To all the parents with young adults who are struggling.
Below is a sample of a letter, with names deleted to keep things confidential, of course, from a program we have referred to call Brightstone Transitions. What we like about this letter is the detail regarding helping a young adult with budgeting. It is very hard for us adults of grown children to let our children learn from their mistakes! Yet, it is often inevitable that our young adults will test boundaries and will not believe us when we tell them they are “on their own” budget wise. As you read the example below, notice that the young adult mentor did not rescue him. As mothers, especially, I think we worry that our children will not have food to eat or a roof over their heads. This issue is typically “our” issue and anxiety, and not our young adults. They are often extremely resourceful! And, we all know we learn the best when we are allowd to make small failures and learn from them. The key, it seems, is to provide a safety net without it being too obvious, and to avoid a full blown resuce. One of my favorite sayings came from a therapist who worked with my family. She said, “Louise, you vacillate between rescue and abandonment” (over control and under control). The key with a young adult is to hold a safe boundary which allows them to fail, and to have healthy failures or learning mistakes.
Here’s the letter, the mentor outlines the concept for the second phase at Brightstone. They have done this with two clients so far, and it has been wonderful. It is the true “transition” experience. It gives the young adult most of the power for change, and allows the adult to be truly guides along the way. It is the perfect next step for young adults.
“I have a young man that started in the mentor house, now in an apartment. He is doing all the stupid things that you would expect, but I am able to quickly get him back on track without major setbacks. I had a call yesterday from some parents and I was able to share a story from the young man in the apartment. In the story, the young man wasted his money on non budgeted items. I suspected this, but he was not honest about his spending with me. I took him to buy his weekly groceries. As he was checking out, his debit card was declined. He told me something must be wrong with his card. He was looking for me to bail him out. I pointed out the number to the bank was on his debit card. He called the bank and learned that he had no money left in his account. He was then panicked. We were standing in line and he had no money. I told him that I had the eleven dollars that he had been owed from the sale of a load of wood. With the eleven dollars, he was able to buy rice, Ramon noodles, and toilet paper. He had to put everything else back. As we left the store, he told me how embarrassed he was. I agreed and was able to point out that this is why I made such a big deal about him keeping an accurate register of his account. He asked me to come back back to his apartment and help him get his account balanced. That was a very powerful lesson for the young man that he would not have learned if I had simply paid for his groceries. At the end of my story, the mother told me, “I don’t think I could do that.” I told her I realized that, and that was my biggest concern for him returning home. “