This article is not about substance abuse, however if you want to read it with that lens that is entirely your choice.  My intention is to highlight how during a time of physical distancing and sheltering in place, we are unintentionally socially isolating.  For someone who struggled with social anxiety before, returning or remaining home can be on par with relapse.  We are on the cusp of witnessing thousands of young adults spiraling into a depressive state.

Prior to this pandemic, many of my clients would self-identify as having stalled out at home.  Either they never launched to begin with after high school, or they launched and then quickly returned to the nest.  My work involved helping the parents getting connected to their own resources to help their child launch (i.e. Parent Coaching or reading “How to Raise an Adult”) and supporting the young adult themselves to leave the nest.  This job is never easy, as the world outside of the comfort of a parent’s home can be a terrifying place.

For those who did get out, they may have found establishing a friend network in their new environment harder than anticipated.  They were paralyzed with fear regarding making friends, speaking with faculty, advocating for themselves, or just finding anything to be engaged with.  Even on a large, bustling campus, a young person can feel extremely alone.  Now, factor in COVID-19 and colleges shuttering doors and we’ve got the perfect storm for young people returning home. 

Parents are simultaneously grateful to have their children under their roof during this public health scare, but just as concerned of what’s to come after.  If your student was struggling socially and you were giving advice while they were on campus, now that they are home it is time to sit down and create a plan.  If they are not planning to return to school in the fall, make sure they have something else lined up.  If they don’t, you’ve just invited them back into the womb and it’s going to be extremely hard to help them relaunch again once the sheltering in place has lifted.

Normalize that we all are feeling socially isolated.  Do not let them stay in their room with the door closed 24/7 while you place meals outside their door to ensure they are fed.  Draw them out.  Link them up with a telehealth provider and be open to communicating the stress of uncertainty that we are all experiencing.  The expression “these are uncertain time” is an understatement.  Make sure your young adult is not alone, literally and figuratively.  If they are, this is equivalent to a relapse.  Get them reconnected. And help them see the light through this very dark time.

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For questions or comments contact Joanna at 970-218-9958 or via email.


  • Joanna Lilley, MA, NCC

    Therapeutic Consultant / Young Adult Transition Specialist / College Success Coach

    Lilley Consulting

    After previously working at two institutions of higher education, specifically in Student Success & Retention, Joanna hung up her shingle to provide support for the flight of students leaving colleges campuses.  She now dedicates herself to working solely with emerging adults who unravel when they land on a college campus.  Her passion and drive is to coach this population back into good academic standing, or connect this population to mental health and substance abuse treatment programs that will provide stability, sobriety, and the executive functioning skills this population needs to move forward in life.  Most of her clients are currently enrolled on campus, or those who have already left feeling defeated.  With a magic wand, Joanna supports young adults with mental health issues with their the transition into adulthood and back into higher education.  Fear not, she works with the entire family system to help them heal and grow as this is not a "quick fix."  You can learn more about Lilley Consulting by checking out the website.  You can also listen to the Success is Subjective Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or any podcast listening platform where she interviews individuals across the country who took a break during their emerging adulthood years.  This podcast is ideal for young adults or families members who are looking for hope and relief in supporting a loved one.  When not working with young adults, you will find Joanna writing or playing outdoors with her rescue pup in the mountains of western Colorado.