Many distance learners live with their parents throughout the course of their college years. According to 2020 research from the Pew Research Center, 52% of 18- to 29-year olds live with their parents.
But we all know the main danger of living too long with your parents: You can end up continually dependent on them. It’s called failure to launch.
The truth, however, is that just because you live with your parents doesn’t mean you can’t have some degree of independence. For instance, you can prepare for financial independence by saving money now for purchases later down the line, such as a down payment on a house.
As a distance learner, you are responsible for developing into an independent adult as much as you’re responsible for attaining a degree. It’s hard work, but you can do it with some effort!
If you’re concerned about not being an independent adult once you get your degree, here are some tips on what you can do. You’ve likely done or are doing one or more of these, but I hope they’ll serve as general guidelines to follow towards your path of independence.
1. Clean up after yourself
In my experience, most folks don’t live alone once they move out of their parents’ home. Having a roommate is a cost-effective way to live when you’re finished with school. And your roommate (especially if this is your spouse) probably won’t appreciate having to clean up after you.
So, if you haven’t already, get into the habit of cleaning up around your parent’s home. This starts by doing your own laundry, cleaning any dishes you use, and cleaning your room more than once a year.
In short, just because you’re a distance learner doesn’t mean you need to live in squalor.
2. Open a bank account if you don’t have one
Even if you don’t have much money, consider opening a bank account (if you don’t already have one). Getting comfortable having your money in a bank, using a credit or debit card, and paying bills with your own account will prepare you for financial independence.
Plus, if your distance learning courses involve finances, you’ll likely have a greater understanding of the material by virtue of having your own bank account.
3. Have your own social life
Independence doesn’t mean you don’t rely on people—you just don’t rely on your parents as much. Personally, I relied a lot on my friends after college.
You don’t need to have a group of 20 friends you regularly see, but it’s wise to have at least one. Distance learning can be stressful and having one or more friends that you enjoy being around can help ease the pressure.
Volunteering or joining a city league sports team can put you in a position to make new friends. If your family normally attends church, try attending a church they don’t go to.
Build your own social network, so you can learn how to interact with a variety of people before you finish your distance learning education.
4. Learn stuff you’re not required to learn
As a distance learner, you’re probably reading a lot of books for school. Because of this, it can be tempting to avoid learning beyond your courses. But often, the best independent adults are lifelong learners.
Pick a subject that you want to learn more about that you can explore outside of your courses. That could include pottery, woodworking, the ins-and-outs of baseball—whatever strikes your fancy.
I think you’ll find learning can be a lot of fun, especially when you’re not being graded on what you know.
5. Do hard things
Stepping out of your comfort zone is one of the most difficult things independent adults must do, but it is absolutely mandatory. Yes, being a distance learner means you’re going to have to work hard in school. But doing hard things goes beyond that—it’s about embracing the tough tasks in life.
Life will often give you more responsibilities and require more of you as you age. So, getting used to doing difficult tasks will help better prepare you for life as an independent adult.
6. Take care of your health
Speaking of doing hard things, it’s important you take care of your health. This means eating well, avoiding foods that are terrible for you, and exercising regularly. In addition to getting stronger, exercise strengthens your brain, so you can do better as a distance learner.
It’s not easy but getting in control of your health will help boost your confidence, which is good for all independent adults to have.
7. Have an exit strategy
When do you plan to move out of your parents’ house? Is it after you finish your distance learning, or are you going to wait until your 40? Having an exit strategy bolsters your independence by giving you a goal to shoot for. It also, in effect, sets a timer for when you’re going to move out on your own.
Living with one or more of your parents doesn’t mean you can’t have a degree of independence. Simple daily activities—such as exercising, cleaning, and learning for fun—are all ways you can prepare for life after school. Practicing these tips won’t necessarily be easy, but they will help you develop into an independent, mature adult.