Making Friends with My Emerging Adult Child
Last year Flavio, my youngest child, decided to leave our home and live his dreams by going to Illinois State University. As a mom, I had so many worries. I felt like Flavio was not ready to be independent, to take care of himself, to survive without a close family! I cried a lot and then realized that I was the one who was not ready to let him go! I decided to have talks with him about the multitude of risks and opportunities while living on campus. One of the things I focused on the most during our conversations was the importance of taking care of himself; looking for support when he needed to, but most importantly was to look for positive friends. Flavio is very selective when it comes to making friends; he is kind of shy and doesn’t like to be around people in general. This was one of my main concerns because I knew that having friends would help him buffer from stress and social isolation and loneliness.
Flavio had the opportunity to choose his roommate and he was very excited to have him as a friend, however, his roommate was interested in other things and had different ideas on how to have fun on campus. Flavio did not feel comfortable with this. The second time I visited Flavio, I noticed that everybody on his floor was excited to meet Flavio’s family and they were happy to have Flavio as a “neighbor”. Flavio was greeting everyone, and it seemed to me like they were treating each other like a family. I was happy to know that he was respected and loved on his floor. I kept asking to meet his close friends and he always said that he did not have any close friends. I was visiting him very often so he would not feel disconnected from his family, until one day he told me that he would be busy during the weekend due to a DND game where he was a new member. I was so happy to know that he finally found friends that shared the same hobbies he did. He was also invited to be part of an intramural soccer team and had the opportunity to meet more people.
At the end of the school year, Flavio called me to ask if I could bake some granola for his friends before they were leaving for summer break. I said, of course, thinking that It would be two or three at most. When I asked Flavio how many jars of granola I needed to bake, he started counting them by name and the more friends he was naming, the more terrified I was, just thinking about being in the kitchen baking all day! He said, “mom this time bake only for 12 people!” Flavio not only looked for the best friends, but he became one of them. Flavio showed his gratitude to each one of them by writing a personal message. Here are some of them:
Message to my friend Carlos: “Thanks for guiding me through my first year of college! I was super surprised to when I first heard that you attend ISU. Now I’m glad to have been able to hang out with you and talk to a familiar face in a sea of strangers and challenges. I can relax and know that if I am ever struggling with something, I can come to you to talk about it. You were the candle that lit my path towards an uncertain period of my life. I can’t wait to play soccer again next year and to continue to hang out”
Message to my friend Adam: “I love playing DND. I think you already know that by now. However, the reason I love playing DND is not because I want to escape reality and roll dice. It’s because I get to create a vibrant world with friends; I get to spend hours with the people that I cherish and value.”
Message to my friend Cesar: “You’ve been a great friend to me. I really appreciate the energy you bring to every conversation. I remember telling you that I don’t really like to talk. With you however, I don’t feel that way, I feel comfortable speaking with you because we share the same interests and wavelength. I hope you have a great summer and I can’t wait to room with you next year!!
Social Connections (Friends) is one of the 5 research-based Strengthening Families™ Protective Factors that we encourage parents to build to keep their families strong and their children safe. Friends make our life easier, and fun! Who is your inner circle of family and friends that support and encourage you through life challenges?" To learn more about the Protective Factors and how they can help you strengthen your family, click here.