The Peter Pan Generation: How To Help Your Adult Child Transition To Adulthood

Peter Pan Generation

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Do you have an adult child who’s struggling to leave your nest? While the pandemic sent many young adults running back to their childhood home, the “forever child” Peter Pan generation has been around for a while. A 2016 Pew Research Study found that 32% of 18 to 34-year-olds were more likely to live with their parents than in any other living situation. That number soared to 52% during the pandemic, even more than during the Great Depression! 

With college campuses closing, businesses shuttering, and housing costs rising, the struggle to live independently is real. Bari Weinberger wrote about the legal aspects of parents financially supporting their adult children in her new article for the New Jersey Law Journal: Peter Pan Support When Can Parents Stop Financially Supporting Adult Children? But what about the emotional side of having your adult child move back in?

Here’s how to help an adult child back in the nest find their wings again.

Tips For Helping Your Young Adult Child Leave The Nest

From the time your child was born, your job has been to keep them safe and teach them the skills to be independent. Now that they’re young adults, you need to give them the tools necessary to succeed once they’ve launched. Here are some tips for helping your adult child find a career path and learn how to live on their own.

  • Examine your contribution to the problem. Don’t blame your adult child for their difficulty leaving home. Reflect on ways that you and your co-parent may have enabled their dependence. Have you made things too easy for them? If they don’t follow through on promises, do you overlook it? Have you not required enough age-appropriate responsibilities, such as sharing household chores or job-hunting? While it’s hard for many parents to watch their children struggle, keeping expectations low will send the message that they can’t take care of themselves. Now is the time to re-write that script so they come to believe they can!
  • Determine the barriers to launching. Figure out the things that get in the way of your child leaving home. Do they have mental health issues, such as social anxiety, learning differences, or mood disorders? Do they need to complete college courses or trade school? Do they spend hours playing video games or mindlessly scrolling their Instagram feed? Do they lack basic independent living skills such as picking up after themselves, managing money, or preparing meals? Once you’ve made a list, ask your child the reasons why they think they’re still at home and add those as well.
  • Team up with your child to create a Launching Plan. Once you’ve determined the obstacles, help your young adult child take action steps to move towards the goal of independent living. These could include: therapy to build a sense of agency; taking an online financial literacy class to learn about basic money management; completing their degree, and; meeting with a career counselor to assist with resume-writing skills and interview strategies. Set a realistic timeline for completing these tasks and establish clear expectations for your child leaving home by a certain date.
  • Maintain clear boundaries. If you’ve been compulsively care-taking, it’s time to start treating your child like the adult they are. This means setting expectations for the privilege of remaining at home while they work on becoming self-sufficient. For instance, require them to get a job so they can pay rent and contribute to household expenses. Have them pitch in with household chores, such as shopping for groceries and preparing meals. Draw up a written contract that clarifies rules and consequences for failing to meet expectations. If this seems harsh, remember: their real-world boss will not hesitate to fire them if they’re slacking off!
  • Is child support still on the table? If your adult child is pursuing a PhD or other higher degree while living at home, child support may technically still be available, as long as they are under age 23 in NJ and meet other factors for child support qualifications. After age 23, financial assistance may still be given to an adult child in exceptional circumstances. Legally, this type of assistance would not be considered child support and would be negotiated separately between co-parents. If an adult child has special medical or health needs, this would be the type of situation that could warrant ongoing financial contributions from parents.

You and your co-parent should decide how much, if any, financial assistance you will provide upon move-out, and let your child know that. Don’t sabotage them by not following through on consequences, or rescuing them once they’ve left home, i.e. paying all their bills. If you continue to bail them out of trouble, you will make it that much more difficult for them to withstand inevitable growing pains. Peter Pan may have been the leader of the “lost boys,” but that doesn’t mean your grown up boy or girl can’t find their own way. Learning how to solve their own problems will give your child a sense of agency and accomplishment that will allow them to succeed on their own — and fly! 

Have questions about help to establish boundaries with your adult child? Need advice on child support? We can help. Call us today to schedule a consultation with one of your highly qualified family law experts. Get all your questions answered and create a strategy for helping your child transition to adulthood. Call us at 888-888-0919, or please click the button below. 

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