Three things you must know how to do before leaving home as a youth
LIKE most youths, you probably look forward to the time when you will have the freedoms (and responsibilities!) of adulthood. Some, however, imagine that the best way to gain this independence is to go out on one’s own and experience life firsthand.
Admittedly, the challenges of ‘making it on my own’ have helped some youths mature rapidly. But does one really have to leave home to grow up? Are only those ‘out on their own’ capable of making adult decisions, of behaving responsibly? Not at all. The book Adolescence observes: “Simply moving out of the family home does not guarantee a successful transition [to adulthood]. Nor does staying at home imply the failure to grow up.”
Many youths who leave home in search of independence actually end up economically and emotionally dependent upon their parents. On the other hand, many who choose to remain at home develop into mature, responsible adults. ‘But how can you grow up if you don’t go out on your own?’ some ask.
For some youths, growing up means having their own money, job and apartment.
An adult, however, must also make his own decisions. The youth must possess thinking ability and also be able to deliver himself from bad ways.
Having “wisdom” and “thinking ability” is thus another mark of maturity. And often listening to and obeying the direction of your parents is the best way to attain it. But what if you are running into problems at home? Is it still possible to mature while living there?
Life is mastered by facing problems squarely and endeavoring either to solve them or to deal with them. Nothing is gained by running away from situations that are not to our liking. For many youths, however, leaving home is merely an escape from parents they have difficulty getting along with or who they feel are too strict.
Mac, now 42 years old, recalls how difficult it was for him to live at home: “Dad worked on a construction gang and was gone most of the day. This meant we ended up doing farm chores as soon as we came home from school. When summer vacation came, Dad would take us with him on the job all day. I thought he was the meanest man alive for keeping us from playing and enjoying ourselves. Often I thought, ‘If only I could get away from here and have my own place!’ “But did ‘carrying the yoke’ prove “good” for Mac? He now says: “What Dad did for me was priceless. He taught me how to do hard work and endure hardship. Since then I’ve had far more serious problems to face, but I know how to face them head on.”
Well, simply living at home, however, does not guarantee your maturing. Horst, who left home at 17, recalls: “Living at home with my folks was like living in a fool’s paradise. They did everything for me. I didn’t have to do any of the household chores. But when I moved away from home I had to start doing my own laundry. My clothes often came out faded or spotted.”
Learning how to do things for yourself
Part of growing up is learning how to do things for yourself. Unfortunately, though, many youths just do not see the value of pitching in and helping out around the house. Granted, taking out the garbage or doing the laundry is not as much fun as playing your favorite records. But what can result if you never learn how to do these things? You can become a helpless adult, thoroughly dependent upon your parents. Dr. Richard Robertiello thus advises youths to have a full share in household chores, as this is an “activity that encourages development of an autonomous, independent self.”
Are you (whether a young man or a young woman) preparing for eventual independence by learning how to cook, clean, iron or make household repairs? Now, you may have to take the initiative, especially if your folks are the type who like to do a lot of things for you. However, a young man named Timo who asked his parents to assign him a household chore says he was “astonished” at their positive reaction! Your parents might react similarly.
12-year-old Lucy says: “Lots of times I think it’s unfair because parents don’t let you do what you want with your own money.” Youths often prefer making and handling their own money to living off an allowance, and having a part-time job can be a valuable experience.
But just as important as making money is managing it! Dr. Jerald Bachman of the Institute for Social Research notes that youths often spend their money on luxury items. Those with money to burn, however, often conclude that money is easy to come by and even easier to spend. What a rude awakening they are in for when they move out on their own! Recalls Horst (previously mentioned): “By the end of the month both my wallet and my cupboard were empty.”
So learn how to handle money while you are living at home. And your parents might be superb teachers. They have had years of experience doing this and can often help you avoid many pitfalls. Now, they may hesitate to tell you how much money they make, but they are probably more than willing to tell you how much they have to spend. The book Pulling Up Roots suggests asking them such questions as: ‘How much does it cost each month for electricity? Heat? Water? Telephone? What kind of taxes do we pay? What rent do we pay?’ You may be shocked to learn that working youths often have more pocket money than their parents! So if you are working, offer to make a reasonable contribution to the upkeep of the household.
Learn Before You Leave
No, you do not need to leave home to grow up. But you must work hard while there to develop good judgment and levelheadedness. Learn, too, how to get along with others. Prove that you can take criticism, failure or disappointment. These traits are the true marks of a grown man or woman.
In time circumstances may lead to your leaving home—perhaps you get married. But if you have truly grown up, your leaving home will not be a plunge into disaster. What you have learned there will prove to be a solid foundation for further growth. And though your leaving may even further sever the bonds of dependency, the bonds of love and affection between you and your parents will be forever intact.