Home for the Holidays … and Beyond

January 5th, 2013 | Posted by Brian Pearson in Children | Emotions | Happiness | Stress

It’s been nice having our 18-year old back home for the holidays. I am also acutely aware that the pain of parting is in my near future. Christmas is traditionally the time in the United States when many young adults travel home for the holidays — whether it be from college or from the place their job has taken them –and then a few days or a few weeks later, they leave again. That my 18-year old will be heading back soon, is a fact.

I can either focus on this fact or, to take a tip from the mindfulness class that I, myself, have been teaching, and focus on the present. Conversations around the dinner table, discussions in the car driving to family events, and late night movies and talks are all becoming part of our “home for the holidays” family rituals, with a young man who (fortunately) likes to talk and share. It is nice to also feel his comfort at being home, which isn’t always the case for young adults who experience the push-pull of independence vs. dependence. Stress free times are also hard to come by. I find myself enjoying the time with my young adult child, even as I hear the, now faint, tick-tock of the clock in the background.

Yes, young adult child. You heard right. Young adults are still our children. Research has now verified what many parents have known all along – that the human brain doesn’t really develop fully until the age of 25, and sometimes not until 30. What is also a fact today is that many young adults are staying home longer. And, contrary to popular belief, this is not a bad thing.

Karen Fingerman, a professor at the Universityof Texas, Austin, states that she was actively skeptical of the trend of more help flowing from parents to grown children in this generation. Does it really help? Or does it just encourage kids to remain kids for longer? This is what Fingerman found, “The fragile economy could exacerbate the phenomenon of delayed adolescence, keeping Americans in their late 20s and even early 30s dependent on their families for years.” However, despite her own initial bias, Fingerman’s research showed that young adults who receive support from their parents have a higher life satisfaction and report clearer goals.

Another good read is Setterson and Ray’s book, Not Quite Adults, on this same topic. Their message is clear also. That the new generation is staying dependent longer, but this is a good thing. Pew research shows that the generation gap the Woodstock era folks felt with their parents, appears to be a thing of the past, and may in fact, have been an anomaly in some ways.

A recent AARP survey shows that parents and kids talk more often, get more “face time,” and even live together more often than the boomer generation. But the survey also showed that a significant number of parents (37%) feel negatively about this new trend. I wonder why? Widespread stereotypes that the young generation is selfish and apolitical, and just like to mooch off their parents, may be responsible.

The good news really is that parents can stop worrying if their young adult child still depends on them for emotional, financial, or day-to-day support. Its not an abnormal thing and its good for both generations. Frankly, it all rings true from personal experience. While many of us wish our adult children to act as independent as possible, as early as possible, a lasting parent-child bond and ongoing parental support cannot be replaced and should not be underestimated.

My adult child is home for the holidays,…and beyond… 3 more joyous weeks! Woo hoo for institutions that have long winter breaks! In the spirit of “how to eat a raisin” (Jon Kabat-Zinn), I intend to mindfully savor this favorable fact and reflect on this quote:

“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children: One is roots, the other is wings.”

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