Getting Out of the Way of Millennials’ Growth

The Pew Research Center just released a report that deserves some careful thought. I’d like to relay what it tells us—and challenge you to discuss it with your colleagues.

For the first time in modern history, the most popular living arrangement for 18-34 year old young adults is with their parents, at their home. Demographic shifts in marital status, education levels and unemployment have pushed Millennials into a new stage of life—the Grow Up, Then Go Back Stage—as adults.

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“In 2014, for the first time in more than 130 years, adults ages 18 to 34 were slightly more likely to be living in their parents’ home than they were to be living with a spouse or partner in their own household,” says the report.

  • Fewer are getting married in this life stage. There is a decline in cohabitation and settling down with a spouse. Almost one in three move home.
  • More are living alone. Those who are able to earn enough to live on their own are actually living solo. It’s less of a hassle than roommates.
  • It’s especially affecting males. For men ages 18-34, living at home with Mom and/or Dad has been the dominant living arrangement since 2009.
  • In 2014, 28 percent of young men were living with a spouse or partner in their own home, while 35 percent were living in the home of their parent(s).

Of course, we might argue that young adults living at home with parents is quite normal in Europe, especially Italy. Families are close, and a young man may live with his parents until he finds a bride in his thirties. This trend, however, even has the current Italian government concerned. It’s different today, as young adults are not self-sufficient; sometimes they have no plan to move out. In the past, a young adult lived at home but contributed to the family income. Today, not so much. Italy has offered tax breaks on renting flats, to nudge young adults to move out on their own.

Somehow today—moving back is hindering growing up.

The Inverse Relationship Between Moving Back and Growing Up

Even if you blame their “boomerang” flight back home on the economy—and I agree, it’s been a less than optimal marketplace to enter one’s career—the fact still stands: these young adults are hindered from experiencing the ingredients that cultivate genuine maturity:

  • Autonomy – They are self-sufficient.
  • Responsibility – They own their present and future.

We parents have a difficult time receiving our 22-year-old college grad back home without returning to our “mom mode”—cooking for them, doing their laundry, cleaning their rooms and tending to their needs. When we over-function in this way, our children naturally regress emotionally. They go backwards, and revert to their childhood habits and attitudes. It can be humiliating, like shaving the mane off of a lion. I had these very conversations with my own two kids, as they finished school. My daughter did move back for a few months, but with a plan for her career. She worked and paid rent. She was a young professional. Since then, she lived on her own, worked for three years, then began work her graduate degree—on her own.

Even though she would’ve benefited financially from living with her mother and me, she could feel the emotional expense of depending on parents.

I believe each of us matures only when we experience:

  1. Autonomy – We reach down, use our talents and become resourceful enough to make it on our own. Our sense of identity stands strong with no need of help from others to survive.
  1. Responsibility – We take initiative and are accountable for our behaviors; we assume ownership for the tasks required of us. Our sense of duty enables us to follow through on expectations.

Today, people are nearly two and a half times more likely to take a job that offers more autonomy than one that offers more influence. I believe young people want both, but often lack autonomy. Or, if they get it, it’s not balanced with responsibility. Both are necessary. And both are challenging to experience at a parent’s home.

My Questions for You…

1. How can you offer support to young adults, but not get in the way of the development of their own autonomy and responsibility?

2. If they live at home, how can you slowly ease off on your provision, and allow them to take responsibility for their own life?

3. Can you find ways to communicate love and leadership without doing so much for them? How can you equip them to be responsible for themselves?

Getting Out of the Way of Millennials’ Growth