Graduation has come and gone, and the parents of the Class of 2010 are proud, broke and glad it’s over. They have agendas they want to get back to, the second half of their lives to invent – the part where they’re not old yet, just older.
Well, don’t get too excited – it ain’t over ‘till it’s over, and maybe not then, either. What used to be a brief hiatus between graduation and Real Life lasts a lot longer than it once did. Emerging Adulthood, Postadolescence or even Adultolescence – whatever the label on this life stage, it now stretches not just through the early twenties but all the way to the end of that decade and even beyond. Which means many Postparents will be giving their grown kids shelter or paying their rent, propping them up or bailing them out, for a lot longer than expected. And the not-so-existential question they’re asking each other is, How long, o Lord, how long?
A safety net is one thing, and most middle class parents want to provide it for their grown kids, but often the help is a subsidy, not a safety net. “From each according to our ability, to each according to their needs,” says the father of three kids in their 20’s, none of whom is self-supporting yet. “Doing whatever it takes to make them happy,” chimes in his wife.
As their parents, who survived a depression and a world war, wanted them to be secure and independent adults, they want their children to be happy and fulfilled adults.. That shift in values, from the Greatest to the Me generation, explains why they’ve raised an Entitled generation, which is taking so long to grow up.
Some are well on their way within a few months of finishing their education, while others struggle with the conditions and diseases most prevalent in young adults – addiction, depression, and dependence, as well as schizophrenia and bipolar disease.
But most 20-somethings will eventually get around to commencing adulthood, even if their diplomas, apartments, jobs, partners, children and mortgages don’t happen on the same predictable schedule as they used to. Meanwhile, there’s one thing parents can do to hasten the commencement of their first grown kids’ adulthood so they can get on with their second: Give up trying to make them happy.
By equipping them with the education and training to make a meaningful life and an independent living, you’ve done what you can. As it is to all grown-ups, the rest is up to them.