Ish Major from Greenville, S.C., is a finalist in the Dear GMA Advice Guru Contest. Read his response to a viewer-submitted question below!
Question from Maria in Los Alamos, N.M.: "My son, age 19, has dropped out of college, given away his bed, books, everything, and is living out of his car. He plans to start a company and become a millionaire. I have discussed with him at length the unlikelihood of his business staying solvent, the importance of getting your education first. He says he hears me and will take his own path. He is broke but has not asked for money. What can I do besides being a loving mother and listening to his concerns?"
Loving and listening is always a good place to start! 19 years old can be a tough age for both young adults and their parents. Parents may feel apprehension about them leaving the nest and your child can feel the anxiety that comes with the pressures of hitting the launching pad and facing the world. What I've found that works best is having a game plan that both sides agree on. It's totally normal for a young adult to have big dreams of wild success. As mom, you want to make sure those dreams are rooted in reality. Discouraging words may lead to rebellion and them not wanting to admit when things aren't going well. Communication is key. Encouraging words allow for more conversation. That way you can take a closer look at their million-dollar plan.
If the plan is realistic, applaud them for it. Then help them make it even better by adding your 'back-up plan'. Say 'I'm really impressed with your ideas and I believe you can do it, here's what might make you even more successful.' Because you were supportive they're going to be more willing to listen while you add the education aspect to their plan. If their million-dollar plan isn't quite worth its weight in gold that's when we need to ask some tougher questions. Again, be interested and encouraging while you ask specifics about their plan. If you notice an alarming lack of details, guess what…they will too. That's the perfect time to add your advice about how to improve their plan by adding more tools to their bag. Having a mentor to help avoid the pitfalls and add realistic expectations is always a good idea. A class or two to make them more competitive and allow for options in case they want to do 'something different' down the road makes for a smart businessman as well.
Having covered those bases, I am concerned about this cluster of behavior. Social isolation, giving away possessions and living life, literally, on the road makes me wonder about depression or suicidal thoughts. Typically, 19 year olds are exploring new places and gaining new friends and possessions at a pretty high rate. He seems to be doing the opposite. Unfortunately, 19 year olds are also more likely to be exposed to not so great things like drugs and anxiety from the pressure to succeed. This is a classic time for the onset of things like clinical depression and anxiety. Have an honest talk with him by first telling him what you've noticed and asking him directly about his mood. If there are some problems then it's time to get a professional involved so he can be properly assessed. It's a good idea to start with a therapist.
At 19, he may not need you to lead his charge into the world anymore, but your strong reinforcements will always be greatly appreciated. Help keep him safe and remember, behind every million-dollar plan is a Million-Dollar Mom!