As I reviewed my calendar over the past few months, I noticed an increased number of appointments for young adults struggling with depression, anxiety or experiencing a quarter life crisis. (A quarter life crisis refers to a period of stress and intense inner turmoil and feelings of inadequacy that accompanies the transition into adulthood.) If, as research on young adult stress suggests, nearly two million young adults suffer as described each year, we could logically assume that millions and millions of parents are also suffering as they support their transitioning young adults.
Based on typical life markers such as financial independence, getting married or owning property, the transition to adulthood is taking longer. The average graduate with a post-secondary degree (not a Master’s or Ph.D.) has incurred nearly $27,000 in debt. Statistics Canada reported in 2013 that Ontario has one of the highest unemployment rates in Canada, making it difficult for young adults to find gainful employment. As a result, young adults are working at lower paying jobs, are volunteering to gain experience or are continuing on in their education in hopes of finding more meaningful employment down the road. These decisions result in a further delay of independence, an increased sense of inadequacy (or depression and anxiety) and can add stress to the parent/young adult relationship. Since young adults, for the most part, make their own decisions, a parent can often feel like their hands are tied while their emotions run wild!
So what can a parent do?
Understand that you are not alone. Most parents experience stress as their young adults transition into adulthood. The stress of feeling that your own inadequacies have somehow created the struggle for your child. The stress of knowing how to support, when to talk, when to listen, etc. are all common. Express your concerns to a supportive friend or group that will listen and offer non-judgmental ideas or share of their own experiences. You’ll be encouraged by the fact that others also find parenting during the transitional years to be very challenging.
Set Boundaries Together. Work together with your young adult to find boundaries that are win/win. The fact that they are transitioning means they are not not fully dependent (where you make the rules) nor fully independent (where they make the rules). Try out flexible boundaries, revisiting and revising them periodically. Working together in an attitude of respect for one another’s needs can take tremendous stress off the relationship.
Recognize that parenting is a forever job description. While we all want our young adults to grow up to become responsible, contributors to society, able to solve their own problems (so we can do whatever we want when we want….let’s be real), don’t give up on your privilege to parent. A parent is one who cares enough to share, guiding with wisdom and patience. We all love and appreciate those people in our lives!
Parenting in the trenches is one of the hardest job descriptions you will ever assume, but in exchange, you may become the one your responsible, grown-up child comes to love and appreciate.