“Nearly 60% of United States mothers and fathers support adult kids!” screams a headline from an Americam website.
The introduction to the story further continues — “A new survey reveals that 59% of US mothers and fathers provide financial support for their grown kids. The study covered mothers and fathers of grown-up kids who are not in college . . .”
The rest of the story continues to highlight the burden American parents are facing in financially catering for their grown-up kids, the financial challenges being faced by the younger generation in the current global economic crisis and the pressure on parents’ retirement savings.
While the above might sound like a Western-centred study, far detached from the usual surveys and researches we are used to that border on elections, human rights abuses, domestic violence just to mention a few, the experiences faced by American parents in looking after their adult kids can actually be shared by their Zimbabwean counterparts.
The question is: Are Zimbabwean parents financially burdened by their adult kids?
With an unemployment rate hovering around 80% and an economy that is slowly recovering from comatose of over one decade, many children have not been weaned from the financial purse of their parents.
In fact children above the adult age of 18 — and in some cases in their 30s — continue to depend on their parents for accommodation, food, transport, medical expenses, clothing and even lifestyle habits.
An American psychologist, Vivian Diller, is qouted saying: “In the last 20 to 30 years, the family structure has become more child-centred.
“Boomer parents (parents of those kids who move back to their parents’ home) were very willing to make sacrifices for their kids, giving them the sense that it would continue until they were on their feet. Now parents are supporting kids’ lifestyles.”
She continues: “This financial pay for children may be a bad thing. There are always consequences to it.
“Because they have been protected, some children don’t learn reasonable ways to manage money, and they run into trouble.”
19-year-old Chris Murenza from the populous Mkoba suburb of Gweru said since he finished his secondary education, unemployment has rendered him dependent on his parents for everything.
Said Murenza: “Since I finished my “O” levels three years ago, I have been looking for a job, but without success. I am still looking for a job and my parents give me transport money (one US dollar to and fro Mkoba) and when they have extra cash to spend I get an extra dollar for lunch. I really need to be independent, but what can I do? At the moment I am financially crippled,” he said.
Murenza’s revelations are just but one in a million of young adults in Zimbabwe who are still financially dependent on their parents, particularly those who are not in college.
But 40-year-old James Chiseko, a motor mechanic and parent had a different opinion.
He said while parents expected to wean their kids when they become young adults, the economic situation in the country has perpetuated the dependence syndrome of children on their parents.
Chiseko, however, had no kind words for some young adults, particularly from the “ghetto” (high density areas) that he blamed for being idle, spending most of their time on alcohol and drugs.
Said Chiseko: “Yes, it is understandable that the economic situation is really bad, but there are certain youths from the ghetto who are just lazy. You wake up in the morning and you find them idling around in the streets smoking dagga and consuming alcohol. They then go back to their parents’ homes and demand food. I challenge these youths to have a fighting spirit to be financially independent.”
Another parent, Ronald Chiengerere had a different opinion. He said it was taboo in African culture for parents to abandon their children just because they are young adults.
He said it was the prerogative of the nucleus family, extended family and society at large to help other family members who are less priviledged.
A social science lecturer from the Midlands State University, in Gweru, Caven Masuku, however, felt that if parents continue looking after their adult kids there is retrogression in life for both the parents and the kids.
He said instead of parents financially looking after their kids, society should instead come up with mechanisms that ensure kids are helped with ideas for self help projects.
He said such ideas should be inculcated from a tender age so kids grow up with a mentality that they do not necessarily have to always expect their parents to financially bail them out when they face economic challenges.
Said Masuku: “The issue of adult kids financially burdening their parents is a challenge not only to the parents, but to their kids as well.
“Even in our context, expectations have always been that children should look after their parents when they (parents) finally reach retirement age.
“Besides there should mechanisms that adult kids are financially assisted to start self-help projects. These ideas of income-generating projects should be inculcated at a tender age and in this way kids can be helped to grow with the mentality that they can be responsible and manage their financial affairs and not to be cry babies.”
US National Endowment for Financial Education president and CEO Ted Beck said of the American experience: “Parents are continuing their involvement longer than we expected. The general sentiment is that financial pressures are higher for this generation.”
He continues: “If parents are going to financially support ther adult children, they should first have a serious talk about their kids’ expectations so that everyone protects their financial futures.”
Food for thought for Zimbabwean parents and their adult kids!