Articles

adult CHILDREN or ADULT children?

bryant-michael edt2by Michael Bryant, guest columnist
CTS Consulting Services

If you are raising or have raised children, these phrases may be familiar:

The "helicopter parents" who hover over their offspring.
The "boomerang children" who move out only to bounce back home.
The "adult-olescents"- grown children locked in a state of developmental suspended animation.

What in the world is going on?

Are we participating in keeping our children in a permanent child-like state or are we raising children who will grow into independent, contributing members of society?

Are we producing adult CHILDREN or ADULT children?

As you will see there is a distinct difference.


adult CHILDREN

Over the past ten years I have worked with a number of "adult-olescents" ranging in age from 28 to 45. In the process I have observed the following behaviors:
Many possess the problem-solving skills of a 15-year old. Simple decisions overwhelm them.
Their confidence levels range from low to non-existent.
Many of them do not have jobs or have full or part-time jobs that pay poorly.
Parents or other family members subsidize their lifestyles. These subsidies range from having their bills paid to receiving monthly allotments.
Most are well educated and quite intelligent.
Each has a network of people with whom they enjoy spending leisure time.
None of them particularly enjoys working hard or working long hours-especially if they are doing something they find boring or demeaning.
They also do not like being told what or when they need to do something.
Many of them have a sense of entitlement.
Often they do not understand why they are so unhappy.

Their parents' reactions range from frustration, anger and confusion to resignation and defense of the behavior.

Theses parents will often explain how important it is that the family stays close. Missed family vacations, holidays or special occasions are cause for great distress.

They will often explain a special circumstance that accounts for their son or daughter's lot in life. They will describe their children as "talented but misunderstood and under-appreciated." They will talk about everything they have tried to do to help their children find work but explain that the jobs simply "weren't right" or "did not use their offspring's ‘unique gifts'." They will often bemoan how "unlucky" their offspring have been in relationships.

These parents will speak of numerous warnings they've given Junior that the money is going to be cut off. (It rarely is.)

Often the parents act as if they, rather than the child, have a problem.


ADULT children

Thankfully, most of my clients are card-carrying adults.
They have left the nest and created their own lives and their own families.
Many of them are very close to their families of origin, but they have their own lives and their own identities and enjoy their independence.
Because they have had to stand on their own two feet, they have the confidence that comes from overcoming struggles and adversity.
Because they are responsible for their finances, they tend to live within their means.
If they have a problem, they are able to tap past successes to help them create solutions.
They see work as a progression and understand that proving themselves is both expected and reasonable.
If they are unhappy in a particular area of their lives, they are often willing to identify the problem and do the work necessary to change it.
They tend to be attracted to other card-carrying adults. While their relationships have their ups and downs, they are often able to sustain those relationships long term.They are excited about the lives they are creating.

(I have no idea how their parents feel. I assume their parents expected them to be adults.)


How Do We Account for the Disparity?


adult CHILDREN

The parents of adult CHILDREN seem to have a difficult time seeing their children as separate, evolving human beings. They are more like extensions. The child's actions reflect on the parents.

As such they feel they have the right to comment on their child's choices and decisions.

In addition, the parents of adult CHILDREN seem to have an aversion to their offspring being uncomfortable or having to struggle.

They feel the need to do whatever is necessary to alleviate discomfort.


ADULT children

The parents of ADULT children begin educating them to independence at a very early age.

They see their children evolving into separate and distinct individuals.

These parents see normal issues of separation as a healthy part of growth and development.

They respect the fact that there are parts of their children's lives that are off limits and "none of their business."

They allow their children to make and learn from their mistakes.


There is no debate that the vast majority of us love our children very deeply.
Our children will always be our children.

Whether or not they choose to function in the world as children or adults is their choice.

Whether or not we contribute to them remaining child-like is our choice.

Click HERE to access all of Michael's articles.

Michael Bryant
Principal
CTS Consulting
3126 Berkshire Road
Baltimore, MD 21214

(410)444-5857
(443)286-2488
(410)426-1367