The Right Amount of Help For Our Young Adult Children?

And what would that be? 

By Elizabeth Geiling, MSED, LMHC

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Changing Expectations
Emerging Adulthood, defined as 18-25 years of age is a critical juncture in development that sets the stage for the transition into adulthood and independent living (Arnett, 2000). In the last several decades, the societal expectations for emerging adults has changed dramatically. Previously, these years included developmental milestones like leaving the parental home, acquiring a full time job, getting married, becoming a parent and assuming independent living. 

Prolonged Dependance
Currently, the young adult is encouraged to embrace all the possibilities of what life might become and take their time figuring it all out! This shift has resulted in a prolonged dependence on their family of origin. This delay has been accompanied by a more intense, highly involved style of parenting that exists longer than any other generation to date (Furstenberg, 2015). 

Money Matters
A common source of tension in most families is the continued financial dependence, whether it is college tuition, car insurance or the cell phone bill! It is estimated, that parents have shifted their greatest spending on their children during emerging adulthood (Kornich & Furstenberg, 2020). Ultimately, the final measure of parenting is launching your child into independent living, but this prolonged support impacts parental retirement. Keep in mind, there is no scholarship for retirement. For most parents today, due to many factors (economic, pandemic, career preparation), launching their young adult is taking longer and is more expensive than expected! 

The Big Questions
It leaves many parents asking the question on all levels, – “how much am I supposed to help my grown up child?” Do I give them money, do I help write a college paper, do I run their errands etc.? It seems that figuring out a healthy balance is a critical and complex task. 

Some thoughts to consider while determining the “right amount of parenting”: 

  • Parents have a role to play in the emotional development of their young adult children. Continued guidance from parents is linked to positive outcomes.
  • Parents offering assistance and willingness to discuss career options is helpful and linked to better young adult choices.
  • Parenting that limits young adult autonomy interferes with college success, and the development of solid decision making skills.
  • Overparenting can immobilize the young adult by creating dependence and an unwillingness to take initiative.
  • A never ending level of financial support can impede the development of the self- control needed to attain and budget money successfully.
  • Parents have a role to play in the emotional development of their young adult children. Continued guidance from parents is linked to positive outcomes.
  • Parents offering assistance and willingness to discuss career options is helpful and linked to better young adult choices.
  • Parenting that limits young adult autonomy interferes with college success, and the development of solid decision making skills.
  • Overparenting can immobilize the young adult by creating dependence and an unwillingness to take initiative.
  • A never ending level of financial support can impede the development of the self- control needed to attain and budget money successfully.
  • Most importantly, keep the dialogue open and recognize their developmental need for autonomy as you assume the most helpful role.

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Betty Geiling counsels children, teens, adults, couples and families. To set an appointment with her or with any of our counselors or for more information,call LCC at 1-800-317-1173. For safety, all sessions are currently provided using a secure, HIPAA compliant virtual video and/or audio platform. 

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