Why are kids taking longer to grow up?

My husband and I were talking about where our kids are in their lives, some of their friends, and it seems like back in our day — kids grew up faster.

Have you noticed that our adult children are taking longer to fly the nest than previous generations? When I was young, it was common for kids to leave home after high school graduation. In my hometown, many got married after high school or college and started their families by their early 20s. Today, it seems kids aren’t grown up without our support until mid to late 20s. Add the pandemic to the mix, and I’ve read that more adult children than ever have moved back in with mom and dad.

high school students prom picture
Senior prom–the kids got together in person.

Several articles published reference a study by San Diego State University professor of psychology Jean M. Twenge. She studied millions of kids to come up with the fact that millennials are taking longer to grow up than previous generations. Twenge doesn’t make a judgment on whether that’s good or bad, she just states it as a fact.

In a talk I attended a few years ago for my daughter’s college, in one of the sessions led by an Associate Vice President of Student Affairs, Psychologist Kari Ellingson said the same thing. She said when we were young, kids matured into adults at age 19, 20 and 21. Today, those numbers are delayed to 26, 27 and 28.

In an article from the New York Times, called “The curse of the helicopter parent” Twenge and her study are cited:

New York – Parents may still marvel at how fast their children grow up, but a new study finds that US teenagers are maturing more slowly than past generations.

In some ways, the trend appears positive: high school children today are less likely to be drinking or having sex compared with their counterparts in the 1980s and 1990s.

But they are also less likely to go on dates, have a part-time job or drive – traditional milestones along the path to adulthood.

So is that slower development “good” or “bad”? It may depend on how you look at it, the researchers say.

The findings, published online in the journal Child Development this week, are based on surveys done between 1976 and 2016.

Together, they involved more than 8 million US children in the 13-19 age group.

Over those years, the study found, teenagers gradually became less likely to try “adult” activities – including drinking, having sex, working, driving, dating and simply going out (with or without their parents).

By the 2010s, only 55% of high school seniors had ever worked for pay – versus roughly three-quarters of their counterparts in the late 1970s to the 1990s.

Similarly, only 63% had ever been on a date. That compared with 81% to 87% of high school seniors in the 1970s through 1990s.

In the San Diego Tribune, contact reporter Bradley J. Fikes wrote: “Teens are growing up more slowly — and they seem OK with it.”

Mid- to -late teens are delaying the classic milestones of adulthood, namely working, going out without their parents, driving, dating, having sex, and drinking alcohol, according to four decades of surveys reviewed for the study, led by San Diego State University professor of psychology Jean M. Twenge.

Today’s 18-year-olds exhibit similar milestone behaviors as did 15-year-olds in the late 1970s, Twenge said. Moreover, they’re mostly doing this voluntarily — parents aren’t imposing this delayed independence.

The spread of smartphones, which allow teens to socialize from the safety of their homes, is part of the explanation, said Twenge. The author of “Generation Me,” she has released a new book on the generation born after 1995 called “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.”

When I look back on my teenage years compared to my kids, we had a whole lot more freedom. We were out all the time and our parents didn’t seem to care where we were. In fact, my parents were enjoying weekends on our boat or at the cabin and would leave my brother and me alone when we were teens. The same was true for a lot of my friends’ parents, as well. They didn’t keep track of us on a minute by minute basis. They also didn’t track us on “find my iPhone” or other tracking apps. There weren’t any cell phones to call home and they told us to be home by a certain time.

I wonder how much influence our technology has today over our kids not growing up so fast? They aren’t getting together with friends to interact in person. They can do that from the comfort of their own bedrooms. Plus, they have all the entertainment they can consume, right on their iPhones. We helicopter parents keep a close eye on our kids and we know where they are at all times. By contrast, our parents told us to get outside and not come back until dinner. Between us and iPhones, our kids aren’t getting real-world experiences.

Everyone I knew growing up had some sort of part-time job in high school–even if it was working for their family’s business. I worked in my dad’s dental office and my brother bagged groceries at the local Safeway. Today, I know of very few kids with part-time jobs. My own son worked several jobs, but he was one of the few. He was an assistant lifeguard, then a coach for our team. He tutored in math and was paid to maintain a website. Very few of my kids’ friends had jobs after school. Teens today must not need to earn money because we are providing for all their needs and wants.

On the bright side, it’s good our kids aren’t running around at night unsupervised, drinking and having sex as teens. Also, they actually like hanging out with their parents!

mother and daughter sailing
Hanging out together in the summer.

Here’s a story I wrote that included psychologist Jean M. Twenge.

What are your thoughts about why kids are not growing up as fast as we did? What difference do you see between your life as a teen or 20 year old and your kids?

Back to Mom duties

Flowers in Berkeley. My daughter took this photo.

I’m on day two of being a mom full time and it’s exhausting. Yesterday was surgery day. We (my son, his girlfriend and me) drove across the Bay Bridge to a UCSF orthopedic surgery center before 8 a.m. We got our son tucked into bed by 3 p.m. In between, my son’s girlfriend and I had a wonderful breakfast and walked around the hills of Mission Bay. Then we drove to Hayes Valley and walked around some more looking at cute shops, the Opera House, San Francisco Ballet and City Hall.

Another one of my daughter’s photos.

I’m loving the cool weather. I’m loving the scenery and spending time with my kids, his girlfriend and siblings.

More Berkeley flowers.

The tiring part was waiting for surgery and feeling relieved but exhausted once it was over and we knew it was a success. I’m staying in an airbnb a mile from my son’s apartment. I walk over carrying a handbag and my computer. I feel like a pack mule on the way back. Yesterday, I logged in more than 26,000 steps. Most of that was the walking around during surgery, but still.

The mom duties include filling the ice cooling machine that wraps my son’s shoulder. Helping him in and out of his sling, buying food. Handing him meds. Helping his girlfriend with dishes and laundry. She’s working as hard as I am. I wondering why it takes two grown women to take care of my son? It’s not really that hard, but just constant every 20 minutes or so. Way more than what I’m used to.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am SO THANKFUL my son wants me here. And that I get to help him! His girlfriend is so wonderful to be with, too. Plus, my daughter and I get to walk Waffles the pug and have time together, as well.

I’m posting pictures of some of the gorgeous flowers I’ve seen on my walks around Berkeley.

Berkeley flowers.

Do Boomers spend too much time with adult kids?

Two years ago I made this trip to the Bay Area to be with my son and his girlfriend. It was a great trip. I miss not traveling to see them this past year. My daughter lived in Arizona then and we were thinking of relocating there. Now that we are here, she moved and lives a mile from her brother in Nor Cal!

Sutro Baths San Francisco

Sutro baths on the Pacific. photo by Robert Wickham

As a baby boomer who loves hanging out with my adult kids, I found this article in the Wall Street Journal called “Baby Boomers and the Art of Parenting Adult Kids” by Clare Ansberry to be right up my alley. “More involved with grown children than previous generations, many boomers struggle with letting them go” was the tag line to the story. Hmm. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Am I struggling to let my kids go? Or, do I simply like hanging out with them?

I had a trip to Nor Cal to hang out for a few days with my son and his girlfriend, and I treasured the trip. I don’t go up to San Francisco very often, mostly because it’s too far and it costs a lot. My son treated me to some great sightseeing including hiking up to Indian Rock to see the sunset, a trip to SF MOMA and the Sutro baths. We had some incredible meals including Belotti and a Chinese restaurant where I watched them roll out fresh noodles in the window called Shan Dong.

Sunset from Indian Rock Park

The view from Indian Rock Park. photo by Robert Wickham

On my trip, I visited a swim team in Roseville, California Capital Aquatics, and talked about things swim parents need to know so they don’t make the same mistakes I did. That was a blast, and having my son take time off work and drive me there, gave me a boost of confidence. He seemed to enjoy what I had to say and was encouraging.

The following weekend, we were off to Arizona to spend the weekend with our daughter. We are exploring where we want to “downsize” to, which I wrote about yesterday. Presently, Arizona is at the top of our list. Plus, my daughter is there. Enough about me and my time hanging out with my kids. Here are some excerpts from the article about baby boomers and their adult kids:

Linda Hoskins would like to believe her adult son considers her a friend.

She’s a baby boomer and boomers tend to think they’re cooler than their own parents were, she says.

“Therefore why wouldn’t our kids want to hang out with us all the time. We’re their friends, right?” the 69-year-old executive director of the American Pie Council asks half-jokingly.

Her son sees it a little differently. “She’s my mom,” says Rick, 44. While very close—seeing each other several times a week until she recently moved and texting in between—his mom isn’t on the same level as his friends, nor would he want her to be.

Baby boomers are far more immersed with their own grown children than their parents were with them, says Karen Fingerman, a professor of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Texas, Austin. She found that parents in the early 2000s offered about twice as much counsel and practical support (which could be anything from babysitting grandkids, running their grown kids’ errands or reviewing their résumés) as parents did in the 1980s. Such deep ties can make it hard to let kids go or accept that they will likely love their children more deeply than their kids can love them.

FAMILY MATTERS

Tips for boomer parents dealing with their adult kids

  • Don’t give unsolicited advice. If they want your opinion or need your help, they will ask.
  • Let your kids make mistakes. You did and learned from them.
  • Make a life of your own, so your children don’t feel guilty as they move on with their own life.
  • Manage your own expectations. The fewer expectations, the less likely you are going to be disappointed when they don’t call or visit as often as you would like.
  • Keep in touch in ways that are meaningful to them, whether that’s texting, FaceTime, or phone calls.
  • Set limits. If you can’t or don’t want to babysit all the time, let them know.

Boomers are also the first group of parents in the psychological era, when therapy became more commonplace and relationships were closely examined, says William Doherty, a professor of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. Their own parents were concerned about a child being safe, getting a job, and getting married. “They didn’t obsess about how they were feeling about you,” he says, adding that there are far more elements of friendship in boomers’ relationships with kids. “In many ways, that’s good. But then you have to deal with disappointment if kids are not as close as you would hope for.”

That’s what Linda Stroh found when she and a fellow author surveyed nearly 1,000 baby boomers for their book, “Getting Real about Getting Older.”

“My kids use language like ‘my family’ and ‘our family’ and they don’t mean us,” one man commented. “I’m at the mercy of their whims. We see them when they want, not when we want,” said another. “I miss my kids. I want to be around them more,” one woman said.

It’s not that grown kids don’t want to be part of a parent’s life, but that they are really busy, says Dr. Stroh, herself a boomer and mother of two children, who are very involved with their careers. “If I get a call, I’m thrilled and flattered,” says Dr. Stroh, who teaches human development at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Pittsburgh resident Art DeConciliis, 58, remembers when he and his wife, Mary Pat, got married. “It was sink or swim,” he says, their parents offering little help or support. Today, his three adult children, all married and living near their Pittsburgh home, frequently call for advice about work, buying a house and starting a family. He’s happy to offer it.

“My self-identity is very closely tied to my relationship with my children. I don’t think that was the case with my dad. His was wrapped up in his business,” he says. While he sometimes wonders if too much advice-seeking and advice-giving is a good thing, he also felt a little disappointed that his youngest daughter didn’t involve him when she and her husband bought a house.

That daughter, Samantha DeConciliis-Davin, 26, says that while close to her parents, she has always been independent. Buying a house without their input wasn’t a slight as much as it was an affirmation of their lifelong guidance. “I still depend on them for advice,” she says. They are the first ones she calls if something happens at work.

Kathy McCoy, a psychotherapist specializing in family dynamics, says some distance can be a good thing. Kids should refrain from telling their parents everything and parents should refrain from trying to direct their adult child or grandchild’s life. “That distance can lead to a new kind of closeness,” says Dr. McCoy, who wrote “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” about estrangement between parents and their adult children.

IMG_2973

My adult son at SF MOMA.

If you’re the parent of adult kids, do you think you’re struggling to let your kids go, or like me, do you like to spend time with them? 

Why moms lose sleep over adult kids

blond brother and sister with yellow lab

My kids with Angus more than 10 years ago.

When they were young and I worried about other things.

I read a fascinating story that said “Study Confirms That Parents Still Lose Sleep Worrying About Their Adult Children.” I am definitely on of those parents who loses sleep and I know my dear friend Gabby, who shared this story on Facebook is one, also.

Even before our children are born, we worry about them. We’re relieved when we count the 10 fingers and 10 toes in the hospital, but we still worry. We’re relieved when they do well on their tests in school and make the team, but we still worry. We worry about safety, about their grades, about what they’ll do for a career, about who they’ll one day marry or if they’ll get married at all. The list of things to worry about feels endless.

We hope that our worries will ease as our children get older, but it turns out that’s not the case.

Brother and sister staring at eachother

A photo from last year.

Can you relate to this as a parent, too? On my current list of worries is the bad air quality from California fires, my kids driving through the Cyclone Bomb weather, which is a rare event with high winds, rain and even snow, plus their general safety living in the Bay Area. I worry that they are secure in their careers and find their work satisfying and are able to make a living.

Here’s more from the story about parents who worry about adult kids:

A recent study conducted by Amber J. Seidel of Pennsylvania State University confirms what many parents already know – you never stop worrying about your children. Her study went on to show that parents actually lose sleep worrying about their adult children.

Parents, it looks like we’ll be worrying forever. If your children are already adults, you may already know that to be true.

In Seidel’s study, 186 heterosexual married couples with adult children were surveyed. On a scale of 1 to 8, they were asked how much assistance they offer their children. Assistance could include financial, emotional or even chatting on the phone. Choosing 1 meant daily assistance and interaction where 8 was only once a year.

The parents were also asked to choose from 1 to 5 regarding stress. In this case, choosing 1 meant no stress, and 5 meant the maximum amount of stress.

The third thing these parents tracked was how much sleep they got at night. Moms got an average of 6.66 hours and dads got slightly more with an average of 6.69 hours.

The results were not the same for moms and dads. For moms, it didn’t matter if they were the ones offering assistance or if their husbands were the ones offering assistance; moms were stressed out and sleeping less either way.

Dads showed a lack of sleep and more stress only when they were the ones offering assistance to their adult children. If their wife offered assistance, it didn’t affect them. This either means that dads are not affected in the same way as moms or that the wives weren’t telling their husbands about the assistance causing the dads to be stress free due to lack of knowledge about the situation.

I found it interesting that the dads didn’t lose sleep if their wives were the ones offering support. Or, like the article said, maybe they weren’t aware of what was going on. But the moms lost sleep regardless who was the main person offering support to their kids.

Do you worry about your children too, regardless of their age? What do you worry about most?

brother and sister back to back with pug

A recent photo in our back yard with Waffles the pug.

My kids are learning how to adult and I worry more.