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Thursday, June 21, 2012

‘Slouching Toward Adulthood’ urges parents to let go

At last, a serious, well-researched book about raising children which also includes that crucial characteristic every parent needs — a sense of humor.

Sally Koslow's excellent Slouching Toward Adulthood explores the economic and cultural forces creating the growing hordes of adult children failing to launch — i.e., start careers, become financially independent, move out of the parental nest. Or as Koslow calls them: "adultescents."

As Amy Chua's The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother wailed, a nation where the next generation is a bunch of Twitter-addicted slugs with obese egos and no work ethic has a problem. Rather than adding to the mass hysteria, Koslow offers sensible advice for both the kids and their perplexed parents, leavened by self-deprecating anecdotes and insights from her childhood in Fargo, N.D.

The inspiration for Slouching came from Koslow's own life. A veteran magazine editor and novelist, Koslow has two sons. In 2001, her then 25-year-old college grad son returned to Manhattan from the West Coast and moved in with his parents. An expected music job evaporated after 9/11. Having her unemployed adult son rising at noon and partying with his friends was horrifying.

It was cold comfort to learn that the boomerang plague had also invaded millions of other homes. Almost 6 million people between the ages of 25 to 35 are back home with the parental units. Koslow writes about her own experience — her nest is now empty — but she expands the book beyond the memoir genre by interviewing parents, adult children and experts around the country.

A huge chunk of the problem is the economy. Many of these kids can't find jobs. Even if they can, they often can't afford to live on their own because of student loans. Others are dealing with issues like children, divorce and foreclosed homes.

But for many, the problem is cultural.

"Our young adult children now exist in a perfect storm of overconfidence, a sense of never-ending time, and a grim reaper of a job market," Koslow writes. Growing up in a magic bubble of specialness crafted by their adoring Boomer parents, these unique snowflakes want to travel, create, express themselves. Working hard for the money? Not for these free spirits.

The adults aren't helping. Koslow believes parents often infantilize their adult children because it makes parents feel needed. The result: entitled but incompetent children and exploited but enabling parents.

Koslow's advice: Step back so the kids can step forward.

View the original article here