In a prior post I introduced that struggling twenty-somethings sometimes resist engaging with (or even being exposed to) people or services that might help them find their way to adult lifestyle and livelihood.
This is a core topic in my work – that sometimes people get hooked on the comfort and safety of an overextended adolescent existence, and their dependence increases over time. They become practiced at chasing off parents or others who might drive them out to find their way in the scary, tiresome adult world. (I am no longer shocked to encounter people who are still in a state of “totally dependent, pre-adult living” in their mid- and even later twenties.) Parents indulge these situations mostly due to some combination of love, uncertainty and fear.
I am increasingly convinced that adult children – and the parents themselves — are better served when these situations are nipped in the bud. (Insert your own analogy here: medical or social situations that are best addressed as soon as they manifest, rather than being left to grow over time.)
I recommend that when an adult child is living at home and not making meaningful progress towards “adulting” for even a month or two the alarms should start to sound. Parents should move quickly to establish in open, unapologetic dialogue that the state of affairs is not OK. Parents should set expectations for how the adult child will conduct themselves while living at home and work with focus towards adult independence through either education or employment. Also to emphasize that future support (e.g., room and board, car, cell phone, media) is not an entitlement, and is dependent on the choices and progress the young adult makes.
These changes in expectations could be very hard for the adult child (and for the parents themselves). These do not need to be big dramatic scenes though. New expectations can be introduced a step at a time in a series of conversations. Each dialogue can emphasize that the adult child is capable of overcoming any challenges at hand and becoming independent. Parents simply need to stay calm, delivering and reinforcing the expectations with consistency until the adult child digests that they really mean it.
I know of many situations where parents wish they had drawn these lines and taken these actions earlier, as their young adult’s problems and behaviors are now deeply entrenched.
Anyone who would like to connect with me or explore these topics more is invited to visit my website at www.otoolecoaching.com.