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ADULT CHILDREN

The tasks of parenting may stop when the child leaves the home but a parent’s concerns about the child’s well-being last forever.

These days many parents are worried about their adult children: Will they find a job? Can they afford to buy a house? Will they be able to save for their retirement?

And, sadly, some parents have to dig into their own retirement funds to help an adult child who is in financial difficulty.

However many of the questions I get about adult children have nothing to do with the child’s financial life. They fall into two categories: 1) The adult child is taking a long time to “find himself” or “she has changed careers three times.” 2) The adult child’s appearance.

Parents have always had to adjust to the fact that their children are of another generation. The way our children dress and the music they listen to is different from the way we dressed and danced because the earth has turned and the world has changed.

Even before the current economic crisis a different pattern in the way people work was emerging. Instead of finding one job or career and staying put until retirement as my generation did with few exceptions, a different pattern emerged. The explosion in technology meant lots of new “things” which meant new and different jobs and careers. So more people began to give up their job and move to a new field.

My answer to worried parents whose son or daughter had just left a great job was to recognize the world had changed, remember if the child got one great job he or she could get another, and stay cool.

The appearance question keeps popping up. A recent example: “My son is 24, finished college, traveled on his own, is dating a very nice girl, and is going to take a course to teach English as a second language overseas. I’m proud of him, the only thing that bothers me about him is his hair, and clothes. He doesn’t like to get haircuts very often so his hair looks really ugly and dirty, but is not. Also I want him to show some maturity in dressing especially in front of his girlfriend’s parents. He says, ‘Mom, I don’t drink, smoke, do drugs, I’m not a criminal, I’m a good person, what is it?’ and I understand all that but even for important events, he didn’t want to wear nice shoes.”

I think this mother is very fortunate to have a son to be proud of. However at 24 he is the one who decides how he wants to look.

Does this young man meet the expectations we have of an adult? 1) Has he found a way to make a living? Yes. 2) Can he be independent of his family? Yes. 3) Has he found a mate? Working on it. So this man has grown up. And grown up pretty good.

I advised his mother to “Concentrate on the good and ignore the bad.” I added a personal PS: “My son was a musician with very long hair so I know how hard it is to keep your mouth shut!”

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