Why Are Young Adults Scared of Adulting?

The American Dialect Society nominated the verb “to adult” as the most creative construction of the year a few years ago as more young adults are beginning to refer to adult responsibilities as part of “adulting.” While previous generations acknowledged that these responsibilities were just part of life, young adults today refer to adulting as if it were optional and that completing adult-like tasks should warrant an award. At the very least, their pinned tweet that immortalizes evidence that they bought groceries instead of going to Taco Bell again deserves a like. The reality is, for many young adults, adulting can be a scary transition, especially when the process is extended over a period of time. However, the fear of being fully independent keeps many young adults from trying new things and taking on responsibilities after high school, which contributes to higher levels of failure to launch

Delayed Milestones

According to Time Magazine, “this generation of young adults go through life stages that other generations have gone through much later in life, like dating, starting families, owning homes. Maybe they won’t own homes at all.” The phrase “emerging adulthood” has been recently coined to describe a period between 18 and 25 years old where adolescents become more independent and explore various life possibilities. As a result, many young adults are taking longer to settle down and reach these milestones.

Fear of Responsibilities

One reason that young adults are taking longer to reach these milestones is the level of anxiety they experience around doing new things, especially things they perceive as hard or beyond their abilities. Growing up, many parents take care of household responsibilities without teaching children how to contribute. Their generation has been sheltered by spending more time indoors, less time on their own, and more time turning to Google for answers for their questions instead of relying on their experiences. As rates of anxiety have skyrocketed, so have rates of risk aversion. Young adults have widened the net of things outside of their comfort zone to include many traditional adult roles and responsibilities.

The following tasks may be too overwhelming or seem out-of-reach for your young adult:

  • Attending postsecondary education
  • Finding a job
  • Forming intimate relationships with others outside the family
  • Working with others
  • Moving out of their parent’s house
  • Cooking and cleaning 
  • Paying bills

Coming to Terms with Identity

Many young adults want to hold onto aspects of adolescence while maintaining some degree of independence. However, this often looks like wanting to live by oneself and do what they want without supervision rather than being able to support themselves. This transition period involves coming to terms with who they are and who they want to be as an independent individual. Contrary to popular belief, most high school graduates have no idea what career they want to pursue or what their long-term goals might be. This takes more soul-searching and life experience to figure out what adulthood means to them on a personal level. 

To say they are “adulting” is to create distance between them and what are implied to be actual adults who are adulting 100% of the time and therefore have little reason to acknowledge it. It also implies some disbelief that they may ever be fully considered an adult. Some argue that adulthood is a state of mind rather than a stage of life. While your child may want to be “forever young,” learning practical life skills and relational skills can help them feel more capable of managing responsibilities and following through with personal goals. Life skills are better taught through experience than Google search results.

Momentum Young Adult Therapy Can Help 

Momentum is a young adult therapy and gap program for those between the ages of 18-25 who struggle with anxiety and depression. The program’s goal is to inspire change in young adults that draws on a sense of community and self-efficacy helping to shift the narrative about a young adult’s trajectory. Students are taught how to connect with the greater world, foster real relationships, and develop their own identity. Momentum gives students the opportunity and tools they need to recreate themselves, becoming more independent from their parents, and get on track to a healthy, happy, and successful future.

Contact us at 877-296-8711.


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