When We Stop Being Our Parents' Children And Start Becoming Adults

by Carla McCormack

For generations before us, the journey to adulthood was clearly marked. You got an education, found employment, got married, bought a house, had children and, bam, you became a grownup.

Many members of Generation-Y have forged a different path. We are choosing to marry later and have children when we are older (if at all); buying a property sounds like a distant dream for most of us.

In fact, not only are more of us renting, but increasing numbers of individuals are being forced to return to their family homes after graduation because the job market is poor and the rental market is expensive.

Without these previous markers of adulthood, we’ve had to find new ways to define ourselves as grownups and explain ourselves to a generation that had more opportunity.

I'm 29 years old; I share a home with my partner, and I have a good job. We aren't married; we don't have kids, and it will be some time before we can consider buying a home, but we both live independently of our families and consider ourselves very much a part of the adult world.

That is, until I decided to get a tattoo — something I knew my mother would hate. But, I am an adult, so I went ahead and did it anyway. I then proceeded to spend the next few weeks wondering how to break it to her.

When I finally did, I got the reaction I expected: anger, disappointment and frustration. It was not a dissimilar reaction to the way a parent might speak to a misbehaving child in a supermarket.

Despite reminding my mother I’m a grown woman and I can do whatever I want (channeling my inner Beyoncé), her reaction upset me and I started to question my decisions.

After a few hours and a sharp talk with myself, I decided Gen-Yers (and their parents) must identify a new way to mark that transition to adulthood.

Of course, we will always be our parents' children, but at some point, there has to be a recognition of our independence and our relationship with them should shift to one that is more equal and respectful on both sides.

Establish financial independence.

If we want our parents to stop treating us like children, we have to stop acting like children.

This means finding a job, paying for things ourselves and not running to mummy and daddy for help on our loans.

Even if you live at home, find a way to contribute. Do your own laundry, cook for your family and make it clear you aren't solely taking.

Supporting yourself financially may be difficult in current economic times, but contributing in other ways can change the tone of your relationship with your folks.

Take responsibility, but take no sh*t

As kids, our parents teach us right from wrong, but as we grow, we form our own opinions and these will most likely differ from previous generations.

It can be upsetting for them to realize you may not agree with them politically, morally or even on something as basic as a giraffe tattoo.

If you have genuinely done something wrong, then apologize, but if it is simply a difference of opinion, stand your ground.

Explain rationally why you don't share their views, as you would do with any other adult, but don't apologize for knowing your own mind.

Act like an equal to be treated like an equal.

Recognize that your parents are only human.

As children, we idolize our parents; as teenagers, we criticize them constantly for not understanding us and as adults, we should know that both of these approaches are wrong.

They, like us, are only people. We should not hold them to some higher moral code which will ultimately lead to disappointment and most likely to us acting like petulant teenagers and then wondering why our parents don't treat us as grownups.

Lean on them, but not only them.

When things go wrong, it can be all-too-tempting to run home and seek comfort in the unconditional love only your family can provide.

This can be healthy, and sometimes, it's exactly what you need, but if you're only seeing your parents when you need a shoulder to cry on and a crutch to get by on, they won't see you as that grown, independent person you know you are 90 percent of the time.

Seek support from others when you can and make sure you also see your parents when you are your most successful, best self.

It's also important to remember your parents may need someone to lean on from time to time, and as an adult, you should be there for them, too.

For previous generations, the markers were clearer, and while we may not have the same milestones and our experiences will certainly differ, it doesn’t mean we should be treated as children forever.

Our parents will always want to be there for us, and of course, we should rely on them when we need to, but if we want our parents to respect us as adults, it requires change on both sides.

If you want to be treated as a strong, independent individual, you better act like one.