what with his mad math skills and gaming inclinations. With the right degree, he's pretty set up to end up with one of those jobs where's they pretty much throw money (and lots of other benefits) at their employees. 

My own one word of advice for him would be not to do all math classes at once. Sounds like he may not haves good counselor at the junior college?  The Jr. College to 4 year transfer path is increasingly common, and there should be counsellors at his school who can guide his coursework and planning. I know some of the nearby (e.g.could live at home) JC's are just not the beet CA has to offer; since it sounds like money isn't a big factor, might he look into some of the better community colleges that would entail tail living in an apartment (& thereby taking more responsibility for his life/possibly encouraging the maturity). There are lots of good ones, all are set up with the guaranteed admission to certain UC's as well as other 4-years. 

Best of luck, my bet is a change of scenery & more appropriate class selection (plus TIME) will do well for him. 

Have you considered having him join the military or a similar program? Our son has some of the same issues, and we have looked into him joining the California Conservation Corps; he himself said he is interested in joining the Navy. He knows that he is difficulty finding motivation, and is himself concerned about it. We think that without a very strong structure around him that sets goals and imposes consequences for failure to follow through, our son will continue to founder. Where we live joining the military is very un-PC, but I grew up in a country where military service is mandatory for both men and women, and so don't have that "shocked" reaction. I know that many young people benefit enormously from the imposed discipline, and mature and learn from the experience. 

believe that he has to learn 

I don't agree with the previous reply that suggested sending the 19yo on a vacation and letting him keep drifting with poker. It sounds as if the parents and grandparents are very concerned about him, so their view (up close over many years) should be taken seriously.

While certainly a college degree is not what it used to be, a case could be made that it's now a necessary entry ticket for many even lower-level jobs, so it shouldn't be discounted. OTOH, giving the 19yo some time to figure out his passion in life might help, and I like that his family has been suggesting also non-college paths for him. I would encourage them and him to keep looking for some skills and interest that will enable him to lead an independent (and addiction-free) life - primarily for his own sake and, as you mentioned, since his parents' fortunes also have been subject to change...

Could he build on his interest in math and turn the strategic aspect of poker into something like e.g. game theory?

Could he use a "gap year" with lots of hands-on volunteering (to realize how fortunate he has been so far) or shadowing different jobs?

I don't have a patent answer, but do applaud his family for considering various options. Hope BPN can help with more ideas. It seems a life coach could help involve the young man himself more in the process - as always, "the lightbulb has to want to change" ;-)

I really hope that you get some good responses as it seems like so many people I know are worrying about similar things. I agree with your son that he doesn't have to go to college but that he needs to do something. Everyone should be able to support themselves without taking charity from their parents. 19 year olds should be in a transition period between having parents meet their needs and meeting their own. For many kids that's college. But it's not the thing for everyone and it's silly to make a child feel like a failure for pursuing an alternate path. The fact that he's never needed to work because the family has plenty of money obviously hasn't done him any favors. Kids are motivated by different things. Some will always be overachievers regardless of how easy their parents make things for them. But way too many others are not and will happily live in their parents' basements and play video games and take no responsibility for their lives. Parents who let that happen are failures, in my opinion.

I think that it's time to make a plan with your grandson. Tell him that he has x amount of time to live at home and be supported while he figures out how he's going to prepare himself for a job to support himself. Let him know that the price of living at home is doing decently at school or in his vocational program. If he flunks out, do the hard thing and kick him off the dole. Let him have first hand experience with how hard life is with just a high school degree and no ambition. And, please, stop supplying him with luxury items like video games, cars, iPhones, etc. Provide for the basic necessities of life like food, clothing, shelter but let him get a job to supply himself with everything else. Kids who learn this lesson in high school do much better than those who don't. You can see the difference between your son (a success who wasn't handed everything going up) and your grandson. 

I grew up with trust funders and not one of them was a truly happy person. There's a real psychological impact to knowing that, if everything was taken away, they wouldn't be able to recover. People with degrees who support themselves don't have this same fear as they know that it would suck but they can rebuild. Definitely do everything in your power to ensure that he has a trade that he can rely upon to pay his bills, regardless of how generous his parents are feeling.

Check out the Wingate Wilderness Therapy program for young adults. He would learn what he is capable of, the emotional self-regulation skills that solid adults need, and develop a tremendous sense of self-esteem and confidence in his own uniqueness, and abilities. Best of luck

My son is not interested in continuing traditional schooling after high school (at least, not right now), and so I sent him off on a gap year with Carpe Diem, an organization that works with Portland State University (carpediemeducation.org).  The first semester (about four months) he traveled through northern India with a group of five other young people and two leaders. They volunteered at various organizations (an orphanage, a drug treatment center, an organic farm, etc), had home-stays (his most memorable was three weeks with a Tibetan family in exile), took classes (he had sitar lessons and Hindi lessons, as well as courses on religion and learning to meditate), and learned travel skills in a challenging environment. The second semester he was a volunteer at an ecotourist lodge in Uganda, making videos to promote tourism.  There he was the only American working on the site -- the other employees were Ugandans. No electricity in his dorm (limited electricity in the lodge), no running water, very limited access to the internet.  He loved both experiences.  Really loved them.  Came back with a fervent interest in Buddhism (nurtured among the Tibetans), a strong sense of global economy and politics, a strong work ethic, real confidence and self-reliance... It was a great experience.  He also earned about twenty-four units of college credit from Portland State, probably all electives, but still.  He is about to turn twenty, still not ready to go to college, but deeply engaged with life. I can't recommend the program enough.