Do our adult kids still need parenting?

There is a popular idea that helping your adult children financially and practically is bad. You may have heard comments like, “It’s abnormal, stunts their maturity, makes them indulgent and lazy and delays their independence.” But I tend to disagree. I don‘t believe it’s either abnormal or bad.

Launching into adulthood is different these days. In my parents’ generation, young people were into careers, marriage and child bearing during their teens. In my age group it was during their mid-20s, but nowadays it’s usually a lot later. As a result, it’s now very normal for children to be helped by their parents. One study I saw showed 60% of young adults got financial and practical help from their parents, and one survey by a bank showed Auckland young people did not expect to leave home before 27.

Isn’t this bad?  Maybe not. A survey showed that young adults who received help in this way tended to have a much better sense of well-being. They also tended to end up better off and in better jobs. But young adults need to want the help. If  the parent is overbearing or intrusive, it can both wreck the parent-child relationship, and get in the way of the young adult developing.  The good thing is that parents are usually able to judge this well enough.

There are two positive types of support when it comes to parenting young adults. One is scaffolding – supporting them to build up training or assets to eventually go higher and further in life. It’s an investment. For example, at my son’s graduation, the speaker said research shows my boy’s BA degree will be worth three million dollars to him in extra earnings over his career. That makes supporting him at home for a few extra years seem very worthwhile. The other type of support is providing a safety net – stepping in during set-backs, illness or divorce to stop them falling back too far.

Why should our supportive role as parents end in their teenage years? If we give them a longer runway, they will climb higher and fly further. And who wouldn’t want that for their kids?

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John Cowan

Writer, speaker and broadcaster, John Cowan shares his insight and opinions about the latest in parenting and family news in New Zealand. Hear John speak on radio stations every week throughout the country and regularly on national TV.  Follow @JohnCowanNZ on Twitter

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