These have been rough economic times and they aren't over yet. Young adults (recent college grads in particular) are having a much harder time than we did in latching onto a career job--harder even than their older brothers and sisters. There are economic stats and charts ad nausea that support the discouraging outlook.
All of which brings up the question: Should we help support our struggling young adults and if so, for how long?
The question is discussed in a recent column by Carl Pickhardt who writes about adolescence but often about the upper end of a still-turbulent age--the 18 to 23 year olds. Here are some his observations about extending their financial dependence on us:
--Some of us may "enjoy parenting and don’t want to quit or don’t know when to quit or believe a period of older adolescent struggle is no time to quit or that a good parent never quits or they have an older son or daughter who doesn’t want them to quit."
--"Just as parenthood doesn’t come with a set of directions for how to get started, there is no fixed schedule for financial letting go. Thus many parents continue their parenting by offering extended help, often of the financial kind, until a firm hold on young adult independence is finally gained."--"What age should young people be expected to live dependently at home before leaving and beginning their actual independence? There is so much cultural variation. In the United States, we seem to have a common parental expectation that after high school graduation age, young people should be ready to move off more on their own. ...The point is: there is no universally fixed schedule for when the departure from home and the undertaking of full financial independence should begin."
--"In one sense, the young person who claims the inability to “afford” to live independently on the little money they can make may not exactly be speaking the truth which is that they can’t live as comfortably as when living with parents. In fact, electing comfort they may be missing out on learning some pretty powerful survival skills such as doing without, scraping by on less, prioritizing fundamental needs, buying cheap, sticking to a budget, making ends meet, living within one’s modest means, and maybe working more than one job to get from one week to the next to support a fragile independence. So if your son or daughter is up to the hardship, don’t automatically jump in and try to spare them the challenge."
--"You want parental help to foster self-help, not discourage it. This is why the helping contract must be conditional: 'Before we help you, we need to see efforts (actions, not words) of self-help from you first; and once we start helping you, we need to see evidence that you are gathering more power of independence as you grow.'”
--"[P]arenting is a lasting commitment -- to be there for your children whatever their age, not only in constant love, but in times of need. Life is an unpredictable journey, what Thomas Wolf called “the groping accident of life,” where happenstance for good and ill plays a huge role in the challenges that arise and must be met. It is a source of security to know that membership in family is life-long."
To end this post on a more mundane note, here's a chart reflecting a study by Pew Research Center on the change since 2005 of the percent of us who are helping to support our young adults.