Question from Jill in Orange Park, Fla.: "Our son is a freshman in college. Our (his and our) plan was always to finish college first, and then join the military. However, he now wants to enlist and finish college while in the military, at a later date. We feel he is restless and somewhat "bored". Please help; we feel very strongly that he should finish school first."
As parents we always want the best for our children. But let's face it, they grow up and make their own decisions. That said, we still have earned the right to give advice. Remember, you've obviously done something right - what a tribute it is to your son's character and to you as parents that he is dedicated to serving his country.
I would suggest that you sit down with your son to have a discussion with three objectives in mind: 1) understand what is motivating him. You mentioned that he is "bored" -- is he "bored" because he just wants to join the military now or is enlisting simply a way for him to leave college?; 2) discuss what the options are for military service that both fulfill his interest in serving and address your concern about reaching his educational potential; and 3) demonstrate that you support him and are really listening to his perspective before you offer any new guidance.
Be prepared. Bring options and information to the conversation. Find out how much extra time it would take for your son to get his degree once he is in the military? Find out what the opportunities are for combining military service with a college education. For example, could he consider the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at his college? Is that option available and does he qualify? Would that also put him in a better position within the military and in life as a future leader? Lastly, your research needs to turn inward -- is your biggest concern that your son won't ever get his college degree? Understanding your own fears and hopes will put you in a better place to talk to your son about his.
When you both have the discussion with your son, ask questions, listen, and learn. Show patience. Show him respect. Be sure to convey your perspective about the importance of getting a college degree. Since life has a way of getting more complicated as you get older, the old adage often rings true: do not put off until tomorrow what can be done today.
Determine whether there are other things going on at college that are influencing his decision - is he happy? Does he have friends? Is he doing well in school? And, if it is boredom that's driving him, have him consider other possibilities. Would a part-time job or getting involved in some sort of community service or a cause motivate him?
Go into your discussion with an open mind and open heart. If he is not engaging with you or if the conversation does not go as you had hoped, reach out to someone your son admires, trusts and respects - someone who may appear to be more objective. Often the most appreciated advice (in retrospect) is the advice you did not want to hear.
And, again, be proud that your son wants to serve his country.