No matter how difficult it may be for us to host our grown children in our once-empty nests--and the pandemic has increased the number of us in that position--let's have a little compassion for them. Their childhood home may be physically comfortable, they may be well-fed and free of financial burdens, but psychically it's a downer.
“There’s a sense that ‘going back’ should not be happening.” They were on a trajectory toward living their lives in “a broader context.” This means constructing identities that are “independent from their families, schools and neighborhoods of their childhood.”
With the pandemic, those trajectories suddenly shifted to reverse for many young people. If they’re also feeling a sense of failure related to job loss, these emerging adults might experience a “feeling of betweenness.” That is, “They’re connected to their parents, yet they’re trying to be independent.” This can be very difficult to accomplish when you’re all under the same roof.
As one young woman told a Washington Post reporter, “The situation is full of stress, even when you’re the most fortunate person in the world. ” The biggest challenge “is just the fact that they are my parents. They are always going to be parenting, no matter how old I am.”
This is a reflection of the social and familial challenges the pandemic has unleashed, with 52 percent of young adults now living with their parents. This is the highest percentage since the end of the Great Depression.
Until we're all vaccinated and the economy has picked back up, our adult kids may be under our roof a while longer. Can we make it easier on and for them? A little. In addition to establishing house rules and personal routines with the boundaries that brings, it helps to give each other alone time--physical space where we and they can breathe without interruption or oversight. It's back to hands-off parenting, of being barely seen and practically unheard.
painting: Renoir, Madame et ses enfants