Life Style

Being present but not too much, the delicate exercise of parents of young adults

“When I’m 18, I’ll do what I want…” This phrase, as old as the world, still runs through the minds of many teenagers and sometimes gets involved in the discussion, between frustration and challenge. However, very often, when the official hour of majority strikes, we are far from the great upheaval in relations with parents. A fortiori when we continue to live in the family home.

“I have always supported all the actions that my children could undertake in the direction of their emancipation., assures Antoine, father of five girls and boys aged 18 to 30. But even if they have come of age, I consider it legitimate to intervene if I can prevent them from making mistakes that could jeopardize their future. “

→ READ. The unprecedented weight of parental expectations on their children

Antoine may well know that in the towns where his children study or work, they come home alone late at night, he cannot help himself, when they come back to his roof, in the Paris region, and are out at night, from go pick them up by car. Especially the girls, “To prevent them from the risk of attacks”, he slips.

“A handover to the spouse”

In the delicate exercise of parenting young adults, Antoine constantly tries to adapt to the maturity and needs of each of the children. At the start of the school year, one of her daughters left home to start her studies. No one is there anymore, like last year, to pull her out of bed. But Antoine or his wife make sure every morning by a short text that she is well on her way to her lessons. Likewise, when one of the sons, who had gone to study abroad, found himself in the grip of serious psychological difficulties, the couple did not hesitate to “repatriate” him to the family cocoon to help him get through this. bad pass.

→ EXPLANATION. Parents who are sometimes very invested in their children’s studies

“Basically, autonomy is punctuated by multiple stages, sometimes in different orders: entry into higher education, leaving home, employment, financial independence, household, marriage, first child”, enumerates Antoine, convinced that the main turning point lies in the foundation of a lasting couple. “A handover then takes place, from the parent to the spouse”, he analyzes.

A process that is not linear

“This acquisition of autonomy is not a linear process”, recalls Sandra Gaviria (1), professor of sociology at the University of Le Havre-Normandie. “Today, when the child leaves the family home, it is better not to immediately transform his room into a painting studio! Because it is more and more frequent that the young person takes the opposite path, for more or less long periods. Because he finally chose to reorient himself or because he no longer has a job and can no longer support himself financially. It also happens that the return is motivated by a romantic breakup or simply by an inability to manage his life alone. It is also often in these situations that the feeling of failure is strongest in young adults., notes the sociologist. In any case, parental support over time tends to be prolonged, with an average departure from home at age 24.

As the child psychiatrist Patrice Huerre (2) underlines, the virtual disappearance of rites marking the transition to adulthood (military service, religious ceremonies, etc.) contributes to “More fuzzy” the boundaries of adolescence. “Basically, a lot of fathers and mothers are not unhappy about it, even if they pretend to complain about it. Certainly, the success for a parent is to ensure that his child is able to live without him. But still having your offspring at home is, in a way, to remain young parents. And then there is the fear of the “empty nest” when the last child leaves the family home, the fear of remaining alone with the spouse and of confronting our finitude. “

” Affective dependance “

To this is often added a ” affective dependance “, many parents constantly expecting from their children, even elderly, “Proofs of love”. This often prompts them to set up a “Hyperprotection” which does not promote flight, warns Patrice Huerre. “The young person can feel guilty if the parents have a bad time when they leave. “

Difficult in any case to place the cursor, abounds Emmanuelle, mother of two boys of 19 and 22 years old. “My husband tends to say that they are of legal age and that it is up to them to manage their lives. Me, I can not help asking questions when the youngest tells me that he leaves the Paris region on Friday evening to go to a club, in Belgium… ”

Allow them to grope

What has changed, with the passage of majority, is the fact that she no longer uses her veto. “If I ask questions, it is rather to help my sons to make informed choices”, she believes. This also applies to budget management: “We agree on an amount allocated each month based on needs. And too bad if one of our sons uses part of it to buy cigarettes … I am not threatening to turn off the tap, I just tell him how much better I feel since I quit myself To smoke. “

“Even after their children have come of age, parents retain a form of authority, which does not stem from the ability to be obeyed. With their experience, they are authoritative ”, comments Patrice Huerre.

However, be careful not to understand everything through the prism of their own experience. Because times have changed, insists another child psychiatrist, Xavier Pommereau (3). “Our company providing fixed-term contracts, internships, studios that cannot be rented without parental guarantees, does not give young people the means for their autonomy. It is difficult for them to project themselves at five years old. It is therefore up to parents to support their desire for independence under reasonable conditions. It is up to them to support them morally – and financially, if they can – by letting them grope if necessary. The child is not an investment that must be made profitable as quickly as possible! “


The age at which Europeans leave the family nest

In 2020, in France, young people leave the family home at the age of 24 on average. It is much later than in Sweden (17 and a half years) or in Denmark (21 years and dust). But this departure appears early in view of what is practiced in the Iberian Peninsula and in Italy (around 30 years old), and even more so in Croatia (a little over 32 years old) or in Montenegro (over 33 years old).

In most countries, girls leave the family nest earlier. In France, they do so at 23, while boys stay with their parents on average until 24 years and four months. This can be explained in particular by the fact that in Europe, women generally marry earlier (3 years and seven months) than men. (Source: Eurostat)


What their 18 years have changed in family relationships

► “Moving into my own home, a release”

Kildine, social and family economy advisor, 24 years old

“I got my driving license when I was 18. For me who lived in the countryside, it was essential. This allowed me to move around and thus to work in parallel with my professional baccalaureate then my BTS. When I came of age, even though I still lived with my mother, I paid for my food. I also prepared my own meals because, being a caregiver, she had different schedules from mine. My mother – like my father, to whom I visited every other weekend – always supported me in my projects, my studies. But she demanded that, under her roof, things be done as she saw fit. “The day you get home, you choose,” she used to tell me. Last March, I moved into my own apartment. It was a liberation. “

► “I don’t want to follow the example of my cousin, a real Tanguy! “

Alexander, computer scientist, 23 years old

“As a teenager, I didn’t get along with my mother at all. I was only waiting for one thing: to be 18 to be able to leave home. Then gradually, as I matured, our relationships improved. So much so that at 23 years old, I still live with her, even though I now have a permanent contract. Home is not far from work. It’s convenient not to have to take care of household chores. I don’t pay for accommodation, which saves me money. And then it makes us happy, her and me, to live under the same roof. Probably a little less to my father-in-law, who said to me a little while ago, without putting more pressure on me than that: “Now that you have a job, maybe you should think about leaving home, in a year or two…” I plan to eventually settle down with my girlfriend. In any case, I don’t want to follow the example of my cousin, a real “Tanguy” (1), who at 40 still lives with his parents! “

► “If I do not answer an SMS from my mother for 24 hours, it’s panic”

Married, 25 years old, graphic designer, work-study student

“Coming of age didn’t change much in my relationship with my parents. It was when I was 19 that my life really changed, when I went to study in Amiens, far from my family. It was incredible to be able to act and decide spontaneously, without having to warn that I would not be home for the meal. Paradoxically, with the distance, my mother was less stressed… As I did not inform her when I went out, she did not care whether I was coming home! Today, partly independent of funding from my parents, I live alone, a few streets away from them. We communicate a lot online via a common account for the whole family. Sometimes I don’t see my parents for a few weeks. But if I do not answer an SMS from my mother for 24 hours, it is panic … She then multiplies the phone calls, emails, messages on WhatsApp or Messenger! Anyway, now that it’s done at my own pace, I have a lot more fun checking in or visiting my parents. “


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