When my 24-year-old daughter first spoke about 'adulting', I asked her if it was even a word. Apparently, it is a new word used by the millennials and defined as:
I wondered, ‘What's the big deal about behaving like an adult? Isn't it a stage of life you grow into naturally?’ These statements I heard from my daughter’s peer group made me realise that maybe it’s not so easy for our millennial children:
Aarthi bought vegetables and left it on the counter which got rotten the next day. She didn't realise that she needed to refrigerate them.
Ram, studying in a top engineering college, considered himself grown up and responsible when he remembered to take his toiletries to the common dorm bathroom every day!
Rohit shared how he found it hard to live away from home for work, manage tasks like budgeting, paying bills on time and staying within one's earnings.
These millennials are high achievers, well educated, have high-paying jobs and successful careers. And yet, they are overwhelmed by the responsibility of everyday tasks. Paying bills, purchasing groceries and toiletries, doing laundry, getting services such as gas, internet installed, etc. Are tasks they find tough/ challenging and so resist taking them up. And they experience a range of emotions when they take on these tasks-thrilled when they can do it; upset when they find themselves not equipped to handle a task; daunted when they realise that they need to do some tasks everyday from now on, and frightened to know there is nobody to lean on.
When I heard about ‘adulting’, my first reaction was that of judgement - What is wrong with these kids? These are normal tasks and everybody needs to do them. We didn't make a big deal about it.
But then, as a Parent Educator, it set me thinking. Why is it that the mundane tasks we took on easily are an area of struggle for these highly accomplished youth? Moreover, they feel a greater sense of achievement in doing these tasks over their education or work goals. So much so that Twitter and Instagram are flooded with tweets and feeds about adulting! Digging deeper, I questioned whether the way this generation has been parented has left them unprepared for adult life. Millennials are often judged as self-centred. It would be important to reflect what our role as parents has been to contribute to this. We cannot just shrug our shoulders when we see young adults struggle and say, “What is so hard about this task? It's a part of life. Grow up!”
Let’s explore the mindset most of us raised our millennials with:
We wanted our children to focus on studies and told them that we would take care of everything else in the house. We didn’t want to burden them with everyday chores at home, worrying about finances, or attending to the needs of an older family member.
We wanted them to be well rounded, so we enrolled them in extra classes. And in the pursuit ended up micromanaging their lives and schedules for tuitions, extra classes, playdates or home work.
We bent over backwards to fulfil their wishes and made decisions for them as we wanted to insulate them from disappointments.
With all good intentions and love for our children, did we unintentionally raise them in a bubble and have we failed in preparing them for the outside world?
As parents, here are some suggestions for helping our children to be self reliant and prepared for adulthood:
Involving them in household chores appropriate to their age. It can be putting away the grocery, feeding a pet, watering a plant, setting the table, cooking a simple meal.
Including children in discussions and decision-making for big and small things like planning meal menus, researching on which brand of household appliance to buy, ways to entertain and take care of guests, holiday itineraries, discussions on investments and savings.
Allowing them to take some responsibilities – a child needs to take ownership to develop self-sufficiency. It can be in deciding their extracurricular activities, when to do homework, packing their school bag, making their bed, dusting or cleaning, getting the clothes ironed, or helping a grandparent with their medicines or accompanying them for a walk.
Developing a mistake friendly attitude – often we don't involve children as we don’t want things to go wrong. A child may score less in a subject, or burn a shirt while ironing, or make a poor choice in shopping. A mistake offers one the opportunity to learn and grow. We can help our children rectify mistakes, understand how to deal with failure and bounce back which will help our children make decisions with confidence.
Allowing children to face natural consequences – It is of huge learning to let children face the consequences of their actions. We don’t need to rush to school every time they forget to pack something, rush to drop them if they wake up late and miss the school bus, or bail them out if they have finished their pocket money halfway through the month.
Children feel equipped to take on responsibilities now and later in life when they are given space to make decisions, learn from mistakes and have a say in family discussions. Supporting them in academics, extracurricular as well as everyday tasks help them develop as a whole person. Every child is unique, so raising and helping them according to their nature and age help them grow into self-reliant adults.
Sunitha Ravi is a certified Parent Educator with Parenting Matters, an organisation that promotes parents to build deeper connection within families. To know more about our programmes and workshops, look us up on www.parentingmatters.in