Not too long ago, it was widely believed that your twenties were a time to fly out of the nest and explore the world. Footless and free of fantasy, you would go out on your own to find out who you were.
You could live with friends and stay out all night if you wanted to, without your mom and dad worrying. Take your first tentative steps up the career ladder without one of them offering constant advice on office politics.
You would have ill-advised romantic affairs with wildly inappropriate people, safe in the knowledge that your parents would never disapprove because they would never know.
This was a time to have fun, make mistakes, and experiment with what it’s really like to be an adult.
Oh how things have changed. The latest figures from the UK Census show that nearly five million mature adults still live with their parents in their parental home.
The latest figures from the UK Census show that nearly five million mature adults still live in their parents’ home
More than half of 20 to 24 year olds – a figure that has increased by 15 percent in a decade – and one in ten 30 to 34 year olds still live in their old childhood bedrooms.
It’s not hard to see why: a combination of skyrocketing house prices, astronomical rents and a tight job market means that many young people simply can’t afford to move.
Or, at least, not without it in small shared flats and much less salubrious areas than they’re used to, with no chance of saving up for anything better.
But while living at home can do wonders for their bank balance, I do wonder about the psychological impact.
This is such a new phenomenon that there are relatively few studies on its effects, but those that do exist suggest that living at home as an adult carries an increased risk of depression.
I think this is because people lose the self-esteem they find when they go it alone.
I’ve seen it countless times in the clinic with men and women in their mid to late twenties – even well into their thirties. They are angry with themselves for not being able to stand on their own two feet. They see themselves going backwards, not forwards.
I’m not saying that adult children should never move back in with their parents. But I do think some clear ground rules need to be established to prevent the inner teen from resurfacing
Being independent is, of course, a hallmark of adulthood. It is not only about economic independence, but also about being self-sufficient when it comes to life. Knowing what day the bins are out, for example, or how to do simple DIYs.
When this doesn’t happen and young people are denied the responsibility of living alone, they begin to relapse into adolescent behavior. That frustration they feel about themselves is projected onto parents. They start misbehaving, being petulant and treating the place like a hotel.
But I’ve also noticed another fallout from this phenomenon. It’s not just the mental health of young people that suffers. Research conducted by the London School of Economics on the ‘boomerang’ generation – the post-graduate returners – has found that parents’ quality of life is also deteriorating.
In fact, it worsens as much as if they have developed a physical disability. Why is this? Parents are afraid of the empty nest, aren’t they? In fact, I’ve had several patients tell me that it’s the empty nest they crave.
While they know it makes economic sense for their children to return, and they are happy to help, there is a part of them that just wants to get rid of their adult children.
They confide in me that after the initial pain they felt when the kids went off to college, they were actually really happy to have their home and free time back, but that this would be shattered when their twenties returned home.
These are, of course, difficult feelings to express, and struggling with them actually makes people feel awful.
I’m not saying that adult children should never move back in with their parents. But I do think some clear ground rules need to be established to prevent the inner teen from resurfacing.
The problem is that the relationship you form with your kids after college should be very different from the relationship you had before. That means consciously fighting the urge to return to what it was when the kids were younger.
I think the easiest way is to change your mindset and think of them as renters. If you wouldn’t do something for a tenant — bring breakfast in bed, buy their favorite pizza, clean their soccer cleats — don’t do it for your adult child.
You certainly aren’t going to be scouring a tenant’s bedroom floor for casually tossed dirty clothes, are you? Don’t do this for your adult child! Here are some more ground rules. . .
- Yes, they have to pay rent. Not as much as the going rate, or the whole point is lost, but an agreed amount they can afford and you can live with. Life is not free and this is an invaluable lesson.
- Don’t ask when they’ll be home in the evening; don’t interfere with what they do.
- Never wash or iron them – ever. In the real world, if a shirt or skirt isn’t ironed for a job interview, they have to deal with it wrinkled.
- Never enter their room (unless invited).
Treating your kids like a tenant may not sound like much fun, but it gives them the distance they need to maintain their independence and you the boundaries that preserve your free time and sanity.
In short, parents need to stop parenting. It’s the only way to deal with it, for everyone involved.
Snoring may increase your and your partner’s risk of Alzheimer’s, research shows. It suggests that the disruption it causes to sleep interferes with the elimination of toxins, so the brain never gets a full nighttime “cleanup.” This also suggests that we all need to take sleep problems more seriously.
Vacations are never stress-free
Millie Mackintosh has revealed that she had a panic attack on a flight to Cyprus after becoming anxious a few hectic days before. I don’t blame her
Millie Mackintosh has revealed that she had a panic attack on a flight to Cyprus after becoming anxious a few hectic days before. I don’t blame her.
We’re always told that holidays are a welcome break, but I really don’t enjoy them. I find them incredibly stressful: the organization, the packing, the sprint to the airport, the queues.
Did I forget something? Is the oven on? To go on vacation you have to do twice as much work the week before to prepare. What’s the fun about that?
I prefer to use my annual leave to rest at home, see friends or go on day trips. People think this is weird, they think I should sit on the beach and relax. But why?
I like the comfort of my home and don’t want to pack everything up, set up camp somewhere and then count down the days until I can get home. Those who have traveled with me will confirm that I am a nightmare and am not averse to breaking down at the slightest discomfort. Am I the only one who hates holidays?
A proposed scheme to solve the NHS’s staffing crisis would teach school leavers to become doctors ‘on the job’ without going to university. This is madness.
Medicine is a complex, difficult profession. Yes, it requires soft skills such as good communication and compassion, but it also requires a solid, scientific background that cannot be achieved through mere hands-on experience.
If anything, I’m concerned that the new medical school curricula aren’t rigorous enough. Besides, who’s going to train all those school dropouts? The time of consultants has already stretched very thin.
We now have a perfectly adequate system to train doctors: the medical school. Those in power need to face the facts – to get more doctors you need to invest in increasing the number of medical students.
Music for Life by Fiona Maddocks (£10.99, waterstones.com)
DR MAX WRITES…
MUSIC FOR EVERY MOOD
Music touches our soul and often helps us reflect on key moments in life.
Fiona Maddocks’ beautiful, thoughtful book Music For Life (£10.99, waterstones.com) selects 100 pieces of music to help you through life’s ups and downs, in categories from love to grief.
I know little about classical music, but found it extremely captivating.