ASK MOST PARENTS about their ideas for retirement and most will say they are looking forward to a future on their own now the children have flown the nest. Ask young men and women what they look forward to and they will tell you the freedom from parental control.
Unfortunately today both parents and children may be disappointed and have their dreams and expectations shattered. It’s quite normal and healthy to want to leave home and live separately from our parents and at least ‘feel’ grown up. Due to the ongoing economic problems that option of leaving the family home to start up on their own is being increasingly put on the long finger. This has some serious psychological and physical effects both on the young and not-so-young.
Stuck at home
Our young citizens may have finished their third level education – or not, as the case may be – and now find themselves in the unenviable position of being stuck at home with little or nothing to do.
The older they get the more depressed they become. The saying ‘the devil finds work for idle hands’ is a true one. They feel a failure and their parents feel a failure. Being a parent is the most difficult job in the world. Parents are often wracked with guilt feeling others are doing the job better than they are and feeling a failure in not giving their child or children a better start in life.
So we have a household full of frustration, guilt, anger and in some cases, despair. Parents will do the best they can for their child and try to stop their child hurting or feeling a failure. Ask any parent what it feels like to see your child (of whatever age) suffering and they will say that they wish it was them suffering and not their child.
Fending for yourself
Young adults need to enter the adult world of work and learn how to fend for themselves. This builds confidence and self esteem. Both parents and children need to make mistakes in order to learn. Being cocooned from the world doesn’t help us grow and learn. The majority of young people want to spread their wings and become independent. Their parents should encourage this development even if that means emigration.
Nothing produces feelings of despair more than feeling we have no purpose in life and are not wanted. Some have argued that there is a tradition of Irish children staying at home with their parents longer than their counterparts in Europe. That may or may not be true, but there is a difference between choosing to stay at home and being forced to do so due to economic circumstances.
At Relationships Ireland we are seeing more couples being forced to live with one set of parents because the couple cannot afford even the most modest of homes. There are houses or apartments they could afford but there may be no employment in the area or the commute to work would make the whole business uneconomic. It’s natural for young adults to want to build their own family and to aspire to ‘better things’.
Adults in committed relationships also crave their own privacy and this can be denied to them living with parents. To be thwarted in that desire through no fault of your own can and does lead to emotional and relationship problems. Of itself there is nothing wrong with adult children staying at home with their parents and sharing their lives together as long as that is a free choice and this is negotiated.
Living with your family
We might be seeing a return to extended families living closer together and sharing more and supporting each other. There are lots of ways of living our lives and there is no perfect formula. We may be forced to me more self sustainable in the future and this may be the birth pangs of a different sort of lifestyle. We must also be careful not to romanticise the past. All of us need to be careful we are not sleepwalking our way back 60 years to overcrowded accommodation with the potential physical, psychological, emotional and sexual problems associated with such a lifestyle.
One thing is for sure; we can’t wait for things to be done for us we must do it for ourselves. We need a radical rethink of how we live and our attitude to our life and our ambitions. We can still be ambitious but the outcomes may not be what we expected.
Tony Moore is a counsellor for Relationships Ireland. Relationships Ireland provides affordable confidential counselling and support services that offer you the opportunity to understand and resolve difficulties in your relationship. For more information or to book a consultation you can contact 1890 380 380 or firstname.lastname@example.org.