At 30, I left the home where I grew up. Though not posh or extravagant, it was a place that afforded more comforts than I could have ever enjoyed on my own. It was my security, the only place I had ever lived, and a serene haven from the rest of the world. A quarter mile from the nearest neighbor, it provided a quiet connection to the natural world with birds and other wildlife to be appreciated. Why would I want to leave?”
That was 20 years ago at the beginning of a trend that some call “the coddling crisis.” Families in our culture have changed through divorce, the high cost of living, latchkey childhoods, and the trend of delayed marriage and parenthood. As a result, some young adults today may need extra coddling. Parents are struggling to find the right balance.
A Manhattan woman, 28, moved back into her parents’ home while in graduate school. She admits there is a stunted independence of 20-somethings today. Although she knows she should move on, she calls living at home a “great deal” that’s hard to walk away from.
This works both ways. On the plus side, many parents today have close bonds with their adult kids, and both generations benefit. But too many parents become what a New York Times’ article describes as “their adult kids’ lifestyle-subsidizers, bail-out specialists and chore completers.”
It offers these guidelines for parents:
Let kids master their own domains. Parents have been “micro-managing” their kids’ lives for so long that the kids often are unable to cope with disappointments and rejections.
Ground them in reality. Young adults today often expect to have a lifestyle that equals the way their parents are living in middle age.
Keep yourself in check. Divorced parents sometimes shower adult children with material support, or welcome them into their homes as “roommates.” This can slow a child’s maturing.
Technology has changed our relationships. Cell phones and e-mail allow constant interaction. This has its benefits, but if a grown child is calling about the smallest setbacks or decisions, it’s time to back off.
I’ll keep this all in mind as my daughter heads off to college next fall. Colleges are noticing that today’s parents are so accustomed to speaking for their children that they often ask all the questions on freshman orientation tours. In response, some colleges hold separate tours for students and parents.
Some good may come from my being such a clutterbug. Jo likes things in good order so she’s looking forward to leaving home. I hope we can strike a balance that will make her always feel welcome and comfortable but not so coddled she’ll want to move back once she’s out on her own.