I have been working with youth and young adults for well over two decades now. During this time I have also become a parent of two young adult boys (men). I say this because I am not innocent of the issues I want to raise.
We live in an era when parents are more involved in the lives of their emerging adult children than ever. This didn’t just happen. Concerned parents have been there at every step, from planned play dates and selecting the right pre-school to hiring tutors and college prep coaches; we have wanted nothing but the best for our children. Smart phones and social media have allowed instant and continuous access to literally everything our children do and are engaged in. It might even be an understatement to say that parents have embraced these tools fully. The jury is still out as to the benefits and costs of this level of social media. It is not a stretch to suggest that these instantaneous connections slow down the “letting go” process.
It makes sense that letting go is not easy for either the parents or the young adult children. What we sometimes fail to recognize is the cost to this extended and intense connection. A grown child’s dependence on the parent to always be present, always come through, and always be available delays adulthood and creates a level of personal entitlement that stunts social development.
In the last few years I have seen this play out in all kinds of unhealthy ways. Parents have inserted themselves into the crises and stresses of their young adult’s experiences in our Dwell program. At DOOR, Dwell is a program that invites young adults to spend a year living in intentional community exploring the call of God on their lives. During their year all kinds of issues and stresses arise from the mundane, like deciding who will cook dinner and how to keep the house clean, to the serious, like how to deal with health concerns or a co-worker who is acting inappropriate.
In the last few years it has become increasingly common for parents to insert themselves into the “crisis.” Their reasoning is always good, “I am just looking out for the well-being of my child.” As a parent I understand these fears and concerns all too well, so I am also speaking to myself. Our young adult children will never become mature functioning adults if we, the parents, keep inserting ourselves in their crises, attempting to be the hero and fix everything.
Deep down all of us know that failure and stress are the things that develop character. Rescuing only creates dependence and immaturity. It is a natural impulse for parents to protect their children, but there also comes a time when we need to let our children fight their own battles, even when they beg us to fight on their behalf.