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Tim Elmore

On Leading the Next Generation

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Adulting: The New Course Students Need

If you’re around teens or twenty-somethings, you’ve probably noticed they’ve adopted a new verb. It’s an action word called, “adulting.” It’s all about the migration from a kid-mindset to an adult-mindset.

And for a majority of students today, it’s a huge step.

Survey results on young adults in their 20s or 30s were just released. The results suggest they are having trouble “adulting” in one specific way: achieving financial independence. The report was conducted by Bank of America and USA Today.  They reported that less than half of the 22-26 year olds surveyed pay their own rent (47 percent), and even fewer pay any health insurance or contribute to a retirement account.

One discovery made by Andrew Plepler, BOA’s Enterprise, Social and Governance executive, was that “adulthood” as defined by young people is no longer about age. When I was young, my peers and I could hardly wait to turn 18, because that meant we were grown ups. Not only could we drive, we could also vote or join the army.

Years later, adulthood has now become about milestones—like moving out of the house, or getting married. I was shocked to discover and report in my book, Generation iY, that our youth had come to identify “becoming an adult” with “having my first baby.”

Did you catch that?

According to a new generation, adulthood starts with becoming a parent. Do you know when most people are having their first child? It’s somewhere between 26 to 27 years old.

Today, adulthood is defined with money. And according to Plepler, “The majority said that adulthood really begins when you’re financially independent—when you can find a job, pay your own bills, cover your own rent and stop relying on Mom and Dad for financial support.”

And this trend is happening later and later as well.

Why Is This True?

photo credit: cafemama lots and lots of bills via photopin (license)

photo credit: cafemama lots and lots of bills via photopin (license)

Just check out the perspective of young adults (college, high school students and young professionals) on this issue of moving into independence:

  • Only 16 percent are very optimistic about the future.
  • Only 12 percent say the job market is very good.
  • Nearly half are pessimistic about finding a career they will like.

This is sad. Youth are usually the most optimistic people on earth.

What Can We Do to Help Them Mature?

This may sound predictable, but when the survey discovered young people who DID FEEL READY for adulthood, they posed the question: How did you get ready?

Their answers were:

  1. Because parents prepared me for life as an adult (60 percent).
  2. Because I have a job and can see what life is like (60 percent).
  3. Because a mentor or role model guided the way (49 percent).

Coined by psychology professor Jeffrey Arnett, emerging adulthood is known as “transition age youth,” “delayed adulthood,” “extended adolescence,” “youthhood,” “adultolescence,”, and “the twixter years.” It’s a term defining a season of life.

So, whether you are a parent, educator, coach, employer or youth worker, what if you sponsored a “course” called “ADULTING”?

I’m serious.

A Course Called: Adulting

I know schools that have inserted an elective or a mandatory class for students to help the transition from backpack to briefcase. When they’ve examined their community they realized it’s not happening anywhere else, so they made it official.

The course (formal or informal) could include subjects such as:

  • Starting small.  Early tasks are more about earning trust than showing talent.
  • Managing money. Handling cash is a tool and a test for every other discipline.
  • Sticking with it. Learning to wait in order to be great is a lost art today.
  • Taking initiative. Early birds, not mockingbirds, get rewarded for their work.
  • Being responsible. Ownership of tasks is huge. We must never “rent” our job.

I actually cover these conversations in a resource that our tribe requested we create two years ago. It’s called Habitudes for New Professionals. It contains images to spark 13 conversations about moving from student-life to a professional life.

Whether you use this tool or make up your own, I’m convinced we must become intentional about moving young adults into full-fledged adulthood. We need them. We need their energy; their creativity; their ideas; their perspective.

Most respondents surveyed said they were not “life ready” upon graduation from high school or college. Only 31 percent said high school did a good job teaching them strong financial habits, and only 41 percent said college did.

It’s time we sponsored some “adulting”.


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1 Comment

  1. Jane Holestine on March 31, 2019 at 8:15 am

    Just observing high school students and young adults entering post high school education it the work force gives testimony to all that you said. While I agree that young people need “adulting” training, I believe the target for providing that is parents, not educators. That training should begin in the home long before high school with responsibilities, time on their hands, expectations that working age kids will have a job to pay for the extras, a supervised checking account, etc. educators can tell students what to expect, teach budgeting, and talk about life after school. They can be cheerleaders, but they can’t enforce expectations. They learn from what their parents model and rise to their expectations.
    I have an 11 year old granddaughter who is raising $10,000 to pay for a heart surgery for an orphan in China. Yes, her parents are walking through this with her, but she is doing house and yard work for people, making cookie dough to sell at a huge festival in town, and making her pitch to businesses. She is learning what it means to commit to a cause and is giving up her free time to make this happen.
    I am grateful that you continually bring these issues to the forefront and for the resources you provide.

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Adulting: The New Course Students Need