Sunday, September 16, 2012

Will They Ever Leave For Good?

I read an article that said a recent poll determined that 85% of college students end up living at home after graduation (Time Magazine – May 2011). Add to that the number of non college-attending young adults  that are still at home or had to return because of financial reasons, and that’s a lot of kids not able to live independent of their families. Some even return home with spouses and children.

The reasons given are usually financial. They have a degree but are unable to find a job, especially in the area they are credentialed for. Or they simply have too much school and other debts to make it on the salaries that they earn. Most, but not all, are unhappy to be home again. And I suspect that most parents agree as well.

Regardless of the cause, I think establishing new boundaries are essential to harmony and growth.

The young adult leaves as an entitled child in a family home, but returns as a guest in their parents’ house. This transition may not be physical (as when the young adult never leaves) but perhaps age related. You have graduated high school or college or turned a particular age and now must begin to function more like an adult than before.

To me this means contributing more to the running of the household and when possible, contributing financially as well.  Statistics show that an average of about 80% of household income goes to covering non-discretionary bills and the last 20% is available for discretionary spending. That might be a good measure of how much to contribute. (One’s car, fuel, and insurance etc. would be part of the 80%).

It also means parents and “guests” treating each other as adults – showing respect to each other as well as keeping lines of communication open. Parents have feelings too and old parent-child conflicts must end. The days of entitlement thinking are in the past. Parents have a right to ask for no smoking, drinking, loud entertainment, etc. in their house if that’s what they want. It should not be a matter of debate or conflict.

Displaying a good attitude and observing courtesies towards each other promotes harmony. That means greeting each other and showing gratitude and trying to be a good guest or tolerant host. Having peace at home is a high value for most adults. So is having private undisturbed time.

The “guest” must also put a high priority on moving forward with their life. Settling in and becoming too comfortable is a liability for both parent and child. If unemployed, seeking work vigorously and unceasingly should be job one -- and when feasible, moving out should be the goal. Yes, it’s scary for all parties involved, but it is necessary for growth.

Many parents are too comfortable having their kids at home past their expiration dates. Children can become emotional buffers between spouses, preventing them from dealing with issues within the marriage. It is unhealthy for both the parents and the emerging young adults.

Of course prevention is always the best medicine. Good and wise planning can often improve your chances of success. Have a reasonably clear idea of your life direction before you begin applying to colleges. Research the job market for the field that you are considering training for. Have you prayed and asked God if He is calling you to something specifically? Carefully consider incurring any kind of debt – school or otherwise. There is no good debt – only some with payback potential.

Maybe then if you choose college you can be part of the 15% of graduates that keep moving forward uninterrupted.  

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