Adult kids must learn independence

  • Mon Jan 30th, 2012 1:36pm
  • Life

By Sarri Gilman

When adult children depend on their parents for housing, food, transportation and health insurance, parents need to work on creating a plan. For a long list of reasons, adult children are returning home to roost in the family nest.

The most important thing a parent can offer a young adult is recognizing their struggle to be independent and work with them on a plan to become independent. I know this seems very obvious, but I find that sometimes we overlook the obvious. People my age, in our 50s and 60s are struggling to understand how to prepare young adults for independence.

Things have changed since we were young adults. When I was a young adult, obtaining a job in a field where I earned a college degree was not considered an “achievement.” Let me say it another way, getting a job was not hard. The skills required to get a job today are much more challenging.

In my job-hunting days, a “group interview” meant that a small group of three or four people were interviewing me for the job. Today, a “group interview” means that there are eight other applicants being interviewed with you at a table, together, all at once, and the employer may pick one of you from the group to hire.

Does your roosting young adult have fantastic interview skills? They are going to need them on the road to independence.

Interview skills don’t come naturally. Young adults will be more successful if the learn skills to interview successfully. A few years ago, I overheard my daughter doing a phone interview. It gave me a good sense of how to help her prepare for interviews.

I worked with my daughter on three stories from her life that tell something about her to an employer. Having the skills, the degree and experience in an area is no longer enough. Employers are looking for more.

Yes, more. They are looking for soft skills: attitude, drive, reliability.

Practice having your young adult tell you three stories that show their great attitude, their reliability and their ambition.

Along with interview skills, every young adult needs money-management skills. It’s easy to think, “if they don’t have money to manage, why bother?”  I have recently heard of a whole family that took a money-management class together.

Money management is completely different from when I was a young adult. Today you don’t need money to have big problems with money management.

I couldn’t get a credit card and run up credit as a young adult. No bank was stupid enough to give me a credit card. My daughters get offers thrown at their feet several times each day. Banks call our house looking for my daughters to offer them credit cards.

My daughters don’t live in my house, so I take comfort in knowing they are not getting these calls, but every day they wake up and can be lured into a credit card at every store and bank. Be sure your young adult is credit smart, or in a very short time, they will find themselves drowning in debt.

Many young adults have returned to their parents home, fully employed, but debt-ridden. These young adults actually earn enough money to be independent, and they find themselves unable to manage because they have spent money they didn’t have by using credit cards.

If a young adult returns home, it’s great that you have the resources to help them, but think carefully about why they are coming home. What are the skills they are missing? Look for the opportunity to not just put the fish on their plate, but to teach them how to fish.

The best thing that can happen to a young adult returning home is to help figure out together what skills they need. 

Sarri Gilman is a freelance writer living on Whidbey Island and director of Leadership Snohomish County. Her column on living with meaning and purpose runs every other Tuesday in The Herald. You can email her at