'Why Won't My Son Leave Home?': Parenting Adults Who Won't Grow Up

With more young adults coming back home to live with Mom and Dad, author Sally Koslow offers some tough love parenting advice.

Bored Young Man Parents of adult children are finding that the nest isn't so empty these days. Sally Koslow, the funny and frank author of Slouching Toward Adulthood , talks to Beliefnet about why the next generation is refusing to grow up and what parents of these "adultescents" can do about it.

Why do you think this generation is less motivated to follow the traditional paths of college, marriage and career?

The number of people who go to college in the United States is stable, but it’s taking people longer to graduate. Five- and six-year stays are common, sometimes because students wander from major to major. Marriage is definitely on the decline. According to the Census Bureau, 45% of Americans aged 25 to 35 are single, while ten years ago the number was only 40%. One reason for the change is that the stigma associated with being a single mom is evaporating. Also, many adultescents—what I call people 22 to 35 in my book, Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations from the Not-So-Empty Nest—have become gun-shy and cynical about marriage because of parents’ divorces. Forty-four percent of marriages now end in divorce. Who wants to catch that social disease?

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Sally KoslowThe economy is partly to blame for the resistance to establish careers, since more than half of those under the age of 25 are jobless or under-employed. For this group, unemployment is much higher than official numbers indicate, rivaling the Great Depression. An unpaid internship has become the new entry-level job. There are additional reasons why the generation we’re speaking about is hesitant to “settle down,” however. In college they may have felt no pressure to become educated with a career goal in mind and now not know what they want to do or have the illusion that the time in which they have to figure out their plans will stretch on forever. They’re here-focused, not future-focused, without realizing that work-related opportunities close off fast. It’s hard when you’re 29, for example, to suddenly decide you want to work in finance or academia, and make a successful career-change.

How does a parent encourage their son or daughter to grow up when perhaps the young person isn't sure what they want to do with the rest of their lives?

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