I recently received an email that really touched me:
“I am not completely an empty nester unfortunately. My 20 year old son was not able to return to college this fall because of the lack of loans and grants available to him. So now he is doing nothing except for playing the computer game WoW (World of Warcraft) most of his waking hours. He did just purchase a small business that will make him a small living, but I pray he goes back to college. He is very bright and it would be such a waste if he didn't.
Hannah, my heart goes out to you. As a mother of three adult children who has gone though -- and is currently going though -- the college years with all of its glories and pitfalls, I can only try to put myself in your shoes and offer this advice:
Your son needs a game plan -- and fast. Otherwise, by the time he gets his face out of the fake world of online gaming, this crucial part of his life will pass him by. I agree with you wholeheartedly, he needs to get his butt back in school. You need to take action soon or you will find yourself enabling your son to continue this lifestyle indefinitely. And that would be tragic.
It’s time to sit down with your son and have the BIG TALK. If your son’s father is in his life get him on board as well. Be sure your emotional ducks are in a row beforehand, you need to be strong for this. Your son’s future is at stake.
Start by asking if it is his desire to return to college. If the answer is no (and let’s hope not), the discussion becomes clear. He must move out. He needs to get a second job while he builds his business, pay his own rent (and internet access). People do it everyday. Staying under your roof is only going to hurt him, he will continue down the same path. He is 20 years old, a man, and needs to start acting like one. Period.
If the answer is yes, he needs to keep up with his studies. Have brochures for local community colleges on hand. Encourage him to research the classes that offer credits transferable to the university he plans to attend. Explain to him that college admissions officers will be more willing to accept him back into the fold if he shows the drive to continue his education no matter what the circumstances.
In addition to school, he needs to work. I know how rough the job market is and it might not be a job he wants, but it’s the real world and he’ll love getting out in it. My own kids worked in restaurants all through school to offset costs and it was good for them. Offer to start a bank account for college, insist that he deposit every penny he makes into it and show him the results after every deposit. Let him know that if the money doesn’t ultimately go towards school, you’ll take a chunk for room and board before the sum is returned to him.
NOW is the time to apply to schools, if he hasn’t already set up a deferral with his former university. Our new presidential administration is talking about expanding the loan and grant system, so if things change, your son will be ready to take advantage of it. In addition, he needs to explore private scholarships available to him. State universities with programs in the field he is pursuing in are great alternatives, as they are less expensive, so encourage him to apply to some of these as well. None of my children decided to take up the offers of their top college choices because they were offered better deals elsewhere. It was a tough choice for them to make, but a mature one and it turned out just fine. The starting place for scholarships, college searches and application requirements is College Board.
There is a possible screw in the works you need to be aware of. MMORPGs (Massively multiplayer online role-playing games) like World of Warcraft are an increasing concern for parents and members of the mental health community. Addiction to online gaming has been linked to job loss, the college dropout rate, stunted social skills and death. I’m not kidding about the death part. Treatment facilities are cropping up all over the world, including residency programs in Europe and Asia.
If you feel your son needs help kicking WoW, there is help and I encourage you to read this message from Online Gamers Anonymous:
Help! I think my adult child is addicted to video games!
I hope at least some of this helps you Hannah, and I wish the best of life to you and your son,
BTW, a good article is available at CBS NEWS: “Can a game truly become an addiction? Absolutely, Young tells WebMD. ‘It’s a clinical impulse control disorder,’ an addiction in the same sense as compulsive gambling.”