“Social scientists have noticed that more young adults (those between eighteen and thirty years old) are putting off the responsibilities of adulthood. Adultolescence is the term that best describes this postponement of adulthood into the thirties. This phase is characterized by identity exploration, instability, focus on self, feeling in limbo, and a sense of limitless possibilities. These characteristics are accompanied by transience, confusion, anxiety, obsession with self, melodrama, conflict, and disappointment.
Others have called this the ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’ because these kids just don’t want to grow up. The percentage of American children, or ‘kidults,’ in their mid-twenties living with their parents has nearly doubled since 1970. Some never leave. Other adult children who had previously left are coming back after completing college or because of economic or personal problems. One survey reports that only 16% of mothers and 19% of fathers say their children (ages eighteen to twenty-five) have reached adulthood. Even more alarming is that their kids don’t dispute it: only 16% consider themselves to be adults. Articles dealing with the complicated relationships between adults and their grown dependent children have appeared in many publications including Money, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.
This trend is not unique to America. Time points out that other nations are facing similar challenges. The British call them ‘kippers’—Kids In Parents’ Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings. The Australians call them “boomerang kids”—you throw them out but they keep coming back. Nor has the church escaped this phenomenon.”
The above lengthy quote is from You Never Stop Being a Parent: Thriving in Relationship with Your Adult Children, a very helpful book from biblical counselors Jim Newheiser and Elyse Fitzpatrick. In this changing culture, biblical counselors are counseling more and more Christian parents who are struggling to help their adult children who still live at home become responsible adults. How can we help them? One strong recommendation made by these authors is to make a list of expectations if their young adult plans to continue to live with them and draw up a written agreement. They then provide the following samples as an appendix.
- You will spend a minimum of fifty productive hours each week (school, work, helping around the house, volunteering). Exodus 20:8–9; 2 Thessalonians 3:10–12; Proverbs 6:6, 9–11.
- We will have an agreed upon goal for this phase of your life while living at home (i.e. education, savings, etc.). Proverbs 21:5.
- You will treat parents and other family members with respect. Exodus 20:12; Proverbs 30:17; Matthew 7:12.
- You will show us the courtesy of letting us know where you are and when we can expect you to be home (including whether you will be with us at mealtimes). If you are coming in late, you will make every effort not to disturb those who are trying to sleep. Philippians 2:3–4.
- You will help to keep our home neat and clean, especially public areas, but also your room, and will pitch in with family chores. Romans 15:2–3; Proverbs 10:5.
- You will not engage in any illegal (e.g. drugs) or immoral (e.g. fornication, drunkenness, or viewing pornography) activity, whether inside or outside of our home. 1 Thessalonians 5:7; Hebrews 13:4; Proverbs 20:1; 23:29–35; Romans 13:14.
- You will be financially responsible (which may include paying your fair share of family expenses and/or rent). Proverbs 22:7.
- Trust is most important. You must be honest with us. If you lie to us you are treating us as an enemy. Enemies can’t live together. Ephesians 4:25.
For a child who has persistently been in trouble
- You will be subject to random drug and alcohol testing/screening any time we ask.
- You will keep a written record of your productive hours to be turned in every Saturday evening.
- You will make the agreed payments on your debt and will keep records of your income and expenditures.
Consequences for failure to comply (Galatians 6:7)
- Extra work around the house.
- Financial fines: e.g. $10 for leaving items in the living area; $10 for a messy room; $15 an hour for every hour under fifty productive hours per week.
- Restitution: e.g. repaying parents for college or vocational classes not passed. Taking away cell phone, computer, computer/Internet privileges, car, etc. If you choose not to follow our rules and to accept the consequences for breaking the rules, you are effectively choosing to no longer live at home.
What your child should be able to expect from you
- We will make our expectations clear.
- We will not nag, scold, or admonish in sinful anger. Matthew 5:21–22; Proverbs 25:28; James 1:19.
- When dealing with conflict we will apply biblical peacemaking principles.
- We will not micromanage your life, but will show respect to you as a fellow adult.
- We will listen. Proverbs 20:5; James 1:19.
- We will admit when we are wrong. Matthew 5:23–24.
- We will seek to assume the best. 1 Corinthians 13:7.
- We will seek to make our home a place of joy and fun.
These “sample contracts” are just a sample of the wealth of wise counsel you will find in You Never Stop Being a Parent: Thriving in Relationship with Your Adult Children. I highly recommend that every Christian parent get a copy of this book, whether or not you are currently experiencing any of the above-mentioned challenges. I can see already that I will be using this book a lot in counseling Christian parents. Cumberland Valley Bible and Books, one of my favorite bookstores, has it for a great price.