A Different Approach to Helping Your Adult Child Launch
It felt so good when you watched your child walk across that stage to accept their college diploma. You not only felt a tremendous sense of pride, you felt relief. Not only are you free from paying those big tuition bills each month, but you know you’ve done everything you could to provide your child the tools they needed to get out there and create their own lives.
You don’t understand why your child, who was once a star student and athlete can’t seem to “get it together” and make it on their own. You have every right to feel utterly frustrated right now. Maybe your kid came home right after college with the promise of “getting a job and an apartment,” only to still be sacked out in their old room acting like they’re on an endless summer vacation.
In Part 1 of this blog series we determined if your child is struggling with depression or they are possibly having trouble motivating themselves. If your child doesn’t fit into either of these categories, then it may be something else.
In this blog we’re going to discuss how today’s world influences your child’s inability to launch and how a different approach can help.
A WHOLE NEW WORLD
The rites of passage for twenty-somethings are changing. It’s no longer just about getting your first crappy job and apartment with hopes and dreams of the future.
Young people today still face these same rites of passage yet social media is inundating them all day, every day, informing them that everyone is doing much better than them. While technology has made our world more “global” and exposed us to a world that used to feel “out of reach,” it has made twenty-somethings feel like they have failed before they even started.
There was once a point in our history that if you weren’t married or at least engaged by the age of 22 you were some kind of loser. For your kid, it feels like if they haven’t developed an app that Google is willing to buy, that will not only make them millions but also cure cancer, well than why even bother trying.
While you and I know that becoming a multi-millionaire before the age of 25 is rare, very, very rare. Your child sees it as the norm.
Despite the false image of success that is playing in your child’s head, they still want to forge ahead and get a job so they can move out. This is when the next big issue sets in…making decisions.
One of the best and worst parts of my twenty-something years was the number of choices available to me. I wasn’t married, I had no children, and I didn’t even have a pet, too much responsibility! I could live anywhere, do anything and be anything. While all that freedom was exciting, it was also intimidating and I often wondered if I was “making the right decision.”
For the 20-something today, any option or choice can be explored with the click of a button. That’s it. All those choices that would have gone in one ear and out another for you and me, they are now bookmarked on your kid’s computer. Choices for a twenty-something in today’s world are truly limitless.
You’re asking yourself, with all these choices, why is my kid still stuck?
The problem is that making choices and decisions for your kid is a double-edge sword. On the one hand they feel like their choices are limitless which is an exciting but overwhelming feeling.
They get stuck because once they decide to choose a certain career path to go down, they’ll be giving up all the other options available to them. Despite their excitement for the choice they’re making they still feel like they are losing something. Even though the thing they are losing, is not your kid’s dream and you know they would hate every minute of it, it still feels like a loss.
That feeling of loss makes them doubt their choice. Because of their youth and inexperience, they instantly mistake that feeling of loss for regret and then the decision paralysis sets in.
You know that sometimes we just need to make a decision and go with it. You know that a job, an apartment, a relationship isn’t a prison sentence. You know that you can take a job, find out its not quite right and then find another one that suits you better. You know that, I know. They don’t know that.
Your kid just hasn’t had enough of those experiences yet. They still think every decision is “the one” and that if they choose A then B is forever off the table.
WHAT CAN A PARENT DO?
If you haven’t set specific guidelines and expectations for your adult child while living in your home, then you need to start now. Bottom line, your adult child cannot act like they are 16 again in your home and this is a temporary situation, not a permanent one. If you need help with this, go to Part 1 and under “how you can help” if your child is struggling with motivation, there are some guidelines you can start to implement.
Do you remember reading those parenting books when your kid was 4 or 5? The book would tell you to “crouch-down” so you could look your child in the eye, tell them that you understand they are hurt or upset but “this is the rule” or “this is how the world works.”
I know you may be thinking right now, “Tess…you’ve got to be kidding me…my kid has been living rent free, eating my food and watching Netflix non-stop for over a year now and you want me to ‘understand their feelings!’”
I want you to understand your child’s mindset and what they are up against as they navigate the rough waters of being a young adult. I’m not here to make excuses for them or to tell you how much harder they have it then when you or I were trying to establish ourselves.
I want you to be able to see things from your child’s perspective in order to understand how to communicate with them better and ultimately how to help them get out of their heads and into action.
You know your child better than anyone else in the world. My guess is you know that they are feeling lost, confused and completely unsure of themselves. Some people respond to ultimatums, firm limits and deadlines.
Take a minute and put yourself in your child’s shoes.
What would you want someone to say to you? What help, motivation and support would you crave? That’s what your child needs. Here are a few things to start with:
1) Help them Get Realistic
Your child needs to help to understand what are realistic expectations for an average twenty-something. Talk with them about how you achieved your success and what it really takes to be “an overnight” sensation. Help them see that they need new mentors and role models other than Mark Zuckerberg and Beyonce.
2) Help them Understand Decision-Making
Help them see that there are no “right or wrong” decisions, just the decisions they make. Tell them about a decision that you made that you felt sure of that ended up being not quite right. How did you handle it? Tell them about a decision you made that you weren’t sure of but turned out to be great in the end.
Now that you can see the dilemma that your child is in when it comes to making decisions, how can you help them see that while decisions can be tough, it’s how we move forward in our lives and in our careers.
3) Normalize their Fear
Your child is afraid. Not like when they were young and afraid of the dark but scared that they will never find a meaningful career that they’re any good at. They’re afraid they will be alone forever and never find “the one.” They’re afraid that they won’t be able to provide for their children the way you provided for them.
Your child needs to have a healthy amount of fear because if they don’t feel any fear, they’ll never leave the house. You want to normalize for them that fear is both a good thing and a bad thing. That it’s OK for feel afraid when it comes to making a certain decision that this fear is a part of the process of taking chances and growing as a person.
Even if their actions don’t always match their behaviors, your child wants to launch. Your child wants to feel good about themselves and wants to an active member of society.
They’re facing a very scary world out there and while I believe in boundaries and I believe that everyone needs to contribute and “pay their way,” sometimes the answer is remembering your child is, in many ways, still a child and needs you to look them in the eye and tell them that everything is going to be all right.