Our twenties are a huge time of transition, and not just for us: there’s a lot of changes and new experiences our parent(s) go through, as well.
Things can get so overwhelming sometimes that it’s easy to forget we’re not the only ones shifting to a new way of life. Most of us could afford to be a little more supportive of the people that raised us, especially now, and you don’t have to have a Gilmore Girls-esque relationship to cheer them on.
Think on this: while we’re contemplating moves to exciting locales, exploring career options, and paying off our student loans, our parents are adjusting to empty nests and figuring out their next steps.
Is there room for variation? Absolutely. We may be completely financially independent. We might still be living at home. Our parents might know exactly what they want to do next. Our parents might already have their international holidays planned and booked for the next five years.
There’s loads of ways to be a supportive force in your parents’ lives, however. Here are a few tips for how to support your parents as you transition to adulthood.
There’s an appeal for a lot of twenty-somethings in moving home and having their laundry done, meals made, saving on rent and other expenses.
Having time to figure things out without the full weight of adult responsibilities is a gift, one your parents might well be happy to give you, at least for a while. It has to come to an end eventually, though.
If you are still living at home, make sure you’re not taking advantage. Share the burden of chores, cook some of the meals, drive your younger siblings around. Better yet, do these things without being asked. If you can, come to an arrangement with your parents about splitting at least some of the living expenses. They might turn you down, but at least you’ve made the effort.
Even if you’re not living at home, you may find you’re leaning on your parents more than you realize.
As comfortable as this may be, it’s holding you both back from moving fully into the next stage of your lives, and establishing a healthy, balanced dynamic in an adult-child/parent relationship.
Take appointments at the bank by yourself; learn to do your own laundry; make a batch of chicken noodle soup when you feel a cold coming on. It doesn’t mean you should never, ever let your parents do anything for you ever again: that can be a bonding experience for both of you. It does mean, though, you shouldn’t take advantage.
Find a balance and learn to do things for yourself. And hey, why not take the load off for them once in a while? Do one of their most time-consuming chores just so they can have a day to relax.
Pay attention. When you’re with your parents, don’t leave all the focus on you and what’s going on in your life.
Express an interest in what they’re doing. Make a mental note of what catches their eye when you’re out and about. Catch those conversational tidbits that make your parents trail off, like they’re shy or unsure. These can all give you an insight into what’s important to them right now and what they might want to pursue.
Some parents, especially if they raised you on their own (single parents are pretty kickass!), may have spent so long putting your needs first that, once the dynamic shifts and you’re living more independently, they feel lost.
I’m not just talking about helicopter parents. I’m talking about parents who took the job they had to rather than the job they wanted so they could support you. I’m talking about parents who poured their energy into helping you pursue your dreams and set theirs aside.
You shouldn’t feel guilty about this — it was a choice they made, and I’d lay odds they’d do it again — but you can do something beautifully helpful now simply by encouraging them to explore their options, to dust off the dreams they set aside, to pursue hobbies they never had time for.
Just make sure not to patronize them: they may have ways of going about things that don’t jibe with yours but are just as valid.
Is there crossover between your interests?
Is an epic bike trip through Ireland on both your bucket lists? While you don’t have to take the trip together (though you could!), especially if you’re more into a leisurely ride from pub to pub and your parents want to set racing records three days straight, you can still join forces.
Maybe your parents have some brilliant advice (from the last time they did this trip) on the best kind of bike for Irish country roads. Maybe you can share some of the knowledge gems you picked up from a workshop last summer on muscle conditioning and healthy, fueling foods.
Supporting your parents needn’t be an onerous task. At its best, it should be a delight! You know how exciting it is for you to be figuring out the puzzle pieces that make up your ideal life, and finding ways to notch them into place?
You can be a part of that process for your parents. You can help bring that to fruition for them. I’d say that’s a pretty fantastic way to start your twenties!