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On Parenting
Posted at 12:48 PM ET, 08/09/2011

Raising a generation of angry young adults

The global market volatility and worldwide financial gloom are a destructive force. Much attention has rightly been paid to the obvious victims: those who have lost jobs, those who have lost their homes, those who face empty retirement accounts.

What’s harder to describe is the lost opportunity for the younger generation: the teenagers and young adults who can’t count on jobs, much less an enjoyable career, the kids who look at their future and don’t see much hope. Without assets of their own yet, their losses are impossible to quantify.

Their anger may be easier to determine. Look to London, where police have been overwhelmed by young looters and rioters. Although the violence there has been chaotic and fueled by thuggery, it seems to be at least somewhat inspired by a common fury.

From today’s Post story:

“Some, including former London mayor Ken Livingstone, suggested that the Tottenham riot was an unleashing of pent-up resentment over the weak economy, high unemployment rates and historically deep budget cuts that are decreasing government funding for poor communities and grass-roots charities. He cited a sense that young Britons are facing ‘the bleakest future.’ ”

The sentiment reminded me of a comment one reader sent in about my post on the new book “How to Raise Your Adult Children,” by Gail Parent and Susan Ende (Plume, August 2011).

Many readers agreed with the authors’ suggestions that adult children are too dependent on their parents. One, however, countered that there is something other than parenting skills at play between these generations.

Here’s an excerpt from the comment by jdsher00:

“It’s a little too easy for a boomer psychotherapist to point fingers without acknowledging the real differences in situations here. Didn’t prepare for life after college? Well, boomers were pretty much guaranteed a good job with a pension (remember what that means?) regardless of their undergraduate major. College itself, as well as graduate study, was a lot less expensive for boomers.

“Yes, ‘adult children’ can be too dependent. But boomers have hogged all the jobs, the pensions, and the money in this economy, leaving younger workers with a comparatively Third World existence in which even basics like health care are exorbitantly too expensive. The only reason we don’t have marches in the streets is that younger Americans don’t know how much easier the boomers had it.

“So I agree . . . that sometimes parents need to say no. On the other hand, I think it was perhaps the boomers’ generation that was the aberration here. For millennia adult children have taken on a family business passed down through generations, which they didn’t create themselves. There needs to be some acknowledgment that the ‘Me Generation’ of baby boomers and their false illusion of independence when in fact they’ve been economically robbing their children is also part of the problem here.”

Those are some harsh accusations. Ones that, even if unfair, probably reflect a common point of view. These teenagers and young adults have been raised by parents, schools and marketers to believe that if they follow the rules, they will reap material benefits. That is no longer true. Who wouldn’t feel ripped off?

Perhaps part of raising them now is not just to encourage independence but also to help them work through this crisis and help them understand that independence is going to look different than they — and we — thought.

Easier said than done, but it looks like we don’t have much choice.

By  |  12:48 PM ET, 08/09/2011

 
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