How To Ease Young Adults Out Of The Nest

In this week's parenting segment, Tell Me More's panel of moms tackles how to help kids through life's transitions, such as moving away for college and paying their own bills. Every parent must decide how much to help and when to pull back. Host Michel Martin checks in with regular contributors Dani Tucker, Jolene Ivey and Aracely Panameno.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host: I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but maybe you just need a few moms in your corner. Every week we talk with a diverse group of parents to get their common sense and savvy parenting advice. Today we're talking about growing pains and transitions, especially helping your kids find their way out of your nest and into their own nest. No parent wants this for their kids.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "HANGOVER 2")

ZACH GALIFIANAKIS: OK. Thanks, papa. Bye-bye. That was my dad. I'm a stay-at-home son.

MARTIN: That, of course, was Alan from the movie "Hangover 2," a self-described stay-at-home son. And of course most kids leave home before they reach middle age. But it can be a challenge to decide how much to help your kids launch into a new phase of their lives and how much to let them go at it on their own.

We have three of our regulars today to talk about growing pains and triumphs with their own kids. Dani Tucker has a teenage son, a recent high school graduate and a daughter. Jolene Ivey is the mother of five boys. And Aracely Panameno has a 22-year-old daughter. They're all in transition. And we're here together in our Washington, D.C. studio to talk about it. Welcome back everybody. Thanks for joining us.

DANI TUCKER: Hey, Michel.

JOLENE IVEY: Thank you.

ARACELY PANAMENO: Thank you for having us.

MARTIN: And, Dani, you actually came to us with this topic because you are having some issues trying to launch your 18-year-old into adulthood. He just graduated from high school, which was a great day. So what's the problem?

TUCKER: The problem is, you know, it's, like, OK, yeah, maybe he has the stay-at-home son mentality a little bit or the entitlement. I call it the entitlement, you know, because it's - we're going into the Navy but we're not leaving for the Navy for at least another six, seven months, you know. So it's, like, OK, mom, you know, I'm here. And I'm like, no, son, you're grown. You're 18 now. It's time for you to have some responsibility.

You know, you didn't expect Mom to pay for all your food. And he kind of looked at me a little strange when I said, you know, starting August 1st you got to pay me $150 a month rent because I told you last year, the only people that live with me rent free are full-time college students. And you decided not to be a full-time college student. So, that says to me you are a working adult or young adult or whatever, but you're going to pay some rent.

So, you know, he kind of scoffed a little bit, you know, after he went to the refrigerator, saw that it was empty and was, like, OK, I get what you're saying, you know. OK?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

TUCKER: You see? It takes money to run this house, you know.

MARTIN: So is that a common concern? Like, so it's not that he doesn't have a plan, but that the plan doesn't kick in. It's what to do before the plan kicks in.

TUCKER: Exactly. What's the - what to do - well, you know, when they're going off to college, you have a plan. You know, you're ready for that. You know you got to take them there and you got money. But when they're not, they become too flighty. My opinion, my son did, you know. Well, I know I'm going to the Navy, but until then, I'm just going to chill.

MARTIN: I'm going to hang out, play basketball, chill with my friends.

TUCKER: Exactly. Eat your food.

MARTIN: Eat your food. Lay around the house.

TUCKER: Keep your lights on, you know, keep the TV, I came home and the TV was on, but there was nobody there. Oh, I forgot. No. And that's where I need you to transition, son. Because now you're still thinking like a child.

MARTIN: OK.

TUCKER: OK? And I got to pay the bills. I don't have it like that, son.

MARTIN: And so is this a common concern, Aracely? Is this common?

PANAMENO: I would say that what I have shared with my daughter, she actually did have a plan. She graduated from high school, had a very successful high school career, went off to college. And then ran into some bumps along the way when she was in college the first year.

MARTIN: Did you say bums or bumps?

PANAMENO: Bumps.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

PANAMENO: But also bums.

MARTIN: We were talking about...

PANAMENO: But also bums. I think that you were right - that was a Freudian slip.

MARTIN: Young men who are perhaps not as on their game as you would like.

PANAMENO: Absolutely. And so the message is still the same. If you want to be an adult and you want to be treated as an adult, you have to assume the responsibilities of adulthood.

MARTIN: So, what is the issue here? Is the issue that kids have - you think are having some trouble staying on track? Is that the issue, Aracely? And I want to hear from Jolene, too.

PANAMENO: So for our experience, she did lose track. She lost focus. This was the first time that she was going to be on her own. If she is in a school of 25,000 student population, University of Virginia, they party hardy, but they also study hard, also. And party very hard the first semester, in fact, failed and recovered by the second semester. But, you know, it was all this distraction, all this pressure.

MARTIN: So her grades weren't up to par?

PANAMENO: Her grades, yes.

MARTIN: And you felt what?

PANAMENO: Her grades went down quite significantly. And as a matter of fact, she got into academic probation and I was paying for everything. And so, you know, the whole concept of you're throwing away my money, honey. And I have worked really hard and you are having no sense of appreciation. You have a sense of entitlement, 'cause you're a single child. You think that mommy is going to continue to support you through the rest of time and that's not the case.

And so, you know, I started to show what the consequences would be - if you don't do X, then Y will happen. And so now we're to the point where she did meet a young man.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

PANAMENO: Not a bum. But a young man who had graduated college already and he wanted to try out his career elsewhere. They decided to move to California. She took a leave of absence from college after her two years of college, went out to California, the worst market for jobs for blacks and Latinos. My daughter is half black, half Latina, her boyfriend is black. And so they couldn't find jobs, you know, in California, in L.A. for - he was there for nine months, she was there for six months. Spent all of their savings. And then before Thanksgiving last year she called and she said, mommy, I'm coming home.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: That's - so you're talking about a couple of things here.

PANAMENO: Yeah.

MARTIN: There's the job market. There's - and we can talk about the race piece in a minute, which I think there is some of that there.

PANAMENO: It's very important. Yeah.

MARTIN: Jolene, what about you? You're trying to launch a couple of young adults.

IVEY: Yeah, I've got two right there on the diving board. The oldest just graduated college and - yes. And he has a job in his field. We are very happy. And he's trying to find a place to live. Right now he still living with us, much to his chagrin. But for the moment he can't afford to live anyplace else. So until he can find a place he can afford, which means finding roommates he can live with in a place that he wants, he's going to be with us for, you know, the short while.

MARTIN: Is that a problem though? You know, that used to be normal.

IVEY: It's actually...

MARTIN: I mean that you would live at home...

IVEY: Sure.

MARTIN: ...as a, you know, before you got married. I mean...

IVEY: Right.

MARTIN: So is that so terrible?

IVEY: It's not a problem for me. I actually don't mind at all. I'd rather him live with us and kind of get his legs under him than just to go move in with some old friends of his in a situation that might not be ideal. I'd rather him wait. It's very frustrating for him because he thinks he's been independent for the past four years. Well, he hasn't been. He's been living off of us while he was in college. He's just had that false sense of independence because, you know, he was not living with us so we weren't able to tell him what to do every moment.

But he's now in the situation where he's got to move back in with his four brothers, me, his dad and his grandfather, and our house is just not that big.

MARTIN: And share a bathroom and...

IVEY: Share everything.

MARTIN: And also not act like it's a hotel, which is another issue.

IVEY: Right.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. In this week's Moms segment we're talking about transitioning to adulthood. We're joined by some of our regulars - Jolene Ivey, Dani Tucker and Aracely Panameno.

You know, I'm hearing a couple of things here. One is the whole thing of setting boundary, setting new boundaries once a child has achieved certain benchmarks. And so some of that is just the whole question of you've been away, you've been on your own, now you're back here for however long and we need to set some boundaries about how we're going to renegotiate that relationship. But then there's also the financial economics piece of the cost of setting up a new household, the fact that the job market is as bad as it is, the fact that housing is expensive. And so...

PANAMENO: There's some racial economics. Yeah.

MARTIN: And there's also how you feel about...

PANAMENO: Racial issues.

MARTIN: ...the fact that your kids had opportunities that perhaps you did not have and that you don't appreciate it when they don't seem to be as grateful for them as you would like them to be. Aracely, you raise the racial piece of it. I'm wondering is this racial or is this in part a class issue, that if you don't have - I mean very few African-Americans and Latinos grew up with an asset cushion. I mean we may have caught up in terms of income, many of us have caught up in terms of income. We certainly haven't caught up in terms of the asset cushion that people from other backgrounds have.

PANAMENO: And the housing market just wiped us out if we had...

MARTIN: And wiped us out. So...

PANAMENO: ...if we had anything, and many families are in a negative position.

MARTIN: Right.

PANAMENO: But I think that beyond that you have the issue of high school graduation rates. Latinos in the United States have the lowest graduation rate in the country. You know, our ratio from, compared to whites, they are three times as likely as a white counterpart to drop out of high school. And so that's very significant. Of those that actually graduate, only 10 percent go on to get a Bachelors degree. And then of those, only two percent get a graduate degree. And all of that is associated with our ability to - whether it is getting a good job, finding housing that we can afford, having transportation, and I mean all of these other things in life.

And so certainly for me as an immigrant, right, I worked really hard to achieve all of those things. I have continued to work hard to sustain and provide for my daughter. I mean I think that that's the dream for every parent, to provide a better quality of life than we ever had. And so I've done that. But in the process, I've created this, you know, American who takes things for granted.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

PANAMENO: And she believes that I will be the Treasury Department forever more. And so I say, no, honey, you know, it takes work. If you want to live this way, you need to achieve more. You need to go to school, get a degree and get a good job.

MARTIN: And what did you say? What did you say? Dani's already told you. She's already layed down the law to her son; he's got to pay rent starting August 1, and it was nice of you to give him a little grace period there to get his sea legs.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

TUCKER: There you go.

MARTIN: That was very nice of you. I wasn't actually expecting that.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: (Unintelligible) but

PANAMENO: So what I said to her actually, my daughter actually lost this financial aid for college education. So you know, she wanted to play house with boyfriend. She wanted to go pay rent and try to find a job. I said that's all fine, you know, we do that and at some point in time we all leave our parents' homes and we join with a partner, and that's all fine. But when she came back, I said, you're only coming back if you have a plan to go back to college, if you get a job, if you assume certain responsibilities for chores at home. And you must use your money for savings, because that is what is going to pay tuition, room and board when you get back to school. I reserve the priority of providing some assistance in the future, but at this point she doesn't know that.

MARTIN: But you have to show me...

PANAMENO: Absolutely.

MARTIN: ...that you are serious about your business.

PANAMENO: Absolutely.

MARTIN: Dani?

TUCKER: I took the same approach, especially with race, because what I was trying to tell Davon is you're black male so it's already double stacked against you. Many of you who actually make it out of high school, and just like Latinos, it's low in the black community as well.

MARTIN: And also one of the things that we've also reported on this program is that African-American men with a college degree are twice as likely to be unemployed as white men with a college degree, even though they're more likely to have a job than men with less education no matter the race, but there is that.

TUCKER: And the same thing I said to him, and I didn't want him to get stuck in that being held down by the statistics. So I said, you know, I'm going to have to be a little tough on you. And I'm not being tough on you because I'm mad or I'm broke. You know, I will work three or four jobs taking my kids, always did. I said but I want you know that I don't want you to get stuck in that rut that a lot of you get in; when you come out of high school it's about working at McDonald's, smoking weed and hanging out. You know, working at a dead-end job. I said you need a career. All black men need a career.

MARTIN: What is your thought, though about having him pay rent? Because some would argue that what he ought to be doing is saving that money to create an asset cushion for him. In fact, that was actually a proposal during the presidential campaign. A couple of the Democrats talked about creating an inheritance for Americans who aren't born with one, which it would be kind of a savings account that they would then get at a certain point in their adult life that will give them that asset cushion to kind of equalize things. So some might argue that what he should be doing with his earnings is saving it to kind of give him that cushion. But you don't think that's right.

TUCKER: No. Because - well, I think you should save. But my thing to him is first you need to know how to be responsible, because if I'm not here tomorrow, you got to know how to pay rent. That's my thing with him. To me too many of our black kids, especially young men, don't know how to take care of themselves. They go from mom and dad or mom or dad whoever's - to living off a woman a lot of times, or you know, meeting them a sugar mama or whatever the case may be, but they don't know how to take care of their self. And I want him to know the difference between paying my rent first and then buying my Jordans second or my New Balance second. We're going to work on the savings part, but I want to get him here first.

MARTIN: Can I just ask you this, though? Do you feel this is a particular issue for the young men as opposed to the young women, that the young women are on their game and the young men are less likely to be?

TUCKER: In my experience, yes. Because a lot of my young women, like my daughter, I mean she's already got her game already going into high school. And, you know, okay, mom, I'm going to do this at Banneker, bum, bum, bum. I'm going to Spellman. You know, she's already thinking that way at 14. Whereas my son, I had to help them think that what. You know, so to me it's the guys that we really have to help along.

MARTIN: Jolene, what do you think about, do you think that's true?

IVEY: Well, I do think it's true. Generally speaking though, I grew up being very independent, very hard working, and my father had to keep me from working more in college because I wanted to be able to contribute as much as I could at that time to my education. And right now I'm kind of struggling with how much do I help my kids doing things like you talk about, Michel, letting them save their money so they have something to help themselves later, and how much do I instill the responsibility like, you know, Dani and Aracely were talking about.

So I struggle with that. My husband and I struggle with that. We're not having the financial problem where it kind of takes the choice away - you must give me rent money because I need it to pay bills - so that's not the issue for us.

MARTIN: The issue is what's the right teaching tool at this point?

IVEY: Exactly.

MARTIN: And I get the sense that you and Glenn kind of disagree on that.

IVEY: We do to an extent because Glenn so much would just rather relieve the pressure on the household as far as space and just write a check, get the boy out of the house.

MARTIN: Another big hairy guy around.

IVEY: Yeah. Yeah. Just, you know, get him...

MARTIN: Big sneakers.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IVEY: Get him an apartment. Get him a car. Whatever it takes. Get him out.

MARTIN: And subsidize the lifestyle.

IVEY: Right. I feel like, no. Let him do it on his own. It helps build strong muscles, independent muscles.

MARTIN: Well, it sounds to me as though this is something that a lot of people are experiencing right now, in part because of the economy and in part because there are opportunities and in part because this is kind of the world we live in. Could I just get a final thought? It sounds like each of you are also still, often when we had these conversations you figured it out, you're sharing what you figured out. But we're in transition on this. So why don't I have a final thought from each of you about maybe what you've learned so far and what you hope to learn next, and maybe we'll come back in a couple of months and talk about it again. So, Jolene? Mm-hmm.

IVEY: I think for me the idea is to not have preconceived ideas for each child that you're raising. My child is 21, this particular one, and he is a very different person than I was and he's different from his younger brothers. So what each one of them needs at every point of their life, whether they're infants or 20-year-olds, it's different. You need to kind of tailor your approach to them.

MARTIN: Dani?

TUCKER: For me I would just advise the parents this has been the second scariest part of my life with the kids. The first one was the divorce and going having to do in it on my own, and this one because now your child is going to be grown. And how much do you allow them to be grown? How much do you let go? And they don't come with a handbook. So this has been very scary for me because am I doing the right thing, charging him a rent? You know, you, everything goes through your head as a parent. But I will say you've got to do something. Don't give up. I've seen parents right now who aren't doing anything and their 20-year-old kids and their 22-year-old kids are still on the couch.

MARTIN: Just let them do what they want.

TUCKER: And they're still, and they're not doing anything. They're just they're still treating them like they were in the 10th grade. Don't do that. Don't do that. That doesn't work for you or him or her.

MARTIN: Aracely, final thought?

PANAMENO: Learning is a lifelong experience for children and for us as adults and parents. For those of us who are single parents it takes a village, as we've said. And so we must engage those that are our support networks, our relatives, you know, my brothers, my sisters-in-law, all of the cousins, the grandparents. And ultimately at the policy level I don't think that we must sacrifice our children's education for the sake of budget negotiations. And so I think that we need to think about that as we think about education and the education of our children.

MARTIN: Okay, I think we do need to come back in a couple of months and see how it's going. Aracely Panameno, Jolene Ivey and Dani Tucker are three of our regular Moms contributors. They were all here with us in our Washington, D.C. studios. Thank you all so much.

IVEY: Thanks, Michel.

TUCKER: Thank you.

PANAMENO: Thank you.

MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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