We've all heard about the midlife crisis and how, midway through our lives, we question ourselves about the road we've taken, whether this is all there is to life and other existential questions. It's a period of transition where we may struggle with our identity and self-confidence.
This is old news. The new deal I'm hearing about is the quarter-life crisis, a period of transition that can shake young adult children.
A psychology website raises this alarm:
"A quarter life crisis can be a real and challenging event for some. The population of people experiencing this crisis may feel like they are missing out on something. This can feel like a time when they are not sure where they belong and are wondering if they are going in the right direction. Some may question their purpose in life."
There's even a Baby Queen song about it. (on YouTube) and, less surprisingly, a book about it. “Quarterlife: The Search for Self in Early Adulthood.” The author, psychotherapist Satya Doyle Byock, notes that in the past few years, she has noticed a shift in tone in her clients who are in their late teens, 20s and 30s. They are frenetic and frazzled, unnerved and unmoored, constantly feeling like something is wrong with them. In the intro to her book she wrote:
“Crippling anxiety, depression, anguish, and disorientation are effectively the norm. Just like midlife, quarter-life can bring its own crisis — trying to separate from your parents or caregivers and forge a sense of self is a struggle. But the generation entering adulthood now faces novel, sometimes debilitating, challenges."
So, what can trigger a quart-life crisis? In general, the research suggests that strong negative emotions can be set off by moving out of the parental home, living alone as well as creating deeper relationships with others and making long term decisions. So can adult obligations such as marriage, parenthood, buying a home, and stable full-time work.
What to do? Here are two of Byock's suggestions for how we can help our adult children weather a quarter-life crisis:
1. There are ways an overly dependent relationship between adult child and parents can evolve. That can involve talking about family history and past memories or asking questions about the parents’ upbringing. "The young adult is "transitioning the relationship from one of hierarchy to one of friendship. It isn’t just about moving away or getting physical distance.
2. Every quarterlifer typically has a moment when they know they need to step away from their parents and to face obstacles on their own. That doesn’t mean a grown child can’t, or shouldn’t, still depend on their parents in moments of crisis. “I don’t think it’s just about never needing one’s parents again. But it’s about doing the subtle work within oneself to know: This is a time I need to stand on my own.”
art: Alice Neel, "Painted Truths."