FROM THE INTRODUCTION TO ETTIE'S GUIDE
Over the past decade a variety of circumstances has caused a staggering number of our young adults to move back home with Mom and Dad. Many of these ‘re-nesters’, as I like to call them, return home directly from college, some with a diploma, some without. Others venture out into self-reliance, but then lacking the financial foundation or personal determination to make ends meet, eventually return back to the nest. Some simply never make it out in the first place.
No matter how they wound up back at home, a change must now be found to get them out on their own, and to give you your place back. Whether your kid is the hard-working type just facing a tough job market, or is perhaps relying too much on your support, the goal is still the same. You’re not alone. Millions of other parents are right there with you.
This has become a major social shift, directly impacting how an entire generation develops and advances. The pattern repeats nationwide across ethnic, racial and even socioeconomic backdrops. According to a 2012 Pew Research Poll, 13% of parents with grown children report at least one grown child currently living back at home. The same trend has also become commonplace in Canada and throughout much of Europe.
While many of these young people were no doubt hit with a ruthless job market, that alone doesn’t fully explain the situation. The economic conditions in recent years haven’t actually eclipsed unemployment numbers seen in the past. In harsh times of earlier generations, the same pattern of moving back home simply did not emerge to this degree. Now, it’s practically commonplace.
Until recently, when a grown child lived at home, it often signaled a larger, more fundamental problem. Whether from a substance abuse issue, a learning or social disability, or the need for direct medical care. There was most often some personal internal difficulty to begin with. That is simply no longer the case.
What’s new here is the sheer number of young people who re-nest; so many of them seemingly capable of moving forward. No longer is this issue facing just a fraction of the population, it now extends into far more dramatic numbers. Just about everyone in the current climate personally knows someone on one side of this dilemma or the other. Either a parent watching their child struggle into adulthood, or a kid who feels relegated back to their bedroom.
The process is a difficult one for all parties involved. For a parent to watch their son or daughter, once a wellspring of hope and ambition, suddenly be faced with fewer options - well that can be endlessly painful. Not unlike seeing a child injured or malnourished, it creates emotions of guilt, shame and sometimes even hopelessness.
For the kid, it’s no picnic either. At a time when their life was supposed to be quickly propelling upward, they instead find themselves trapped and marginalized. It can lead to feelings of failure and rejection, sometimes even ridicule. And it can quickly begin to chip away at a person’s self-worth.
The only certainty in the entire situation is that a solution must be found. They cannot stay forever. Mom and Dad would be deprived of seeing their youngster transform into a self-reliant and successful adult. The child would be robbed of experiencing their own life. And the cold, hard truth of the matter is, Mom and Dad won’t be around forever.
If left unresolved, the situation can begin to corrupt the family dynamic as frustrations spill over into friction and emotion. Helping your child find not just a way out, but the right way out, can be a critical factor for years to come. Part of the aim here is to get it right the first time, if this is indeed your first time.
The entire endeavor can be a tricky one. It can involve navigating issues of pride and self-worth. Depending on the situation, you may be dealing with a willing, responsive and capable kid simply trapped in the vacuum of a suffocating job market. Some parents face a child who has lost a bit of their spirit in the fight. The reality is that some parents find themselves practically having to baby-step their kids out into the real world.
Whatever your reality, you’ve gotten them this far, and can certainly help them overcome this temporary setback. In the pages ahead we’ll chart out some real solutions, as well as hopefully anticipate some trouble spots before they arrive. We’ll also explore ways to keep your sanity in check for the road ahead.
We’ll also break down some serious mistakes made by many young adults when balancing their time. Part of this effort calls for an elimination (as much as possible) to multi-tasking. This Madison Avenue approach for slowly getting less done incrementally has undermined an entire generation’s batting average. By focusing on a dozen tasks at once, they’re usually lucky to accomplish three. Breaking this pattern can go a long way to becoming more time efficient.
We’ll take a serious look at how your re-nester structures their day with an eye toward triaging the man hours. This is not to become czar-like over your kids, but instead to accurately pinpoint the behavior that can be undermining their pathway out.
While I certainly have my own theories on the topic, there’s also value in hearing from the experts. We’ll explore some of their diverse explanations for this newly-emerging trend, and how they recommend approaching it.
Some psychologists and job placement counselors point the finger of blame squarely at the parents, while others see it as more of a generational issue. Both theories are drawn in broad strokes, and often overlook the individual mechanics of a household dynamic.
Personally I think it’s also partly a byproduct of this new social structure that exists for younger people today. Less of them marry at an early age, and more and more of their contact with friends now occurs online. That makes the home environment a unique one, with direct, tangible humanity. This can be a hard thing to give up. Plus, if your place is like mine - the food can’t be beat.
That home environment that you provide is exactly what the child must ultimately go out and create for themselves: a life filled with love, joy, obstacles and defeat. They must what they’ve learned about living in your home setting and essentially replicate it for themselves.
As for a time frame, we start now: planning, at the very least. Whether you’d like the change to occur within six months or prefer it happened the day before yesterday, the planning should begin either way. It deserves planning, the same way you don’t just start stapling Christmas lights to your house with no finished product in mind.
You already know what you want to see: your child living happily and independently, and elsewhere. You still want them to need you; you just hope they don’t need you for everything. That’s your goal, and the plan you put into action should reflect that, preparing your young one to spread their wings wide, and hopefully remember to phone once in a while.
We begin with the plan.