Many parents today are coping with what society is calling the “lost generation” of young adult males. Playing video games at all hours of the day and avoiding work at all costs are typical characteristics of any twelve year old boy, but what about when it comes to twenty-two year olds? If this problem sounds familiar, take heart. Before you attempt another failed heart to heart with your son, consider the following tips on how to talk to young adult males about their future goals.
Tip #1: Understand the source of the problem. When you were growing up, it’s quite possible that your roles and expectations were defined for you well in advance. If you are a man, you were told to support your family and hold a responsible job, any job, making provision your primary goal. Your son (which we’ll call the young adult in question for the sake of simplicity) was born into a world where women no longer depend upon men for support, where education has made opportunities much more expansive than before, and where most young people have the ability to actually consider a career over a job. Men no longer are defined solely by their abilities to provide for others. This generation of young males, then, is coping with undefined roles as they embrace new horizons that can make choosing a permanent fate quite difficult.
Tip #2: Understand that your son may not understand that poverty is possible. You worked hard to get where you are today, and if you’re like most Americans that’s because your parents had little to offer you when you walked out the door other than love and good wishes. Most parents today, however, have hefty life insurance policies, savings, property, and more to offer their children one day. Some even send their children out into the world after fully furnishing their first apartments and purchasing them new cars. Most young men today cannot fathom going without, giving them little reason to work hard. It may be helpful to limit your free handouts, and to make it very clear what you will do to help and what you will not.
Tip #3: Offer a bit of career guidance. Many parents are so afraid that their young sons will remain in their basements forever due to a lack of employment that they never grasp the real problem. Most males today need something that generations of males before them didn’t dream of, which is a chance to consider a calling or career. If your son is interested in a non-traditional career that he has a talent for, he may be afraid to come to you about it (such careers are usually reserved for women, who are assumed to take on lower paying jobs). Open your next conversation with your son by asking what he truly wants to do, and try to refrain from negative reactions. Be realistic, but be hopeful and helpful at all times.
Tip #4: Lay down household ground rules. If any young adult male is to plan out his future goals efficiently, he isn’t likely to do so while watching Monday Night Football. If your son is still living with you, he must abide by your rules. Curfews and limitations aren’t a bad idea, and they will force your son to find something more constructive to do, even if against his will. While he may be grown, making living at home with the parents a little too comfortable for him may be a bad idea. As long as he remains with you, his freedoms will be limited to that of any adult depending on others. While this isn’t literally a tip on how to talk to a young male about his future, it may open the doors inadvertently for the conversation to come up.
Tip #5: Highlight his strengths. Young males today are often stereotyped by older males as either being “hard working” or “lazy.” If they are not successful in or do not desire to work in traditionally male fields, they are labeled slothful and irresponsible. As with women, young men need a chance to look at all career options in order to find a job that matches their strengths. Rather than pushing any particular career, help your son identify and polish his strengths and talents. He may just surprise you.
Tip #6: Offer to pay for career building assets. If you’re going to open up your wallet, do so with a purpose. A common mistake that many parents of this generation of males are making is doling out the cash for food, gas, clothing, entertainment, and other needs that their sons are completely capable of providing for themselves. This not only enables their destructive habits, but also deprives them of a self-esteem. Instead, offer to help foot the bill for professional classes, college, initial apartment move-in costs, internships, and other opportunities that he may not be able to provide for himself. He can buy his own pizza and beer. Give him a chance to better himself in an area of interest, or at least help him find scholarship programs or other programs for assistance.
Tip #7: Approach the subject of future goals with sympathy rather than disgust. Many parents enter into conversations with their adult sons about the future with an attitude of resentment, fear, and anger. Understanding that your son wants a future and a life, too, may help when it comes to keeping your cool. If he feels that he can talk to you openly, you may find that there is something you can do to help.
Tip #8: Have patience. Some young men simply need a little time to mature. In the meantime, requiring that your son help out with the bills and start developing his talents is key. Instead of panicking over the fact that your twenty year old son isn’t a CEO yet, consider what he may learn about himself during those “in between” years that could help him make a better decision later concerning his career. The better he knows himself, the more likely he is to be happy in his choices permanently.
Remember, most parents today are still raising their young adult sons. Your role is to help your son cope with being a part of a generation that has more opportunities than any other before him has ever known (which isn’t a bad problem to have). With a little patience, a lot of sorting out ideas, and even more refining of talent and skills, he’ll be confident enough in himself to make those life-impacting decisions sooner than you think.