Fear Of Never Moving Out: Five Ways Parents Can Encourage Young Adults’ Career Success

You’re all set to turn your recent grad’s bedroom into a home office and get your laptop off the kitchen table, but there’s no sign that she and her Coachella posters are in a hurry to move out. Or, maybe your late-twenties son is back home after a job layoff and spends more time on video games than his resume. These conditions are ripe for what I call FONMO: Fear of never moving out.

FONMO captures the concern parents feel when adult children are struggling to launch, as well as the anxiety young adults feel when they want independence but don’t see a path to it.

What To Do About FONMO

Consider these five approaches that can help your young adult get moving and reduce FONMO.

1. Trust their instinct for independence.

Psychiatrist Margaret Mahler developed the Separation-Individuation Theory Of Child Development, which posits that completion of developmental milestones in the first few years of life leads to successful emotional separation from the parent and development of a sense of self (the individuation part). That human napping on your couch is way beyond the toddler years but may actually be hardwired with independence-seeking tendencies and wants to wake up and get moving.

2. Make sure you aren’t the problem. Yes, you.

Nagging, power struggles and writing blank checks do not work. A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and shared by the National Institute of Health looked at young adults living at home who were in a “dependency trap,” very reliant on their parents for everything from basic needs to financial support, with the parents accommodating those needs. The researchers trained parents to decrease the accommodation they provided and to acknowledge the difficulty and distress the dependent adult was experiencing rather than resorting to threats or lecturing.

When parents modified their own behavior, the young adults previously presumed to be “failures to launch” made significant gains in employment, living arrangements, social behavior and other ways of engaging with the adult world.

3. Be a resource for resilience.

So, your engineering grad has been toiling away at the job hunt for months while your philosophy major lands a good job right out of the starting gate? That actually happened to step-siblings I coached. No matter how effective a job search strategy, how impressive one’s academic background and internship or work history, job searches often take more time than expected and involve an element of right time, right place.

In his book Change Your World, family therapist and resilience researcher Michael Ungar, Ph.D. writes that the science of sustaining resilience is less about putting our mind to it and more about the world around us — our connections, routines and support networks. This includes supportive (but not overly accommodating!) family relationships as a key source of our ability to bounce back and persevere.

4. Focus on progress, not passion.

I rarely make promises, but I can promise you this: Asking, “Have you found your passion, yet?” every day is not going to elicit a satisfying answer.

The key, for now, is to encourage your young adult to explore career options through research, networking and putting a toe in the water with volunteer work, internships or short courses (as feasible). This is the progress that leads to solid career choices and fosters the self-awareness required to market oneself effectively.

5. Lean on the experts.

If strategy and accountability would help your young adult move on and move out, consider working with a career counselor who specializes in that age group. The National Career Development Association is a trusted source. Also, many college career centers have free or low-cost resources for alumni, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop is an excellent free resource.

Excerpted from “Fear Of Never Moving Out: Five Ways Parents Can Encourage Young Adults’ Career Success” by career counselor Michelle Tullier, published on Forbes.com. Read the full article online for additional tips.

Source: Forbes | Fear Of Never Moving Out: Five Ways Parents Can Encourage Young Adults’ Career Success, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2020/08/20/fear-of-never-moving-out-five-ways-parents-can-encourage-young-adults-career-success | ©2023 PARS International Corp.
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