First 30 Days Blog

15 may

Adult Kids at Home: A Failure in Society’s Eye

JennaSmithFrom dozens of online columns to Dr. Phil, the debate over adult children living at home remains a topical issue, especially given the economic recovery that never seems to be forever moving at a snail’s pace.

From Dr. Phil, a recent estimate says 14 million adult children are living with their parents. From reporter Katie Couric, there are 22 million “boomerang kids,” which refers to kids returning to their parents domicile after an attempt to make it on their own.

After all, this is by evolutionary design: When humans reach adulthood, we are evidently programed to reach the boiling point on general cleanliness and sleeping habits, so that children are forced to find their own living arrangements. Eighteen years is roughly the tolerance level for Moms to play indentured servant or for Dad’s to play chief, cook and bottle washer. At about this children have had it up to their briskets with being woken up on Saturday morning by Dad running that infernal lawn mower.

For some time, however, the economy been forcing us to reconsider the expectation of a young adult finding living quarters separate from his or her family of origin. In 1980, 32 percent of adults under 25 were living with their parents. That had reached 43 percent by 2007-2009, when the Great Recession turned the economic tide.

There is one refreshing article in British newspaper “The Guardian,” that addresses the rise in adult children living with their parents, noting that one mother was happy her 21-year old daughter had returned home. The parade of guests coming and going and the extra cleaning kept the house “vibrant,” she said. You, go, Mom!

While some grouse about the financial strain of having adult children hanging around indefinitely, there are advantages to having an extra breadwinner in the house, even if there is only part time work available.

The wages an adult child working at a part time job while living in the parents’ home can be considered extra income. That same wage, when the child is on his or her own, is entirely drained by necessary expenses such as rent, utilities and food. That’s no way to get ahead.

Living at home with that in mind opens the door for part time work that was not a favorable option when the offspring was trying to make it on his or her own.

The first step is to accept the inevitable. Get over your disappointment of having to share the television remote with your adult child and look at the bright side. Some adult kids can work off room and board by cutting the lawn – then you can be the one trying to sleep in on Saturday mornings. Adult children can also do the laundry or the shopping. This beats allowing some inner rage to develop while you imagine the child’s life is a perpetual vacation while yours is stuck in endless servitude.

Poor families suffer the most strain from having an adult child remain at home. In traditional agrarian societies, people have large families, so that offspring can take over the farm or the family business and take care of their aging parents. When there is no work in a modern scenario, this safety net backfires. Extra mouths to feed become a liability rather than a retirement investment.

Immigrant families present even more difficulties. Often family members arriving from abroad join with established family members who have settled in to their new country. An adult child living at home might be an adult brother or sister moving to the United States and looking for help from a sibling who has already moved here. There could be language barriers. An adult brother or sister might require help applying for a green card, which is required for an immigrant to work in the United States.

Instead of looking at an adult child living at home as a burden or a source of friction, families can return to an old mindset, considering the child part of a safety net, albeit one that has yet to realize their earning potential. For some, children living on their own is mot a given; it’s a luxury that a slow economy cannot support.

In turn, this suggests that an adult child living away from the home is an option based on culture, but it is not an emotional necessity. When Dr. Phil and others point to the statistics of adult children living at home, under the assumption that something has gone wrong, they are talking about a modern luxury that is backsliding.

“When we talk about loving our children, loving them means preparing them [for the real world],” Dr. Phil said in an article titled, “Steps to Independence: How to Get Your Adult Children Living on Their Own.”

That only applies if you want the kids to leave. That is the norm. But it isn’t mandatory.

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Posted by Jenna Smith on May 15th, 2014 in Family, Global/Social Change, House and Home | 0 comments

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