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Since you've picked up this book, presumably you have a son or daughter in the twenty-something age-group. And presumably what you want most is to help your adult child get moving in a positive direction in life.
Be encouraged-there are plenty of good strategies for parents to take. The very first strategy is to seek a clear understanding of the situation at hand. Most modern parents understand they are facing an entirely new world with new conditions, because they themselves were part of a generation that changed the world (called the baby boomers, the name generally assigned to the group born between 1945 and 1964). These parents aren't demanding that their children do things exactly as their parents or grandparents did; they simply want their children to do something. It sometimes seems to Mom and Dad as if the lives of their children are stuck in neutral. Why is this the case for so many young people of this age-group? And what can we do to help them?
To start with, we can learn as much as we can about the world of our adult children. What forces from within motivate them? What forces from without?
Many people call them "twenty-somethings." Author Elina Furman calls them the "Boomerang Nation," because we hurl themout into the world, and they come soaring back. Abby Wilner, another author, calls them "quarterlifers." They have also been called the "iGeneration" (for Internet and particularly for that age-group staple, the iPod); the "MTV Generation"; "Twixters" (a term to describe being stuck between adolescence and maturity); and "Generation Y" (which means nothing other than being the follow-up act to their older siblings in Generation X).
Perhaps a good start would be to drop all the cute labels and attempt to see our children in a way that is more meaningful and less superficial. This generation is more than the sum of its influences, whether the Internet or MTV. Generational groupings in themselves are more helpful as media shorthand than as true descriptions of living, thinking human beings. Sure, to some extent your child is a product of 9/11 and the Internet, but in a much more profound and significant way, your child is genetically, spiritually, and emotionally a product of the home you have worked to maintain. No contemporary condition could approach the influence you have had by simply raising your child for the first two decades of his life. That's helpful to remember next time you begin to wonder if your offspring is an alien life-form of some kind!
Having said that, we can make some general observations about that group of young adults who are now in their twenties. What follows are a few of the hallmarks that help to define (at least for some observers) a distinct generation.
Perhaps the most significant issue facing twenty-somethings and their parents is today's economic climate. A number of factors have conspired to create an atmosphere unlike any previously faced by young adults.
Twenty-somethings of the 1930s faced our nation's greatest financial collapse-a time when jobs were hard enough to come by. What makes the contemporary situation unique is actually more about expectations. That is, the parents of today's young adults have experienced unprecedented prosperity. They enjoyed the postwar boom of the late twentieth century and flourished. Some have speculated that today we have the first generation to face less prosperity than the one preceding it.
Think of it this way. The baby boomers are defined, more than any other factor, by their sheer numbers. During those years between 1946 and 1964, there was an unprecedented spike in the birth rate. Together these children came of age and entered the job market-and cornered it. Baby boomers dominate the workforce today, though many of them are finally reaching retirement age. As a result, young adults of the last decade or so have struggled to find their place-particularly given the heightened expectations of their successful parents, who naturally want their children to find the same success they themselves have enjoyed.
The title of a book by Anya Kamenetz is revealing: Generation Debt: Why Now Is a Terrible Time to Be Young.
Not only have the jobs been elusive, but the cost of living has spiraled. Consider the increase in housing costs over the last several years. The National Association of Realtors estimated that this rate rose by 500 percent between 1973 and 2004-to a median price of $156,200. You might argue that your child isn't looking for a home but an apartment. Still, could this situation have an influence, for example, on your adult child's plans for marriage, knowing that the American dream of home ownership is possibly out of reach? It is arguably the step of marriage that most influences young adults to "settle down" and complete the maturity process. Let's not forget that apartment rentals have also skyrocketed.
Factor in the issue of debt. Everyone knows what has happened to the cost of a college education. More than ever, families have depended on loans, and young adults often spend decades paying them off. Add to that the common problem of credit card debt, which is more of a contagion in our country than most people realize. Add all these factors together, and we find a generation facing the prospect of "McJobs" (their term for a spot at a fast-food joint or a mall store) that pay little while offering few or no benefits, and no viable course for paying off college and credit card debt. Meanwhile, a home or even a simple apartment costs more than ever. Is it any wonder we've seen a phenomenon of twenty-somethings moving back home?
Perhaps we're not telling you anything new. You may not need to be told, because you've lived it. Just the same, misery loves company. Sometimes it's good to know that you're struggling not in isolation but as part of a wider movement.
THE RECREATION/INFORMATION GENERATION
Another often-documented trait of twenty-somethings is that they've grown up in a world increasingly absorbed by leisure, recreation, and pop culture. Their parents have been more likely to pursue vacations more luxurious and hobbies more immersive than past generations, simply because they've had the means. Baby boomers brought in the harvest of hard work-their parents'and their own-and lavished it on their children. All of us enjoy giving our families the good life, but the results can have unintended consequences.
Boomers of the 1960s and 1970s nurtured their music collections-generally an armful of vinyl long-playing records. Their children often exchanged songs in the thousands over the Internet through the Napster file-sharing program (until the original version became illegal). Our children have been able to view any movie they want to see at any time, through Blockbuster, then Netflix. While their parents chose from three television channels, twenty-somethings grew up with one hundred or more through cable television.
This generation has come of age accustomed to a world of lake and beach houses, Rocky Mountain ski trips, and designer clothing. And don't assume we're speaking of only those from wealthier backgrounds; to varying extents, the prosperity of recent years has touched most Americans.
The advent of the Internet has personalized information more than ever. Twenty-somethings take the nearly infinite reaches of the World Wide Web for granted; what would their grandparents have thought about all this? Young adults personalize their social and recreational experiences through countless Web sites, or they express themselves through their own corner of MySpace.com. It's no longer unusual for young adults to nurture romantic relationships with people they have never seen, who may live across the world, simply through the magic of chat rooms-and don't forget that Internet dating services, which boil all the romance down to science and statistics, are exploding in popularity.
Why is all this important? Technology has indelibly marked the new generation of young adults. No one before them has ever experienced anything remotely similar to this coming-of-age experience. Our adult children are more absorbed with play and much less in a hurry to grow up. They are more acclimated to "interactivity"-that is, to experiences customized to their personality. Therefore, they are much less in a hurry to accept just any job. Finally, they are arguably (though not provably) more passive in nature, after excessive amounts of time staring at desktop, lap-top, and television screens, all of which serve ever-enticing doses of a pop culture that is louder, ruder, and more insistent than ever.
AN AGE OF FEAR
Two words: AIDS and terrorism. The former left an immeasurable impact on the late 1980s and 1990s, and the latter has inarguably dominated the millennial decade. We're talking about the majority of a twenty-something's life. Death can arrive in the sudden, unexpected crash of an airplane into a skyscraper-or it can happen "quietly" through a slowly incubating disease.
AIDS isn't the only kind of virus that has brought modern America new strains of terror. What would we have thought of the computer virus thirty years ago? It would have seemed like the stuff of science fiction. A faceless criminal in unknown parts (he might be in Guatemala for all we know) has the ability to reach across the globe and destroy or steal the matrix of information that is your personal computer. As a matter of fact, the relatively new term "identity theft" can be seen as an apt metaphor for the times in which we live, where a younger generation searches desperately to find and hang on to its identity. Certainly that's the theme of these early years of adulthood.
This generation has grown up in an age of divorce and insecure relationships. Perhaps you've struggled as a single parent, and you will agree that it's a difficult and challenging context for raising children-though many, of course, have done outstanding jobs. The last two demographic groups of young adults have been branded with the label "delayers" because they're in no hurry to make a marital commitment. They have seen, from too close a vantage point, the pain that can come from marriages that don't last. On the one hand, it can be viewed as a good thing that twenty-somethings want to look before they leap; on the other, we sadly see that a pattern of superficial, sexually promiscuous relationships has not provided a healthy alternative. Either way, fear of commitment is a powerful component of being a young adult today.
When it comes to voting, the issue of ecology resonates strongly with young adults. They want to know the truth about global warming because these are their years in the sun. Twenty-somethings worry about what will happen when there is no more oil for transportation or air for breathing.
Certainly every age carries its own variations on the theme of fear. Some parents can remember the air-raid shelters and "duck and cover" instructions of the mid-twentieth century. But this generation had its adolescence during the era of Y2K, which brought the end-times hysteria that comes with every turn of the century. When the fears don't come to fruition, as they didn't with Y2K, there is a sigh of relief-but we all become just a little more jaded and cynical. The twenty-somethings of today are more cynical than any group in memory. Their humor, such as that of The Daily Show or South Park, is brutally dark and sarcastic. And behind sarcasm always lurks a hidden layer of insecurity.
DIVERSITY AND THE NONLINEAR LIFE
One of the great buzzwords of our age is diversity. We all know that our media, our schools, our churches, and nearly every other source of authority has redirected its language and policies to acknowledge a culture that is no longer homogeneous (if it ever was) in terms of race, creed, and culture. Twenty-somethings embrace diversity more easily than their parents. They're more likely to have grown up in multiethnic classrooms, and they're comfortable with once-taboo ideas of mixed dating and marriage.
Diversity, however, is a wider concept than demographic considerations. This generation has been described as "hypertextual." That word refers to the now-familiar Internet path of the hyperlink. We don't move through the Web in a linear way as often as we "surf": that is, we click on hyperlinks that lead in multiple directions. This is why we call it a "web." The links lead all over the place, and we crawl along whatever strands "stick." Previous generations have thought of truth and life in a linear, logical way grounded in some central authority-whether that authority be spiritual, governmental, traditional, or something else. In the post-modern world, truth is not seen as being universal and monolithic; younger people are more likely to view it as something as elusive, diverse, and open-ended as one's path through hyperspace.
In terms of simple life issues, that means a twenty-something isn't going to take a certain logical path in life just because others have taken it in years past. "The Bible says so" is not an argument-settler for them, nor is there much value in the idea that "we've always done it this way." Young adults see the world as a brand-new place with infinite possibilities. They are interested in options, and they want to keep as many of them open as possible. A "career" as a backpacking guide may be the answer for today, and tomorrow the answer may be something else. Today it could be an exploration of Buddhist ideas of reality, and tomorrow it could be back to Christianity. When they come to it, they'll click on the link that appeals to them.
Let's say a bit more about the spiritual side of things. We've seen younger people drop out of church in generations past, only to return a few years later with their children. This generation has fallen away in a much more radical way. Twenty-somethings see the mainstream church as being about yesterday's (linear, inflexible) answers, delivered through yesterday's communication styles. There are exceptions, of course. Some congregations have built services and ministries tailor-made for twenty-somethings with great success.
Excerpted from HELP YOUR TWENTY-SOMETHING GET A LIFE ... AND GET IT NOW by ROSS CAMPBELL ROB SUGGS Copyright © 2007 by Ross Campbell with Rob Suggs. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted July 1, 2014
Posted December 3, 2011
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