Parenting to 30

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

For parents of 20-somethings, what's the line between being supportive and being indulgent? How can parents help their kids through "emerging adulthood", from age 18 to 29? What's different for this generation than for others? Elizabeth Fishel and Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, co-authors of Getting to 30: A Parent's Guide to the 20-Something Years, talk about the challenges and offer advice to callers in their 20's and their parents.


Jeffrey J. Arnett and Elizabeth Fishel

Comments [27]

EB from Brooklyn

It's incredibly difficult to draw meaningful conclusions about "the experiences of" or "what's best for" everyone in the 18-29 age group, especially given differences in education levels, parents' income, culture, etc. There's also a big difference between someone who has a plan (even if a temporary plan) and someone who is drifting and in need of support and/or a reality check. This segment was pretty pitiful at differentiating.

Someone who lives at home at 26 because of cultural norms (or to please their parents who abide by those norms) is different than someone who lives at home because their parents are willing to pay their way even though those parents would prefer their child to be out on his/her own.

Someone who has a business plan and is living at home in order to realize their dream (like the caller with a medical degree) is different from someone who refuses to take a job as a waitress because, you know, it takes too long on the bus to get there.

Parents - follow your instincts. If you are feeling like your child is acting lazy, or lacking perspective, they probably are. It's all too easy for any of us to buy into the idea that it's okay to take the simple, coddled path because "everyone's doing it."

FWIW, I am in my mid-twenties.

Jun. 04 2014 04:30 PM

Was listening to this in my car and immediately detoured to a bookstore to pick up a copy! Will help me explain to anyone not living through this that 1) it's not just my kids and 2) things really ARE different today!

Jun. 04 2014 03:15 PM
tom LI

Most 20 something's have false, or inappropriate expectations. The expect to never have to take any backwards steps in their life styles. Due to 1. Their parents indulged them over and over, 2. Our culture in general sells a false idea of what post-college life - adult life - is truly all about. 20 something's have grown up on a media diet where life flows relatively smoothly, from one stage to the next, with little to no sacrifices. Movies/TV where the intern dazzles the CEO, and ends up sitting at the executives conference table. Where everyone gets a Park side apt with a doorman and beautiful people as
as neighbors.

All of the above and more - plus the Boomer Generation are absolute failures at basically everything they set out to do! As business people, they took crass consumerism to dizzying heights, where shopping became an actual entertainment activity, and/or hobby. Where leisure pursuits rule all else, where gadgets became the true focus of ones life, made food another form of entertainment and a huge emotional crutch, pushed Rx drugs as the way to perfection, and as parents, they desired to be their children's friends, over being their parents, all becuas etheir parents, the WW2 gen wouldn't indulge their very whim!

We can trace all the ills of their children right back to them, and their collective failures as parents, and overall social leaders.

Jun. 04 2014 12:40 PM
Eugenia Renskoff from NYC

Hello, A few years ago I wrote a novel called Different Flags dealing with this issue. Ani, my protagonist, was living in 1980s San Francisco with her parents at the age of 26 and a half. She took an unusual step to solve her problem and it changed her life forever. Being a young person not sure of what one wants to do or be is very difficult. It is not just money or not having a job that one likes. Ani had no money and no job. She was well read and educated but clearly something extremely important was lacking from her life. I think that loneliness and isolation play an important role when young people reach a certain age and are still at home. Eugenia Renskoff

Jun. 04 2014 12:36 PM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

These guests engage in repeating the false mantra that a college degree will assure a job. Really? Have they looked at America’s economy lately? What type of degrees will get jobs for the recently graduated? The mantra hooks up with an over priced higher educational racket that saddles a lot of newly graduate with huge debts chasing jobs that no longer exit. Chasing Jobs that left the American economy long ago and these jobs are not just high paying manufacturing jobs. I am really tired of people coming on radio/TV talk shows selling books that simply engages in falsehoods.
These guests seem to be completely unaware of economic facts and only interest in self-help advice.

Jun. 04 2014 11:37 AM
George from Gowanus

I teach college students, and the problem is not that they are immature or don't have any idea what they want to do, or an unwillingness to do a job outside their field. The problem really does come down to the huge disparity between what a first job (even just a paycheck job) pays and what rent costs. When I left college in 1996 I was able to get a job in a factory - clearly not a dream job - but it paid about 10 bucks an hour and that was enough to live in San Francisco with roommates at the time. It was possible to have 2 roommates in the Bay Area, indeed San Francisco itself, and pay around 400 a month.

In the last 18 years, rent has about quadrupled in most major cities, but entry level wages - salary or hourly - have certainly not quadrupled. They have barely gone up at all for these types of "just need the paycheck" type of jobs. A factory job like the one I had in the Bay Area at the time would now pay 12-15 an hour. Not even nearly enough to live there.

Jun. 04 2014 11:30 AM
mf from Pleasantville

Part of it is their expectations. My 20-something daughter (who has a good job) isn't willing to live in Manhattan the way I did right out of school: sharing a BEDROOM with another girl, pooling our money and cooking our own meals. Now, they insist on their own room, dining out/on take-out and "need" tickets to junior charity benefits at $100 a shot. They expect our help to support that lifestyle, and we're dumb enough to do it!

Jun. 04 2014 11:30 AM

There are degrees that have historically been always beneficial. Of course they certainly aren't easy to obtain.

Those 3 would probably be the best degrees to improve your chances of finding a job, but they are also difficult to obtain and also expensive.

Jun. 04 2014 11:29 AM

The caller from Harlem shouldn't beat herself up about her situation in conjunction with her parents' retirement. She can't compare her path to those who started their adult lives in the '60s and '70s, because the economic climate is completely different now. I'm old enough to have witnessed exponential changes even in the last 25 years, and unless you're omniscient, every choice is a crapshoot. There are no guarantees the "wise" degree you chose at 18 will be marketable at 22.

Jun. 04 2014 11:22 AM
Cissy from Ohio

My son is 14, and we have already started laying the ground work for his "Launch." You can't wait until the child is 20!

Jun. 04 2014 11:18 AM
Mary from Weehawken, NJ

I advised my son and daughter to stay at home and save money but the stigma of living home after college is all over the media. I remember the boomerang cover on The New Yorker and my son was horrified that he would be identified as such. They are both in Brooklyn paying ridiculous rents but it's what society seems to expect, one check pays rent and the next check pays college loans!

Jun. 04 2014 11:18 AM
Kelly from Chicago

My 20-year-old is living at home. He has recently dropped out of college, a choice I support. (He was miserable, anxious, sick with depression.) I wish we'd set terms upfront. It was a big deal for him to start paying for his public transportation pass.

He is working part-time and looking to return to school. He is evolving into adult responsibility (he is paying back his student loan on his own). He wants to move out, but expects I will pay his rent and utilities, or at least a portion of it.

When I was his age, moving back home post-college was not a given. I did move home for four months. I paid rent and did chores.

I understand that the economy and huge life choices loom large for my son and his generation. I am grateful to be in a position to support him not only with shelter, food and clothing as he navigates his interests and vocation. But I often fear I'm indulging him in a way that will be detrimental to that development.

Jun. 04 2014 11:18 AM

Personally I'd rather prefer that the family remain together. Perhaps when it comes to choosing between individualist vs collectivist, I choose collectivist.

Of course the odd thing here is that in my native country, the children who stay at home with their parents don't stay home to avoid responsibilities and go through each day like a lazy slob.

I'd guess that it's the long-term individualist sort of belief has created a generation that doesn't realize that to benefit from family means "paying your taxes".

Jun. 04 2014 11:15 AM

The guest just brought up another excellent point: before the last 20 years. it was more of a given to have a slightly antagonistic/parental relationship with parents well into adulthood. When my parents divorced, I was able to almost get reacquainted with each as humans, and not just parental figures. I'm really grateful for that opportunity.

Jun. 04 2014 11:15 AM

Economic struggles due to the increasing inflation index, corrupt student loan industry, cost of school, and (until this year) the dearth of affordable health coverage are unprecedented in this generational range. Assuming two generations put the same energy and motivation into their early adult lives, the previous generation had an easier time getting established.

The other side is that the older generation is living longer. Several of my friends and I have already had experience caring for sick or terminal parents. Generation X and younger will face the possibility of temporary relocation to assume care for our aging parents for a longer period of time. Although we may have had to obtain more financial help from parents due to economic circumstances regardless of career path, we'll get to reciprocate with their care. I think it's a fair trade.

Plus, my parents are awesome! I wish they lived in NYC.

Jun. 04 2014 11:12 AM
M. L. from Westchester Co., NY

I'm not a boomerang kid myself, but I live with my boyfriend in the ground floor apartment of his parents' house. (They'd previously rented out the apartment to other people.) We'd love to have our own place, but rent is so expensive in the New York City area that we figured we'd rather put our money into something that will help out his family.

Jun. 04 2014 11:10 AM

I lived with my folks for a year after graduation while trying to get a job. Since I didn't discuss with them the amount of jobs I was applying for, they believed that I wasn't applying for any. It was infuriating, especially since I was helping with cooking, cleaning and running errands during this time.

Jun. 04 2014 11:10 AM
The Truth from Becky

I had an Aunt who let her children stay with her "UNTIL" to her own detriment. As she got older and trusted them with her debit card to get money for prescriptions etc...they were taking some of the cash for themselves at the same the point where she often did not have enough money to pay for her life saving Meds. She was too embarrassed or too proud to tell other family members what was happening. She died.

Jun. 04 2014 11:09 AM
Mick from NYC

My daughter had to return home first after getting her BA and then after her MA. It is working pretty well, despite living in a small, NYC apartment. I want to say that young adults moving out before marriage is a cultural practice common in the US but not necessarily elsewhere. My wife's family is from Peru and most of her nieces and nephews live at home until marriage, despite enjoying a good economy there for the last 10 years in which most of the nieces and nephews have career path jobs. This is not considered "sponging." On the contrary, their parents would be hurt if the children insisted on moving out, even though the kids are maintaining serious (i.e. sexual) relationships.

Jun. 04 2014 11:08 AM
Karen from NYC

Kids are home because they have no jobs, or low-paying jobs. Plus, the kids really expect their parents to support a middle-class, comfortable life style, so if they don't have a job or have a low-paying job or internship, they want their parents to make up the difference. AND, they will not accept minimum wage jobs. They want to cut the cord, but with plenty of $$$ and a job that they love.

We've had the money conversation. There is only limited comprehension on the part of 20 somethings who have never lived in poverty; they do not get it. Plus, how do you keep to a limit when you kid can't pay for food, rent, etc.? My kid tried to walk out of the house carrying a 14 lb turkey. (If you're listening: we still love you.)

I think that a better job market would help -- A LOT!

Jun. 04 2014 11:07 AM

This is mainly a cultural thing. In my culture, the family home is where many reside. Even with marriage, it's more likely the newly weds move into the home of the groom's family.

I agree that the whole "leaving home as when turning 18" is something more common to what we'd consider Western cultures today. What else is interesting is the social stigma when one chooses to remain home with family, which can generally be beneficial(maintaining strong familial bonds, and utilizing the family as a whole as a base of support).

Jun. 04 2014 11:07 AM
Dart from NYC

Here is a scenario for your guest:

Graduated with 150K student debt, got full time job and unfortunately only make enough to pay for commuting fees and student loans alone. I am not 100% sure if that "SIT DOWN" would really matter, when you start your life with a mortgage.

Jun. 04 2014 11:06 AM
The Truth from Becky

Are you kidding me? NEVER let them know your financial status. Their contribution is ALL they need to ever know. They are your children BUT don't be foolish.

Jun. 04 2014 11:05 AM
The Truth from Becky

You have to know the demeanor of your child...Is he/she a "go getter" will he/she survive in this world, financially? OR is this a child who would stay at home UNTIL...until it becomes their home.

Start weaning them while they are in college, they should have a part time job while in school and when college is done out!

If they are not going to college at 16 get a job and at 18 OUT!

Do not let them do to many returns home close the "revolving door"

That is how you raise a successful, healthy human being.

Jun. 04 2014 11:03 AM

Agree with jgarbuz and also, some parents appreciate the financial contribution and help around the house that their cohabitating children provide. I came from a large intergenerational family where there were always adults from 21 to 101 sharing their lives with each other. America has invented the "nuclear family" - Mom, Dad and the kids till 18. Then it's the empty nesters and finally the retirement home. Other cultures use the intergenerational system.

Jun. 04 2014 11:02 AM
Rad from NYC

Hahaha. How about 'Stepbrothers' with Will Ferrel ?

Jun. 04 2014 11:01 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

It was and remains common in many cultures for the children of family to stay until they marry and then establish a separate household. This whole tradition of young people leaving home at age 18 and living on their own is very much an American or modern phenomenon. Today, as buying or even renting is tough again due to tougher credit since the 2008 economic crisis, more young people have to stay in place with their parents.

Jun. 04 2014 10:27 AM

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