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|Foot on the Gas, Foot on the Brake - Page 3|
For the RYAs:
- What will you miss most about living at home when (not if ) you've left? and what will you be most relieved to leave behind?
- Who in your family will have the most difficult time with your eventual departure?
- What do you still want your parents to understand about you before you leave home and begin more independent living?
- What are you doing right now that's reassuring your parents that you're ready for more independent living?
- What are your parents and family doing right now that is reassuring you that they are ready for you to depart?
- How would you like you and your parents to remind each other that you still love each other when you're no longer living together?
For the parents of RYAs:
- What would you have wanted your parents to understand about your leave-taking that you weren't able to express at the time and that they were unable to take in (and still may not have)?
- How will you want your young adult to address matters when she's left home and finds herself feeling overwhelmed or demoralized? What role will you want to play, should that occur?
- What are you doing right now that's signifying to your child that you believe in his capacity to make it on his own? What are you doing that's signifying the opposite?
- What will be the most difficult aspect of your life, once your child leaves home? What are you doing to reassure your child that you and the remaining family members can manage well, or even better, in her absence?
- What could your child be doing right now that would reassure you that he's becoming ready for more independent living?
- How will you and your child remind each other that you still love each other when you're no longer living together?
I'll initially try to point out that there's a finite amount of "responsibility for growth" in any one family: the more responsibility the parents assume, the less the RYA will take on, and the less responsibility the parents assume, the more the RYA will take on.
To highlight this point, I'll often ask families to work on a tripartite chart, noting in one column the responsibilities that are the RYA's alone, in a second column those that are the parents' alone, and in a third column the responsibilities that are still being shared between the generations. I'll then ask them to complete the same chart as they would have done a year before, and a third chart, which details how they'd like it to look a year from now.
Usually, a reciprocal cycle becomes evident from this exercise, one in which the parents have been carrying more responsibility than they should, inadvertently discouraging the RYA from becoming more responsible, while the RYA has been eliciting this maladaptive parental overinvolvement with his or her underfunctioning. The parents, for example, might still be paying for the RYA's car expenses and insurance, because he's insisted that he needs a car to get a job; but, once he gets a job, he doesn't squirrel away money for car expenses and insurance, squandering it instead on fast food, cigarettes, text-messaging, and the latest cell phone or PDA gadget. The parents threaten to withdraw their transportation subsidy, while the RYA counterthreatens by noting that, without a car, he'll lose his job and have no income whatsoever, leaving each generation feeling that it's being held hostage by the other. I'll gently point out that there's no observable beginning or end to this cycle. The issue is how each generation can reconfigure it by adjusting up or down its "responsibility quotient."
Going over these charts, I'll usually discover that there isn't a tremendous amount of differance between the chart from a year ago and the chart from today—which enables me to point out the ways in which the family hasn't really been evolving. I can then compare the present chart with the future chart, and we can discuss how we're going to get from here to there, and how different things will be if they're willing to make that journey.
Once I've begun the process of conjointly creating a new understanding of their predicament, and taken the edge off of their pattern of persistent finger-pointing, I'll spend some time focusing on each generation specifically.
I'll suggest to the RYA that every competent young adult I've ever worked with who's trimming his sails, or taking them down altogether, has concluded, consciously or subconsciously, that it's better to "fail to start" than to "start and fail." The definition of anticipated failure is unique and will vary from individual to individual, but the need to protect oneself and one's family from perceived failure is what keeps individuals stuck.