The Ongoing Transition: Young Adults Living at Home — Again
At this season many young adults come back from college or university to live temporarily in the family home, which can be a very important experience of life transition for both parents and children.
Children living at home can be temporary, for the summer. Or, these summer returns may be a foretaste of a growing phenomenon: children returning to the family home after finishing post-secondary studies.
Children returning for the summer can generate strong emotions for both young adults and parents, as /a-midlife-transitions know. As part of a key life transition, it’s important to think about what occurs to us psychologically as a result of these returns.
What Has Changed?
In this situation, parents may first become aware of changes that have occurred from the time when the adult child lived at home. Their child may appear more independent, more vocal, more morose, or any of a range of other possibilities. College or university may have liberated or empowered, or it may have been an experience of genuine hardship and disorientation.
The parent may struggle to come to terms with the emotions generated in this situation. There can be grief for the loss of the old relationship, joy for a sense of newfound strength and empowerment, or anxiety for the future of the adult child.
It’s rare for this type of re-encounter to have little or no emotional impact.
What Has Stayed the Same?
Yet, these returns to the family home may also make both parents and students aware what has stayed the same through the separation. For better or worse, in many respects, people will be the same, showing up much as they always have. Habits and characteristics of individuals will be the same. One very difficult thing in such situations may be the ways in which people are unable to see even others they deeply love for who they really are. The other may also miss who we really are, as well.
What is Stuck?
Young adults living at home again may remind us of stuckness in the relationship. We may get absolute, merciless clarity on how the relationship between parent and child is stuck into patterns that neither party knows how to change.
Where is Soul?
For the young adult living at home again, but even more so for the parent who lives the experience of the adult child’s return, much may lead us to an encounter with our own soul, and our own hitherto undiscovered self.
The adult child seeks to discern and move in a forward direction, toward an autonomous, fulfilling and contributing way of life. Yet, equally important are the transitions undergone by the parent of the adult child.
The meaning of parenthood often changes as the relationship with the young adult living at home shifts into new forms. Given that, for many in our current world, parenting is such a demanding and involving engagement, this may entail deep shifts in personal identity.
For many a parent, encounters with changing adult children may be the heralds of a new soul journey. Involvement in the world of the child may now start to be solely at the invitation of the child.
Even if, as the Pew Report and UC Santa Barbara’s Bella DePaulo suggest, adult children are increasingly returning to live at home after finishing post-secondary, many parents will experience of a slow but inevitable change in the relationship with the adult child.
Simultaneously, an inevitable and ever stronger call to listen to the leadings of one’s own soul, and the journeys of individual self discovery that now invite us, can free us into a new and unexplored aspect of our identity, and our lives.
The process of individuation, and finding the direction forward in the post-child rearing years are key parts of the ongoing soul work engaged in /a-midlife-transition.
Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst