Permaparenting: When the Kids Won’t Leave

Psychology today reports on ‘permaparenting’, the phenomenon of young adults coming back to the nest for indefinite amounts of time, or never leaving it at all. It paints a fairly bleak picture of young adults who are not mature enough to leave, and parents who are not mature enough to let them.

Psychology today reports on ‘permaparenting’, the phenomenon of young adults coming back to the nest for indefinite amounts of time, or never leaving it at all. It paints a fairly bleak picture of young adults who are not mature enough to leave, and parents who are not mature enough to let them.

The Baby Boomers supposedly need to hang onto their own youth for as long as possible, in a US culture (UK too) in which the myth of permanent youth prevails. Although undoubtedly the economic situation comes into play here, so do societal norms which now, apparently, dictate that parents should continue to do everything in their power to make their children’s lives as easy as possible. This is the first generation, the article argues, brought up in better, safer times, which ‘expects happiness’ rather than mere financial independence and survival for their children, and for themselves too. The problem here may be this concept of happiness itself as a thing which can be provided by anyone else, parents included. Other problematic issues may be the lack of appropriate boundaries, with parents trying to be their kids’ friends and living their own lives through them. I do not see a necessary connection between living arrangements and these unhealthy patterns, though.

The figures in the US were also pushed up by Latinos and other communities for whom living together in an extended family (and looking after elderly people within it) is a traditional norm rather than a recent aberration. It does seem to me that the view of bringing up children in order for them to gain independence as soon as possible and for the parents to then get on with their ‘own’ lives, separate from their roles as parents, is probably a minority view amongst all the peoples of the world. It may be that ‘our’ US/UK European affluent society was the first to be able to afford such independence, and that we have discovered that we don’t actually want it. Our attempts to return to the larger family structure have now been pathologised.

Having said this, I do hope that I will get to enjoy the ‘reconfiguring of my identity’ after the years of child raising, Jung’s ‘last stage of development’. I am already looking forward to it and see it as a creative period. I also hope that my children will be able to provide for themselves, through doing things that they love. But should circumstances somehow make it necessary, or desirable, I hope I will be open to them coming back at specific moments in their life, that we will be able to negotiate sensible arrangements and boundaries so everyone feels comfortable, and they will not feel like intruders in their parents’ home, or impediments to my personal growth.

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