Around the country parents and twenty-somethings are talking about adulting. I first heard this term a couple of months ago when an adulting class was featured on a NYC area news program. My jaw dropped at the idea that young people are meeting at classes and social events to learn the most basic of skills for daily life. (It has grown to include more advanced learning like networking, preparing taxes and the like.) Let’s take a deeper dive.
“My 12-year old wants to learn to cook scrambled eggs!” exclaimed a mom. Yay! Any time your child wants to learn new, practical skills is a cause for celebration. This share coincided with my reading a number of posts on a parenting forum about ‘adulting‘.
And what, you may ask, is adulting? For starters, it was the most popular new word of 2016 among millenials. The Urban Dictionary defines it as:
Adulting (v): to do grown up things and hold responsibilities such as a 9-5 job, a mortgage/rent,a car payment, or anything else that makes one think of grown ups. (More popularly, doing something grownup and responsible).
Adulting (in the articles I’ve seen) includes activities and skills as varied as boiling an egg, doing your taxes, sewing on a button, and networking. There’s increasing content popping up about it and there are now books and… wait for it… classes and coaches to teach young adults how to function in the kitchen, with a checkbook, and on the job. Parents are on the bandwagon, too, requesting that Home Ec classes be brought back to schools. Yes, I agree. Bring back Home Ec, to supplement what happens in the home.
(I apologize in advance if what follows sounds like a rant, in black and white. It does, however, get to the heart of some of the struggles facing parents and their emerging young adults. Take what you like and toss the rest.)
Simply put, this new term describes basic preparation for life, a great deal of which used to take place in the home. I know, with two working parents, it’s challenging. But these days, it seems as if more is being handed off to outsiders, rather than children learning by observing and mimicking their parents, in situ. This is common in the animal kingdom; however, many human parents are going in a different direction, consulting with ‘experts’ to help launch their kids. (Add this to a growing list of expenses!)
Adulting should begin early as preparation for life
when they leave your nest.
I am concerned about our children being spoon fed their learning about life in controlled situations like the classes and events mentioned. What they need is resilience, curiosity, and a sense of adventure about what’s coming up, for both the known and the unknown. Did you ever have to learn-as-you-go on a job? I did, and for every job I had. It was challenging, confusing and sometimes scary. It certainly helped me grow up and build confidence. When we smooth the way for all learning, it works against our kids. Early, on-the-job training definitely builds character.
Back to the parenting forum. One parent was bemoaning the fact that her daughter was going off to college without some essential skills for daily living. She wanted to do a crash course/mini-intervention to prepare her for the basics of a somewhat independent life at college.
While it’s never too late to learn new skills, waiting until the summer before college is not the best way to go. This kind of learning can begin when your child is a toddler, and ultimately contributes to self-awareness, self-regulation and relationship skills. When children participate in, and learn from, the daily life of a family, contributing their energy, time and brainpower, they grow in immeasurable ways. (They may not embrace it enthusiastically, but trust me, they do grow.) This is the beginning of ‘adulting’.
Do you want your child to be a team player? The family is the first team. What about contributing to the functioning of something bigger than himself, no matter how boring the task? That begins at home. Building self-esteem? It starts in the family. Relationship skills? It’s not always pretty, but family relationships teach you how to get along with all kinds of people who come into your life.
Pretty much everything your child needs to go out into the adult world of higher education, job, and relationships of all kinds can be learned at home: positive attitude, integrity, self-awareness, curiosity, and all those character traits we talk about. As for networking skills, tax preparation and the like, much of this is information. These things can be researched (our kids are internet wizards) or they can hire someone to fix, repair and train.
Basic life skills and productive attitudes can be taught at home at an early age, and it may not be as time-consuming as you imagine. This underpinning is the true process of adulting. Like it or not, you are their most important teacher. Go forth and teach!