The New 20 Something…returning home!

As we send the kids go off to college or university the moment is often bittersweet.  So proud of our “baby” growing up and flying off into the world, yet feeling a sadness at our new life in the “empty nest.”   We soon recover.  Discovering the freedom and fun of not dealing with meals, extra laundry, pickups and late night worry, we audaciously break out, joining book clubs, taking classes and finding time for ourselves.  …but then after the freedom filled years ….

They are back.  Our independent children have graduated from their programs with a degree full of promise, but without the requisite well-paying job to continue their journey into “real life.”  This is the “new 20 something, ”  a stage found somewhere between adolescent and fully fledge adult.  The “kidults” are back home.

Graduates moving home is hardly surprising given today’s high rent, low entry salaries, and cargo of educational debt.  One report suggested almost 1 in 3 men and 1 in 6 women between the ages of twenty and thirty-four live at home. On average,  a grown-up son or daughter who returns to live in the family home at around the age of 23 does not leave until they are 26.  Parents face three-year wait for children to fly the nest after university. Even after they finally leave home, some of them boomerang a second time.

The core reason behind intergenerational living is money.  We are living a complex and demanding society, where “average” is often not enough.  The “new 20 something” is the result of global and economic forces heavier than our children’s push toward adulthood.  Even with a shining new education the transit to adulthood has slowed to a crawl.

We as parents understand, young people need to make their own decisions, but more than ever they also need the supportive, nurturing guidance of parents.  This can be  counter-intuitive to our attempts to launch children toward independence, but research shows that involved parents, even in the 20 something years, has a positive impact.  In fact, overly involved is better than scooting them out of the nest toward independence before they have all the equipment to fly.

Setterson and Ray, in Not Quite Adults, suggest there are substantial advantages for young people who take their time to launch.   These are the young people that spend time getting an education which marks a clear path, and rely on the continued support of parents.  These two factors, careful planning and supportive parents,  separate the sinkers from the swimmers.

So home they come, with toasters, books, snowboard equipment, desks and chairs, overflowing beyond the bedroom basement, garage and storage room, filling up our newly claimed space.  Many also come home with a student life sensibility;  little regard for time, schedules, cleanliness or courtesy.  They have spent four years thinking of no one but themselves, and now they are living with you.  Take heart, with a few heartfelt conversations and a 3 or so years under their belt, they will “fly,” successfully ……soaring to new and exciting places.


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