I usually love the shows that are on HBO. I was greatly anticipating the new show "Girls". It follows the lives of 4 young women of the millennium generation. Newly minted from college they are making their way in NYC. I'm not sure if I am disappointed in the show as entertainment, or disappointed in these 4 women. If these are true representations of 20 somethings, then we as parents have gone horribly wrong. A columnist from the Washington Post agrees with me.
Two years out of college, smart as whips, they can't seem to support themselves. Mommy and daddy to the rescue for two years while one of the girls tries to get her sh** together, until they finally pull the plug. Waa, waa, waa! This is a scenario that is not just playing itself out on television unfortunately but in real life. I have many friends and clients whose twenty somethings are searching for the perfect job/graduate program, even though that may take years. Parents willingly pay for rents/car insurance/health insurance/cell phones/clothes/food and entertainment while their kids are on the journey of self-discovery which often include unpaid internships. God forbid they waitress, babysit, or do temp work to support their habits while they find themselves. These parents are great parents who love their kids to death. Like all parents. Growing up, many of these young adults were stars. They were stars on a sports team, on the stage or with community service. The had great grades and valued their education, and were rewarded handsomely for all their accomplishments. As long as they did well in school, on the field, on stage, or in the community their wish was their parents command. Whatever they wanted/needed they were pretty much assured of getting, clothes, money, phones, computers, gadgets, spending money, etc. Not that all families are wealthy, by the way, just that keeping their kids happy was their #1 priority.
It is wonderful to support your kids, and reward hard work. But there is a consequence for all this giving. Teens turning into young adults are completely focused on their goal, not on the process of getting there. Sometimes one has to delay gratification of a longer term goal, in order to pursue a short-term one...like learning to support yourself and become independent. When you give-in to your teen for requests for expensive cell-phones, video games, computers, tablets, kindles, clothes, sometimes just because everyone else has them, you reinforce the "ask and you shall receive" mentality. I hate using the "good ole days" analogy, but truly, when I was a teen, then a college student, then a college graduate, I did what I had to do to support myself. That's how it was back then. I have to admit that one of the greatest gifts my mom gave me, I gave my daughter during all these same years was that we had no money for any of the extras. The pride my daughter felt when she bought her first TV with money she had earned was enormous, or the first dress she bought, on sale, but still expensive that she had coveted, or the senior trip she took with her girlfriends in her senior year of high school. She and I have talked many times about whether she resented us for not paying for all the things that her friends parents paid for and took for granted. Never once, she said, did she feel that life was unfair. She feels proud of supporting herself, and how it has set her up to be very responsible about money now that she is an adult.
The next time your teen comes to you wanting a new outfit, or computer gadget, or fancy phone, or concert tickets, how about saying: " So how do plan on paying for that." Start now!!! Don't wait until college graduation, when the "real jobs" might be scarce, and working at something less desirable is not a choice, but a reality they know they have to do to take responsibility for their lives and their choices. Rather than just handing over the credit card, how about sitting down together and coming up with a plan for earning and contributing a portion of the cost. They may hate you for it now, but you will thank yourselves for it later.