USAToday: Boomer Parents Worried

<p>Boomers</a>' hope: That the 'kids' are all right - USATODAY.com</p>

<p>Boomers' hope: That the 'kids' are all right</p>

<p>By Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY
Around the kids, they're nothing if not supportive. But a growing number of baby boomer parents are freaking out inside.</p>

<p>They don't want to let on to their adult children that they're getting worried, but these parents are sharing their concerns at work, at the gym, at the grocery store or anyplace they can commiserate: Their offspring — post-college degreed and in their mid- to late 20s — still haven't a clue about what to do with their lives.</p>

<p>These young adults aren't slackers; they often have jobs to pay the rent and are seemingly on their own. But one of parents' biggest worries is whether their close relationships with their children may have stifled their self-sufficiency.</p>

<p>"Watching this as a parent, you're concerned that they find their own path," says Richard Hesel, 62, a marketing consultant from Timonium, Md., and the father of two sons in their 20s. "We've gone out of our way to help these kids, but you do wonder: When does it end?"</p>

<p>Social psychologist Jane Adams says it's a long ride through the 20s because these are bright, talented young adults "who seem to be not doing anything with it."</p>

<p>"It's more a fear their kids are never going to be fully independent, emotionally as well as financially," she says.</p>

<p>William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, had a grant last year to study these young adults, and as the father of a 23-year-old son, he says he identifies with the parents.</p>

<p>He says there's a great amount of "unexpressed worry — unexpressed at least to the children — but parent to parent."</p>

<p>"A lot of parents I know are more worried than they let on that somehow what appears to be drift from the early 20s to the late 20s could turn into a permanent lack of focus," he says.</p>

<p>Galston says many boomers made career and marital commitments "when they were too young and have lived to regret it," so they've been willing to help their kids avoid similar mistakes.</p>

<p>"I think a lot of parents wrestle with very nitty-gritty questions like 'Are there some categories of things I should subsidize and things I shouldn't?' It runs up against this vague fear that maybe what you're doing is subsidizing indecision."</p>

<p>Hesel and his wife weathered the twists and turns that their oldest son, Todd, has taken in recent years. In 2000, when he earned a biology degree, he was going to be a doctor, but "about a month or two from starting medical school, I wasn't looking forward to it. I can't say why. It didn't feel right at the time."</p>

<p>Instead, he became a personal trainer at a health club, which gave him time to train for triathlons, an interest that surfaced in college. He qualified to compete at the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii, which he did in 2002 and 2003.</p>

<p>Now 29, Todd Hesel, of Parkville, Md., will graduate from law school at the University of Maryland in May and plans to practice environmental law.</p>

<p>His circuitous route toward a career is in its final months.</p>

<p>Carol Dochen is the mother of a 24-year-old daughter and a 22-year-old son, and she is in the throes of parental angst. "It's this internal struggle," says Dochen, 53, of Austin. "I always want to be there for my kids. And I want them to be independent and stand on their own two feet."</p>

<p>Closeness vs. dependence</p>

<p>A December study by researchers at the University of Haifa in Israel may dispel some concern.</p>

<p>Family therapist Irit Yanir surveyed 100 urban, middle-class families with a mother, father and adult child age 23-27 and found close families actually produce more independent children. Contrary to parents' fears, adult children with close parental ties were more financially self-sufficient and more independent in their daily lives; it didn't matter whether they lived with their parents. Young adults with emotionally distant relationships were less independent into their late 20s and tended to make decisions based on wanting to either please or rebel.</p>

<p>"Parents have difficulties understanding the difference between being a support and being supportive," Adams says. "I know at least two sets of parents who call their kids every morning to make sure they get up for work. That's too much. I know daughters who call mothers every day to decide what to wear. That's too much."</p>

<p>Experts say research on the relationship between young adults and their parents is relatively rare. Among those studying this new area is sociologist Barbara Mitchell of Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. In-depth interviews with 490 baby boomer parents about their children ages 18-35 reveal parental frustration.</p>

<p>"There are a lot of things they didn't anticipate, given the level of investment they put into them when they were younger. They're having to delay their own plans for the empty nest or for retirement to keep working to help kids who are going to school longer. They don't want the kids to amass these large student loans," she says.</p>

<p>But Adams says there may be a hidden agenda in parents' willingness to sacrifice for their kids.</p>

<p>"In a way, one of our dirty little secrets is that we think if we take care of them as long as they need it, they'll take care of us," she says.</p>

<p>Some say young people may be caught in a vicious cycle, created by economics and fueled by parents. Having options is something they expect, says Richard Sweeney of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, who conducts young adult focus groups for colleges and corporations. "The bigger the choice, the more likely they are to postpone," he says. "They don't want to make a bad choice."</p>

<p>Having too many options — and the "anything is possible" mantra boomers inculcated in their children — may have backfired for some young adults, says Barry Schwartz, a psychology professor at Swarthmore College and author of The Paradox of Choice.</p>

<p>"I think this is a major problem — this inability of people to pull the trigger because they're worried there might be something better around the corner," Schwartz says.</p>

<p>"People didn't used to expect the perfect job, the perfect partner, the perfect life. People were hoping for a good-enough life. But people of means have urged our kids that good enough isn't good enough. There is a right thing to do; you just have to figure out what that is."</p>

<p>A little bit of everything</p>

<p>Young people are trying:</p>

<p>• Adam Croce, 24, of New Paltz, N.Y., earned a degree in philosophy and now lives in San Francisco. He started out after college with $10,000 from winnings on The Price Is Right during his senior year, which gave him a financial cushion to be "picky" about jobs. Since graduating in 2005, he has worked as an online auction analyst and for his father's manufacturing company. He was seeking employment in new media or online investing, but last month he started working inventory at a cookware store.</p>

<p>• Alex Jacobs, 24, of Elkins Park, Pa., graduated from college in 2005. With a triple major in creative writing, literary studies and rhetoric, he thought about teaching English but decided to be a screenwriter. He got a job bartending to pay the rent. After four months, he became a hotel waiter, and then he worked for a medical software company. But since his evenings were spent on the dance floor with lessons and ballroom competitions, Jacobs decided to become a pro. He moved in with his parents and has been a dance instructor since June.</p>

<p>• Matt Solomon, 23, lives in Manhattan. He earned a degree in May from New York University with a concentration in international studies in journalism. He spent five months traveling in Asia and has been looking for entry-level work in journalism since his return in December. He also has interviewed for a job as a dog walker.</p>

<p>"I feel like I can put up with most anything. I like walking around. I like listening to my headphones. I like dogs," he says.</p>

<p>To pay the bills, he's also donating sperm and participating in market research and psychological testing. And because he's interested in returning to Asia, Solomon has been applying for jobs at English-language newspapers in Hanoi and Beijing.</p>

<p>Parent can set limits</p>

<p>Adams, the social psychologist, says parents need to let their children know their expectations.</p>

<p>"We need to make it clear what we are prepared to do for them and for how long," she says. "At a certain point, you can no longer set limits on your children, but you can set them on yourself and what you're willing to put up with."</p>

<p>Despite the anxiety, Dochen says it's better for young people to explore now when parents are there to support them.</p>

<p>Her daughter, Katie, earned a degree in sociology and psychology from Tulane University in New Orleans in 2005 and moved back to Austin to work for AmeriCorps.</p>

<p>Her next job was for a year at a non-profit organization doing planning and administration. Since June, she has been a conference and meeting planner for a non-profit lobbying group in Washington, D.C., where she has made a two-year commitment. After that, she is considering going to grad school to study business and public administration.</p>

<p>"I recognize my skills and my strengths. I just need to find something to put those to good use in something I'm passionate about," Katie says. "I just would like somebody to tell me what that is, so I can do it."</p>

<p>Thank you......great article in support of those of us who say:</p>

<p>" It doesn't matter where you go to school....More important what you do with your time there and afterwards".....</p>

<p>Interesting article!</p>

<p>funny that they would have to go to Isreal to find proof of close family's and indepence... </p>

<p>Kids have been told to pursue their dreams...the drawback can be the real world doesn't have a dream career for them. Frustrating one of my kids right now by not supporting 100% what they want to do.. everything has a plus and minus side to it. If you dream job doesn't pay dream wages.. well learn to live with it.</p>

<p>I am seeing so many situations like the ones described in the article among my friends. However, I do think that much of the problem is that the job market is so flat, so it looks and feels like indecision and dependence rather than a lack of good job opportunities.</p>

<p>The college grad job market the last few years was excellent despite what the democrats wanted you to believe. This year is probably off a tad but still good. Next year--????</p>

<p>I'm worried but not about that!</p>

<p>The 'kids' mentioned in the article (none of whom are children) seem to be doing about as well as any other group of 20-somethings. They are seeking a way to reconcile life-work-pleasure just like every other emerging group of 20-somethings. They experiment, discarding what doesn't work, and going on to find their own balance. Just the way their parents did -- backpacking around Europe, working pt, mulling over their choices. Either the parents have forgotten what it was like in the first years out of college or they went straight from work into the same job/field that they have now (which is highly unlikely given the volatility of the last 25 yrs). Either way, their view of modern reality is a little twisted.</p>

<p>But then Parents of this generation have always worried excessively about their children. Too much sugar. Too much lead. Do they <em>need</em> tutoring because the report card has a B? Should we go Organic? Breast or Bottle? Did I listen to enough Mozart before he/she was born? 'Catch them being good'. Does he not listen because he's got Aspergers? Sun screen, deet, hat, Lyme Disease. Right pre-school, right grade school, my Gawd he'll never get into Harvard if I don't read Proust to him every night while driving from soccer/violin/tai chi practice. What about sign language for hearing babies....on and on...ad infinitum. Did anybody think this would stop once this group of youngsters turned 21?</p>

<p>Well said............</p>

<p>"The college grad job market the last few years was excellent despite what the democrats wanted you to believe. This year is probably off a tad"</p>

<p>Hiring up 8%. "The negative economic climate in the United States over the past several months has clearly affected college recruiting expectations. Overall hiring expectations are still positive for the Class of 2008. Employers responding to the Job Outlook 2008 Spring Update survey expect to hire 8 percent more graduates from this year’s class compared with their actual number of hires from the class of 2007." <a href="http://www.naceweb.org/%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.naceweb.org/&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>Salaries up 4%. "This spring’s college graduates will enter a relatively good job market, a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers has found. Early data indicate that the overall average starting salary offer for graduates is 4 percent higher than it was at this time last year."
<a href="http://chronicle.com/news/article/3936/job-prospects-look-brighter-for-2008-graduates%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://chronicle.com/news/article/3936/job-prospects-look-brighter-for-2008-graduates&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>