Failure to Grow Up

I came across this article the other day that talks about Millennials, and how in those cases where there was real “helicopter parenting”, you have some young adults who can’t figure out how to manage their time,  how to hold a job, or make any sort of adult decision for themselves. As silly as it seems to anyone who has never had that experience, as I was reading it, I really started to notice the parallels between kids who grew up with their parents taking care of everything for them who struggle to be adults, even into their 30s, and kids who survived being abused.

Here’s the thing, as the author of that link says:

Amy, like many millennials, was groomed to be an academic overachiever, but she became, in reality, an emotional under-achiever. Amy did not have enough coping skills to navigate normal life stressors—how do I get my laundry and my homework done in the same day; how do I tell my roommate not to watch TV without headphones at 3 a.m.?—without her parents’ constant advice or help.

A generation ago, my college peers and I would buy a pint of ice cream and down a shot of peach schnapps (or two) to process a breakup. Now some college students feel suicidal after the breakup of a four-month relationship. Either ice cream no longer has the same magical healing properties, or the ability to address hardships is lacking in many members of this generation.

This actually sounds like quite a few survivors that I know. (Including myself in my late twenties.) The inability to make decisions, what seems like a complete overreaction to small disappointments, the constant need for validation and guidance, and the need for someone to literally tell them what to do and how to do it are all pretty common things I see survivors struggle with. The interesting thing is that in both of these groups, it’s the same cause as well as the same symptoms. Oh to be sure it’s not the same set of circumstances, but the cause is absolutely the same. We simply didn’t learn how to be adults. Whether it’s because our parents “protected” us from adulthood and never allowed us to learn, or because our childhoods were so damaging that it was all we could to simply survive them, it’s the sudden shock of adulthood when we had no preparation for it that leaves us powerless.

Of course, we also don’t know enough to know what the fix to our problem is. So we try various coping mechanisms, whether they be drinking and drugs, getting involved in bad relationships (especially with someone who seems like they could tell us how to be happy or take care of us), or checking out of adult life completely because “there’s something wrong with me”. There’s nothing wrong with you that some education and practice can’t fix. What’s wrong is that there are skills that should have been learned during childhood and early adulthood, that we missed out on. It may mean we become adults a little later than others, but there’s no reason we cannot learn those skills now. Sometimes that means seeing a therapist to help with that, but there’s no shame in that, just as there’s no shame in a teenager who needs their parents or teachers help in learning life skills. How are they to know until someone shows them and challenges them to learn it for themselves?

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  1. Hi Mike,
    I agree with you and the article. Astute observations.

    In college I learned of several kinds of parenting, smother, other, and mother. Then of course their is the abuser parent. Smother parenting is resulting in many adults without the ability to manage their own lives and even worse leaves them with symptoms previously referred to as aftereffects of childhood abuse.

    Thanks for writing about this. I think it is an important topic to be brought up.

    Good and healing thoughts to you.


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