The picture may reflect a stereotypical young adult couch potato living at home. In our Western Culture, we tend to view leaving home as the ultimate launch evidence. This bias is reinforced by the movie Failure to Launch with Matthew McConaughey. He was a young adult enjoying the comforts of home while his parents were secretly hiring a launch specialist to get him out. Can a young adult be considered launched if they are living at home? My answer and one that would resonate with many other cultures is “yes.” Let’s look at an example.
Young Adult Roommate Example
If I described a twenty-five-year-old who had finished college, was gainfully employed, paid all of his bills (phone, insurance, rent, etc.), did his own laundry, shared in the food and household costs, and helped with maintenance needs, you would likely say this person was launched. Now if I add that he was living with his parents, would your image of him and view of his independence change? If so, it might reflect the bias referenced earlier.
Today, a record 64 million Americans, or one in six, live in multigenerational households and this trend is growing. My favorite home building company, Toll Brothers, is offering building plans for multigenerational families and extolling the virtues of such living. According to the US Census Bureau, 47% of 18-34-year-olds in New Jersey are living with their parents. The majority of these parents are likely not complaining. Over sixty percent of parents enjoy having their young adults in the home. Maybe we need to change our view of millennials living at home as all “stuck on the launchpad” couch potatoes.
Shifting Your Focus
In my private practice work, I strive to engage parents in helping the young adult become responsibly independent and shift away from the single focus on getting him or her out of the house. Why is this important? The more responsibly independent they become, while living at home, the easier the transition to independent living. Young adults do not envision themselves living at home for the rest of their lives, or for that matter beyond five years. Now, a caveat I should add is when there are special needs – physical, psychological, mental – both parents and the young adult may be ambivalent about a five-year independent living plan. But assuming these special needs don’t exist, parents need to challenge the young adult to function more like a roommate rather than a dependent child.
Goals for Your Young Adult
Here are some goals for achieving a responsible roommate role at home. In many cases, these young adults have been roommates in college, so they understand something about cooperative living:
- Upkeep of their room – clean at a minimum
- Do all their own laundry
- Responsible for personal bills – phone, insurance, car payment
- Help with food costs and preparation
- Pay rent
- Be employed
- Show respect for parents and rules, such as no personal threats or attacks/ swearing, request use of parent’s things, if up late – be quiet and no overnight guests
This latter expectation is not so much a moral imperative but a lever for moving out. A boyfriend or girlfriend can make a better case for independent living than parents. At the end of the day, the challenge for us is to partner with the young adult in the process of them gradually becoming more independent. After all, it’s what we both want!