Monday, January 15, 2007

A New Phase for Kids And Parents - "Adultolescence"

Social Scientists have come up with a new stage of your kids' growth called "Adultolescence", describing a period following college that can last five or more years. No joke !

This was recently reported in Money Magazine.
Citing the statistic that 2 out of 3 college graduates return to live at home. Those kids are being called "boomerang kids". The article goes on to say why, and how this is causing a new stage of parenting which has financial ramifications galore for you as a parent - about $5,000 a year, on average, in assistance. Your kid is also affected emotionally because (s)he now may have to live under your roof and abide by your rules, which may cause huge conflict. Some situations translate into you shelling out money to run not only your household, but theirs as well. How they spend your contribution/loan/help can be a bone of contention as well. There's lots of guilt and other emotional issues that come out of all of this.

The article points out some astounding points:
How did adultolescence come about? Blame rising college costs and rampant consumerism. Today the average graduate emerges with nearly $20,000 in student loans and $4,000 in credit-card debt. Meanwhile, (s)he faces a world in which rents have skyrocketed over recent decades but starting salaries, adjusted for inflation, have dropped 17%. (S)he can't cut it, so (s)he falls back on the bank of Mom and Dad for support in the form of either cash or an invitation to move back home.
My husband and I actually think that their cited estimate of a graduate's debt is on the low side. Most of what we have heard suggests that it is a bit higher than $24,000 in loans and consumer debt. In general, parents are supposed to help their offspring weather this period and come out the other side standing on their own two financial feet. The article points our some tips and techniques to help do this.

Apparently there are two types of "Adultolescence" - one where you see it coming (so it is planned) because you know that their wages after college graduation won't cover their expenses of paying back student loans, etc., and so you have them come live at home so they can stash some cash for awhile. The other is unplanned, and is a result of the kids' inability to maintain independence for financial reasons. You end up paying to run your household as well as his, because it would be disastrous for him to come back to live at your house.

I find this interesting on many levels, and as a homeschooling parent, I believe most of us take great pains to make sure that our kids can function independently. We are often criticized for engaging our kids in helping out around the house, doing chores, getting a job, and learning other "life skills" as part of their homeschooling experience. Some of our kids attend colleges like community colleges early on, while living at home, so that they can accrue college credits and possibly minimize the cost of their degree overall. I also think that homeschoolers may have a better sense of who they are and what they want to do with their life, because they give it some thought; they have time to do that. This absolutely minimizes the time wasted in college deciding on a field of study. Homeschoolers, I think, are probably more intimately aware of what goes into working for a living and how a household should be run. I think we are more apt to share family financial issues and how to solve them, or at least deal with them. I think on average, most kids today are so detached from their families and their circumstances that when they have to leave the nest they don't know where to begin. They have become totally accustomed and dependent on their parents' care. They are clueless regarding financial obligations and the cost of their education, or the cost of living in general.

John Taylor Gatto mentions in his book, the "Underground History of American Education", at how long ago kids were expected to be on their own, and now how our education system purposefully extends childhood. He cites some stories which demonstrate how kids were so much more independent years ago.
Our official assumptions about the nature of modern childhood are dead wrong. Children allowed to take responsibility and given a serious part in the larger world are always superior to those merely permitted to play and be passive. At the age of twelve, Admiral Farragut got his first command. I was in fifth grade when I learned of this. Had Farragut gone to my school he would have been in seventh. You might remember that as a rough index of how far our maturity has been retarded even 50 years ago (i.e. when Gatto attended elementary school).
And yet, at that age Farragut was commanding a prize naval crew! There are many other examples of ordinary kids his age doing similar things at the time. This was not an anomaly.

Well, I guess my point is that despite the financial pressures of today (cost of living, cost of college, finding employment) in general, most parents aren't really training their kids to be independent. Some kids have cultivated a sense of entitlement, have never worked hard a day in their life, and do not have the tools to deal with adversity. The kids aren't realistic and are not prepared to lower their standard of living in order to be independent. It is quite sad really.

I am extremely proud that my 23 year old college graduate son is living on his own, is gainfully employed, and paying off his college debt, and can even be philanthropic at times. He's struggling in some ways, as we all do to make a living, but he is definitely his own person and in command of his own life, and he is most definitely NOT an "adultolescent". If he is reading this he should know that he has accomplished much, and he is absolutely a full fledged independent adult who has not fallen into a newly created paradigm.

I am equally proud of my other two grown children who are also gainfully employed and quite independent. They didn't want to "live in their parent's basement" and we didn't have to "push them out of the nest"- they merely wanted to go out in the world to pursue their own lives... and that is the point of becoming an adult.