I feel like coining a phrase today. Some big-name relationship writers will note the tendency to write books that help parents understand their adult children’s behavior. He will write chapters trying to explain why such children tend to treat their relationship with the older adults who love them like a Chinese menu. They have a propensity to choose how they will relate to their parents, sometimes as a partner and sometimes as a child. This, of course, drives parents a bit crazy because they would make the opposite choices from the same menu, they choose child over partner and partner over child in a given situation. The big name writer will somehow stumble upon (hint, hint) this blog and steal the credit for coining the term: semi-adult. Remember you heard it here first.
A semi-adult is a child of legal age who is still dependent on his or her parents in some way. That dependency includes, but is not limited to, financial, physical, legal, or moral in nature. Due to the child’s dependency, she is still unable to operate as a peer in the relationship with her parents.
College students whose education is being paid for by their parents are the classic example of what I would call a semi-adult. The conflict arises when the child demands / expects the freedom to make decisions without being willing and / or able to accept the consequences of her action. We tried this when our mid-adult children went through the debit card learning curve.
Conflict can also arise as a parent due to the child’s dependency demanding that the child remain childish in their relationship instead of moving towards partner status. Constant negative comments about an adult child’s decisions that cause the child to choose some type of avoidance behavior are a good example of parents not understanding the nature of a semi-adult relationship. I have to take care of myself to avoid this behavior. My daughter has a job and is fulfilling her obligations (even titles). She’s also on a spending spree. Saving for a rainy day isn’t on her agenda yet. I’m trying (I really am) to respect her as a partner in the way she’s using her money. I have to bite my tongue so often that it is swollen.
There you go; the term semi-adult can now be admitted into the English lexicon. Can someone contact Webster’s?