The year 2020 has been unpredictable, humbling, and downright painful for many people around the world. Young adults just entering the workforce have been especially hard hit. Millennials are now facing the second global recession in their (still young) lifetimes. Many parents are struggling to find the balance between supporting their adult kids and pushing them to be independent and resilient.
What’s a parent to do?
While every family is unique and each situation different, there are strategies parents can take to help their children feel both supported and empowered.
Begin with empathy … with a healthy dose of reality. The pandemic has essentially shut down much of the world. The pain and suffering being felt by millions is incredibly heavy, leaving many of us susceptible to depression and anxiety. Even when basic needs of food, shelter, and medical care are met, the reality is that the current situation is negatively affecting the mental health of a great many people. These are unprecedented times, and the typical expectations of independence and holding down a job for young adults might not be realistic.
Take some time to put yourself in a young person’s shoes. The uncertainty and sense of isolation can be overwhelming, and mental wellbeing should always be the priority. Saying out loud that you empathize with the difficulties they are facing can go a long way in supporting the resilience young adults will need going forward.
Set renewable time frames for support. Since COVID-19 does not have a known end date, it might not make sense to make hard deadlines regarding how long you are willing to financially support adult children. Consider setting deadlines every month or two that can be “renewed” depending on the situation in the world. At the least, this ensures accountability check-ins for everyone involved.
Be clear about expectations. Many families are allowing their young adults to come home and live with them during these times of uncertainty. This can be a healthy approach to battle loneliness, alleviate economic stress, and take advantage of family time that would not have otherwise happened. However, it is important that each member contributes to the running of the household and day-to-day chores. Set clear expectations about who does what around the house. If financial assistance is being given, put in writing if this is a loan or a gift.
Focus on opportunities. One of the most common interview questions in 2021 very well may be, “How did you utilize your time during the pandemic and lockdown?” While our main goal right now should be personal health and wellbeing, this is also a unique time to focus on professional development and exploration. Consider taking online classes together as a family on platforms such as Masterclass or Coursera, research volunteer opportunities both online and socially distanced in person, apply for virtual internships or fellowships. Or take an informal approach to exploring your personal passions, such as setting goals for reading lists, writing, carpentry, art, or gardening.
Lastly, encourage an entrepreneurial mindset by discussing and making a map of all of the industries affected by the pandemic – use this map to identify new business or philanthropic opportunities. At the least, this can be an eye-opening family brainstorm. In the best case scenario, it may just lead to a new family business venture. Encourage the young people in your life to make the most of this unique time and be sure to lead by example.
Use this time to teach money management. If you are financially subsidizing your adult children or grandchildren, ask them to present a budget to you that showcases their needs. Be clear that this is not because you don’t trust them, but rather because you want to understand how to best support them and encourage a seamless transition when things go back to “normal.” Try using mint.com or ynab.com to help structure and track spending. Consider encouraging them to use any surplus funds at the end of each month to invest in the stock market – robinhood.com is one option to get started.
Be intentional about open communications. The collective plans of the world have gone awry, and we need to be there for each other as we navigate this new normal. Effective communication doesn’t just happen. Intentionally plan for family meetings, monthly check-ins, occasional progress updates, and/or frequent calls and texts simply to ask, “How are you doing?” This will lead to a better understanding of one another’s needs and struggles, and provide a clearer path for you and your family to adapt together.
We all want to protect our families from the threats and uncertainties of the pandemic. However, it is important to do this through the lens of empowering adult children, rather than conditioning them to become dependent on an un-ending safety net. As the world returns to some sort of normal, our goal should be to best prepare our children for a seamless transition back into it.
To further explore how to support adult children during the pandemic, please reach out to Whitney Webb at firstname.lastname@example.org.