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Nudging adopted young men toward adulthood

On the left Sam, 18 and Jon, 21, on the right.
On the left Sam, 18 and Jon, 21, on the right.
Don Ruth

Stay-at-home dads in the 40s and 50s, quite often are brought face to face with their young adult sons who are living at home. They more than likely are struggling with life, which gives the dad a unique opportunity to help them deal with the savages of adulthood. It is difficult to know if what has been done has been helpful, but nudging them along toward adulthood is necessary.

Adoptive young men have unique troubles because they often are struggling with the feelings of abandonment and not belonging. These feelings cause anger that is usually close to the surface. Many adoptions are open in which there is interaction between the birth family and the adoptive family and children. Although, later on this can be very good and healthy, during these young adult years this kind of atmosphere causes the young man to feel lost about who his parents are—although, in his heart he knows which side the bread is buttered. Of these young men, there are two categories: those in the twenties who have seemed to go nowhere with in life, and those who have just turned 18 and are relatively inexperienced and wide-eyed about life.

Some adoptive 18-year olds are in transition. They are in the throws of becoming men and are battling for autonomy. They are ready to move out, they may have a car trouble as many of them don’t have the money to get the nice cars, and hopefully dads don’t get them the fancy cars either. Many, if not most adoptive young man, in some sense, reject much that their adoptive fathers hold dear, which makes the transition even more difficult. However, strong, firm love is the answer. No one wants to not have a relationship with his son in ten years. So, try to help him as he stumbles through life with suggestions, payment plans, moving out dates, boundaries, and plenty of kudos for the things he’s doing right.

For the 20-something year old that is in transition between living on his own and having to come home for a few months, which happens now and then, there are also struggles with finances, jobs, whether to go to college or not—many times they chose not to go and are now starting to come to their senses about it. For these young men, it is the father’s privilege to nudge them—OK, push them—to go to college, to get out there and search for a job, etc. Help him get his school financing in shape—paying for him may not be the way to go, for if he has lived on his own, he may be eligible for sizeable grants and loans just because he has been on his own. The father must also push this young man to look for work more steadily than he is used to. Have conversations in the kitchen about how and where to look for work—Boys this age don’t seem to get the idea of dressing nice for interviews, having one’s ducks in a row, etc. As the steady, but gentle pressure is applied, progress will be made and before one knows it, that young man will grow into full adulthood independence.

Stay-at-home dads will probably wonder if they have not done it “right,” for there will always be someone who will question the process, but try to keep loving and guiding these young men. The battle won’t be over soon, but at least progress will be made as a foothold has been gained on adulthood for these young men.