Social scientists have noticed that more young adults (those between eighteen and thirty years old) are putting off the responsibilities of adulthood. Adultolescence is the term that best describes this postponement of adulthood into the thirties. This phase is characterized by identity exploration, instability, focus on self, feeling in limbo, and a sense of limitless possibilities. These characteristics are accompanied by transience, confusion, anxiety, obsession with self, melodrama, conflict and disappointment. Others have called this the “Peter Pan Syndrome” because these kids just don’t want to grow up. The percentage of American children, or “kidults,” in their mid-twenties living with their parents has nearly doubled since 1970. Some never leave. . . . One survey reports that only 16% of mothers and 19% of fathers say their children (ages eighteen to twenty-five) have reached adulthood. Even more alarming is that their kids don’t dispute it: only 16% consider themselves to be adults. (You Never Stop Being a Parent, Newheiser & Fitzpatrick, pp. 46-47)
More and more parents are dealing with adultolescent children who eschew responsibility. Some would protest that the economy isn’t helping, but the issue isn’t circumstantial but attitudinal. Parents love to help children who are wise, hard-working, and responsibility-assuming. When theses qualities are absent, unwise assistance can easily exacerbate the problem; it might have created it in the first place.
So how do you handle your son or daughter who refuses to grow up? Newheiser and Fitzpatrick have written a helpful book where they lay out criteria for young adult children living in the home, whether those children are faithful to Christ or wayward:
1. Expect them to be productive.
2. Expect them to be financially responsible.
3. Establish reasonable moral standards (prohibiting drunkenness, substance abuse and sexual immorality whether in or outside of the house).
These standards foster good relationships when parents bestow honor, respect and refuse to micromanage their (adult) children. This means some sort of accountability system will have to be established and the burden for keeping it ought to fall on the child since they’re enjoying the free or cheap rent. Once agreements and methods are in place, it is essential for Christian parents to follow through:
Most parents with wayward adult kids have made many threats, but few have carried them out. They have backed away from ultimatums, allowing the pattern to continue and their kids to never reach adulthood. . . . An adult child who will not live by our rules cannot be allowed to stay in our home. Sometimes your child will try to make you feel like the bad guy for forcing him to leave. Or she may protest that she doesn’t feel like being treated as a child. You should make it clear that every adult has choices to make. As the parent you have the right to set standards for your own home. Your child has a choice of whether or not to stay. (pp. 80-81)