Some of us dread the thought, and some us can’t wait. One thing is for certain. There will come a time when your child has become a young adult, and they are ready to live away from home. This inevitable situation has been known to wreak havoc on the emotions of many a mom in the form of “empty nest syndrome”. It has also been known to be the catalyst for parents to regress a bit and romp about the house in their underoos. However the parents handle this life-altering event, the young adult is by far the most affected. A complete shift in living environment, newfound freedom, and an underestimated level of responsibility often serve as a shock to even the hardiest fledgling. I have weathered this storm with three young adults so far. In the process, I have invented a short list of rules to live by when you first leave home. Right along with the teary goodbye, I hand my offspring this handwritten list, abbreviated to the word “MALTS”. I would like to share that list with you today.
“M” stands for the phrase “moderation is the key”. Wise enough, at least that’s what my mother said. Surely it makes sound sense. You know – don’t eat the entire gallon of ice cream in one sitting, only exceed the speed limit by 6 mph, leave at least one Coke for your roommate, and try to average more than 3 and less than 12 hours of sleep per day. I’m sure that most of you parents out there can provide an actual example of a time when you did not practice moderation and ended up paying some painful consequences. I can personally recall the time I dumped a gallon of red wine on my sister’s nice white carpet, and the next day had a date with a carpet cleaning machine that was bigger than I was. There’s more, but the memories are still painful (at least for my sister who made the unenviable mistake of letting me be her roommate).
“A” represents a common phrase that is short, but says it all. “Animals are forever” (or almost). Now sure, when you get to be a mom or dad in suburbia, or a career-savvy yuppie in a New York high-rise, then go ahead and get one of the furry creatures from that box in front of the market. However, when they have a severely limited amount of money for basic necessities, no yard, and are rarely even at home, it’s not a good time to take on the raising of Fido. Another problem with taking on an animal in this situation is that they become an instant magnet for college buddies who suddenly have to move and have no where for their Fifi to go! Then, of course, when your worldly college student joins the Peace Corps, guess who ends up with Fido (and Fifi)! The bottom line is, if your kid really needs a pet, encourage them to stick with a goldfish for now.
“L” serves as reminder to be sensible when it comes to making decisions based on emotion. It stands for “loneliness”. The advice I give is “loneliness is never a wise reason to make a life-altering decision”. There are certainly times in most everyone’s life when they feel all alone in the world. It is common for young people who have just left the comfort of their parent’s home to experience varying degrees of solitude. Many failed marriages and relationships, unwanted children, and addictions are the result of decisions based on a person’s sense of emotional isolation. So warn your young adult beforehand to expect to experience these feelings from time to time, and assure them it is a normal part of growing up and growing away. In addition, encourage them to identify the severity of the feeling, and seek counseling if it is persistent.
“T” addresses the issue of trust. My phrase is “trust only those who have proven themselves worthy of your trust”. We all know someone who mistakenly put their trust in another person, only to end up with a missing gold watch or a wrecked vehicle. Young people need to be taught not to confuse charisma with integrity. Given time, moral inadequacies in people’s characters become evident. Encourage the “wait and see” approach to new roommates, friends, and employers.
“S” stands for “save for a rainy day”. Boy, I wish I’d followed my own advice! The idea is to encourage wise spending habits, and to discourage racking up a Fingerhut credit account so you can give everybody in your family (and yourself) a cool Christmas gift. Help your young adult write down a monthly budget so they can see on paper what their lifestyle is really going to cost. Talk to them about unexpected pitfalls that can suck the money right out of their ATM card, like eating out 3 meals a day, untrustworthy new friends, parking tickets, and overdraft charges. Even if they don’t thank you for it, you can always say “I told you so” when they come begging for more cash.
My last bit of advice to you is to sit down and write up the “MALTS” list for any of your young adults who will soon be leaving home. It is a simple, fun way to summarize some wise rules that can make a positive impact on their first away-from-home experience. Then share it with friends and family members who are in the same boat. They will thank you for it. Remember:
Moderation is the key.
Animals are forever.
Loneliness is never a wise reason to make a life-altering decision.
Trust only those who have proven themselves worthy of your trust.
Save for a rainy day.
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