Q: Our 22-year-old son is graduating from college this month. He doesn't have a job lined up and has no idea what he's going to do. My husband and I don't know what our role is in this new stage of parenting. Do we let him live at home?
Juli: Your question is a common one. Gone are the days when a college graduate was ready and willing to dive into all of the responsibilities of financial and personal independence. Due to the tough economy, among other factors, most 22-year-olds find themselves in a delayed stage of adolescence. They want the freedom of adulthood, but feel paralyzed by the complexity and pressures that accompany independence. This puts parents, like you, in the awkward position of actively parenting an adult child.
Your ultimate goal is to help your son launch into the full independence of adulthood. If you choose to let him live at home after graduation, don't allow that time to be wasted. Set boundaries and requirements up front that will help him grow toward maturity and responsibility. It is reasonable to expect that he hold down a full-time job and/or pursue additional schooling or training. It may also be wise to set a departure date so that you do not enable him to avoid that next step of independence. Some parents charge their adult children rent for living at home. They put some of the money paid into a savings account that will be seed money for a deposit or down payment on a future living arrangement.
Even more than a roof over his head, your son needs your wisdom and encouragement as he looks toward the future. Help him think long-term about his goals for vocation, family and financial independence. As long as you see him making good decisions, actively moving toward these goals, your help is a good thing.
Q: I was laid off more than a year ago, and I still feel stunned. I don't even know how to look for a job after being steadily employed for six years. How do I get out of this rut?
Jim: Being let go from a job is one of the toughest things a person can face. But consider this: Unemployment also represents a unique opportunity. When you're gainfully employed, all of your time and energy goes into just keeping up. But when you lose your job, suddenly there's time and energy to spare. Most people don't know what to do with it. They become paralyzed with fear, worry and anger. That's a natural reaction, but if it's all they experience while they're unemployed, something is missing.
After a job loss, you're motivated to see clearly and honestly -- perhaps for the first time in years. Your assignment isn't merely to search for financial security in a new job. It's to rediscover who you are.
Use this time to ask yourself some serious questions. "What gifts and talents do I possess that I didn't have a chance to use in my former job? Are there educational opportunities I should explore? What am I learning about myself through this job loss that I didn't know -- or didn't want to know -- before? What do I really want to do with my life?"
Once you're employed again, this window will close. Life will once again be overwhelmed with work responsibilities and day-to-day cares. You won't have "down time" like this again. As hard as it is to lose your job, it's harder to find genuine opportunities to take stock of who you are and where you want to go.
Many people wonder how they get stuck in ruts along the way. Perhaps your job loss is God's way of helping you find a better path.
Dr. Juli Slattery is a licensed psychologist, co-host of Focus on the Family, author of several books, and a wife and mother of three.
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