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3 Steps to Overcoming a Sheltered Childhood

A sheltered childhood isn't the end-all-be-all to dependent adulthood. Start with these 3 steps for moving out from under your parents' thumb.

When an over-sheltered child grows up with really protective parents, they become stunted in their maturation to independently functioning adults. Basically, what you get are children that never quite manage to cut the apron strings even as they reach adulthood.

I’m sure we all know of someone who has been the victim of an over-sheltered childhood to some degree. Their parents may have started off with the best of intentions — after all, any concerned parent would want to make their child’s life journey as smooth as possible.

“Oh, I’ll just do this and this for them so they don’t have to do it themselves.  After all, doing this would save so much time and it’s not as though they know how to do this anyways.”

But what happens with this helicopter parenting is a child with reduced life skills and a diminished ability to deal with adversity.

Meanwhile, in some other families, academics are prioritized to the detriment of all other skills. What happens is that the child eventually grows up into an adult with an abundance of school-smarts but barely any street-smarts. They might be brilliant at their job, but leave them alone for a week and they’ll be subsisting purely on takeout and fast food.

A Google search for “[insert age between 20-30] and never had a job” shows a surprisingly large amounts of results.

Most of these people either dropped out of college or never did anything more after high school. Their resumes are blank sheets of paper and a significantly large amount of them seem to have buried their heads in the sand for a good 3-5 years at the very least.

I was actually quite shocked.  No previous employment, no volunteer or extracurricular activities — nothing except surfing the ‘Net the whole day for years on end.

What all of them had in common was that they all had complacent parental figures that enabled them to waste their lives away. When they finally realized that they needed to get their act together, they find out to their dismay that they have no idea where to start.

The key to overcoming an overly sheltered childhood is to work towards developing skills to assert your independence.

And no, I’m not advocating for young people to immediately go ditching their families and support networks, but rather to start cultivating the skills needed to stand on your own as a functioning adult.

3 Steps to Overcoming a Sheltered Childhood

1. Develop some basic life skills.

These can include things such as rudimentary cooking skills and being able to prepare your meals, performing basic housework tasks to maintain one’s home, and being able to manage your own money.

Sure all of this sounds easy, but to someone that’s never stepped foot in a bank in their life or has never had to cook for themselves, the learning curve can be steep.

2.  Get a part-time job or volunteer in the community.

Chances are your social skills will be a bit rusty after all this time, so this is a great chance to get something listed on your resume. After all, everyone has to start from somewhere. If anything, at least it’ll get you out of the house and interacting with other people.

3. Live abroad or travel.  

For those of you in college or have an opportunity to travel for work or even more to another city, take advantage of it! There’s nothing that forces you to grow up faster than being on your own in the foreign country and not knowing a single soul in the area. I can personally verify that this method works, because when the only person you can rely on is yourself, you learn to get things done quickly.

Finally, for those of us that grew up under such an environment, what I ultimately found was that everything feels delayed in comparison to our peers. Major milestones and life events get pushed back. While your mates are working their first retail jobs the summer of freshman year, you might not gain the experience of earning your first paycheck until your 20s.

When people you know are moving out of home and taking the first steps on the whole “adulting” business, you’re still living at home, subject to your parents’ rules. When those you know are starting families of their own, you’re still taking baby steps towards living by yourself.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow but the sooner you take charge of your life, the sooner you’ll get there. Taking the first step towards independence and adulthood is always going to be terrifying, but the rewards are worth it in the end.

About the Author

Elle Young

Elle graduated with a B.S. from the University of British Columbia and then moved to Australia for a change of scenery (med school was just a perk). In her free time, you'll find her hula-hooping, scribbling away in her notebook or catching up with her many fandoms on tumblr. In the future, she hopes to combine her many passions to create a fulfilling career.