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How to Get Your 20-Something Out of the Basement

Today, we hear from Andrew McPeak. Andrew is a writer, curriculum designer, and speaker who has served with a number of non-profit organizations (and has spoken to thousands of Millennials) over the last 5 years. He now serves on our team at Growing Leaders.

Here’s a story that goes a step beyond just living in your parents’ basement.

Last week a judge in Spain ruled against a 23-year-old girl who was suing her parents for $330 a month in financial support. Yes, you read that right. Not only was this young person expecting money from her parents, she went so far as to pursue litigation to get it.

Though “legal precedent” in Spain holds that parents are obliged to provide for their children until they reach economic independence […], the judges ruled that this responsibility does not apply if the child’s behavior prevents them from getting on in life. In this instance, the judges decided, “the woman’s conduct was ‘legally classifiable’ as one of abandonment, laziness and failure to take advantage.” In other words, she wasn’t taking responsibility of her life.

What entitlement. What laziness. Another sign of our world falling apart because of the next generation. At least that’s what they might say on Facebook. As it turns out, there’s more to the story.

“The shocking reality is that fewer than 40% of young people are gainfully employed” in Spain and other countries throughout Europe. Why? Because for young people under 30 in Spain, unemployment still rests at around 43%, a stunning number. Many young adults are lost, attempting to overcome the drastic economic situation by getting additional education well into their 20s. Some have even moved away to other countries in search of work. It’s a desperate situation.

When Are You Helping and When Are You Hurting?

photo credit: jayRaz Tuckered Out via photopin (license)

Note the complexity of this issue. Difficult circumstances led to entitlement in the case of this 23-year-old young woman. Her situation, she surmised, warranted help. But, as we all know, the belief that you are owed something because your circumstances are difficult can often lead to the lack of motivation to make any changes in life. Why would you take any action if you believe you are owed?

Then there is the other side of the issue. This young woman did not choose the country she grew up in or the economy that was handed to her by her elders. Her circumstances really have made her situation extremely difficult. I can empathize enough to see how she might feel stuck.

When I am on the road talking to parents of 20-somethings, I often meet mothers and fathers who find themselves in these types of situations with their kids; young sons who moved back home after college had trouble finding a job, and now feel like they’ve failed at life. Or, young daughters who didn’t get the great internship after graduation, now must watch their friends brag about their achievements through posts on Instagram about the New York night life. I have found that in situations like these, accusing our kids of being, in the words of the Spanish judge, “too lazy to earn a living” just isn’t helpful. I know because I’ve been there.

When I graduated from college and got married, my wife and I lived in a small town with a terrible unemployment rate. My job paid only $24,000 a year, and we had to find a way to live on that for a long time. It was easy to feel like a failure. Not because I had failed, but because I had an unhealthy picture of success.

I want to paint a picture of the difference between helping your young adults through something like this, versus doing it for them. Don’t be the parent who makes a way for their kid to skirt responsibility well into their 20s. But also, don’t be the adult who uses labels like “lazy” and “entitled” without getting to the bottom of the issue. Let’s contrast the differences between hurting and helping.

Hurting Helping
Letting a 25-year-old live in your basement when they aren’t looking for a job. Setting a move-out deadline and helping them craft a six-month plan for self-sufficiency.
Telling your young adult to turn off the video games and go to bed. Reading an article with them about video game addiction and challenging them to turn the games off on their own.
Paying all the bills for your 20-something young adult. Helping them write a budget. Craft a plan together to transfer all bills over to them over time.
Getting into arguments about what they should be doing. Introducing them to successful mentors whom you trust to give them good advice.
Telling them to just go get a job. Sitting down and listening to how they perceive their situation . . . and then remind them why they need to go get a job.

The transition from adolescence to adulthood has always been difficult. It’s especially hard in a world that is beckoning them to absolve themselves of any responsibility and to live in the now. Let’s work together with our young adults, finding a way to help them succeed. No litigation is necessary.


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