Health Features

Young Adults Living at Home

I recently read new data from Pew Research about the rise in numbers of young adults still living at home, and as always it came with angst about what to make of this millennial generation. I for one think they are great and have no concerns about their long-term success.

From 1968 to 2007 the share of 18 to 31-year-olds living at home remained constant, at about 32 percent. In 2012, it rose to 36 percent, but about one-third to one-half of these grown kids included college students living in dormitories or at home. So yes, there is an increase, but it’s not earth-shattering. The recession has been a huge factor in this increase, as more people in this age group are unemployed. And more young adults are enrolled in college compared to past years, especially women. Recession, plus more women in college and careers, means delayed marriage, demonstrated by a six-year increase in the age of first marriages since 1968.

But let’s look at what else living at home means. Most of us left home because home life became less satisfying, and the grass seemed a lot greener and more fun out on our own. Moving out meant more freedom and privileges and the ability to do things your way. Living lean and mean gave you a feeling of being more alive and grown up, as you were finally out in the real world. Today, perhaps we are holding our kids back by making things too cozy and easy at home. What’s not to like about having your own basement pad, a refrigerator stocked with beer, and a 50-inch flat screen TV for video games? Oh, and Mom often stills cooks and does laundry for you.

I believe young adults need a little hardship, challenge, deprivation, and hunger, if for no other reason than to prove to themselves they can make it happen. They need times of trial and error, to take risks and live without a safety net. That is when you are most alive; that is when you feel the greatest fulfillment and joy. The reason? Because you truly own the results; it’s your victory and your touchdown dance.

The best fruits are out on the thinnest limbs, and that’s why we need to allow our kids to stretch, take risks, make mistakes, and have more and more control over their lives as they grow through their teen years. I want every kid right from the start to have the sense that they are in charge of their story, and that they have their own path separate from that of their parents. We are their supporters and guides, but ultimately it’s their life and their destiny.

Perhaps the best gift we can give our children is to get out of their way.

[Tim Jordan, M.D., is a Behavioral Pediatrician who specializes in counseling girls ages 6 through college. For more information, go to drtimjordan.com.]

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