Most of our lives (despite our desires to believe that we are utterly unique) follow relatively predictable paths that are born of our childhood and adolescence. Our beliefs evolve, our needs change, and our interests develop, but all that we are—and likely ever will be—typically begins at the beginning of our lives.
Throughout our childhoods and into our teens, we know little of the world and look for adults to provide both role models and guidance. Unfortunately, this tried and true mechanism for promoting maturity that has served humanity well for many millennia is today often disabled by the increasingly short supply of responsible, reasonable, and caring adults in the lives of many of our nation’s children.
Worse yet, the incredible array of media now quite literally at the fingertips of most every adolescent in America is continually pumping out messages of violence, nihilism, and depravity that tend to overwhelm any helpful parental advice that might still be available. Mommy and Daddy, should either even be a viable presence in that young person’s life today, are no match for the Marvel Comics Universe of morons, reality shows daily modeling rudeness and stupidity on an industrial scale, and horrid streaming pornography that perverts adolescent ideas regarding the possibilities for trusting relationships and loving intimacy as they prepare to enter the critical first decade of their adult lives.
During the course of our twenties we often—and perhaps must—come to believe that we know it all. This wide-eyed enthusiasm and reckless adventurousness is wonderful; it provides the fuel for a period of intense and life changing personal growth that is the springboard into maturity. However, problems arise when the necessary precursors of successful young adulthood—self-esteem and personal resilience—are lacking due to an upbringing that was equally lacking in the unconditional love and firm guidance that every child must have.
Sailing with supreme confidence into our adult lives during our twenties is both necessary and important, but it also leaves one uniquely vulnerable. Youthful idealism and innocence can be readily hijacked by those with ill intent if one enters the adult world damaged by parents who found actual parenting to be nothing but an annoyance.
Cult leaders, manipulators, and con artists find their most willing acolytes among the most fearful and defenseless in this age group. The desperate search for a loving parental figure later in life can cause those who were subject to childhood abuse and neglect to readily fall into dysfunctional adult relationships of all kinds—and these damaged young people are likely to remain trapped long beyond the point where those more confident would flee.
Those who are secure within their own skins can resist those who attempt to steal their youthful energy for their own purposes; those who hit their twenties consumed by the abandonment and neglect of their youth are ready prey for the worst the adult world has to offer. Seeking affirmation and approval, our wounded young are a lost generation of victims who exist on the fringes an adult world that both baffles and terrifies them.
We lament the many pathologies that afflict our society today, but we typically fail to grasp that they spring from a common source: poor parenting that sets up young adults for troubled twenties. There are, of course, those young adults who manage to persevere and later thrive—and they deserve all the credit in the world for overcoming an adverse start to their lives. However, given the national epidemic of young adults boomeranging back home, engaging in drug abuse, experiencing dire mental health problems, considering suicide, and suffering from sexual assaults and toxic relationship problems, it seems the ledger falls heavily upon the side of continued unhappiness if parents do not do their jobs.
Those who smash and crash through their troubled twenties—accumulating wreckage that will follow them into their thirties and beyond—are far more likely to themselves be unable to provide a stable and secure home for their own children. This cycle repeats itself from generation to generation and, like a rock thrown into a pond, sends out endless ripples that are seen every day in our communities, schools, businesses, and military. We can attempt to bandage damaged souls, but this is far short of a cure for those bereft of the love and security their parents failed to provide.
There have always been—and always will be—parents who have no knack for parenting. It must, nonetheless, be recognized that we are now experiencing (and have been for many decades past) a national parenting crisis of catastrophic proportions, and this is in turn producing its own crisis levels of young adults who find themselves unable to cope—much less thrive.
At some point we need to recognize the roots of a great many of our nation’s ills are to be found right in our own homes. No costly government program, psychoactive medication, or new phone app can replace mothers and fathers who devote themselves to raising their children with love and attention while shielding them from the ugliness of so much of our current popular culture. We can no longer avoid acknowledging the obvious cause of so many of the problems consuming our desperate youth, and to continue to do so will only amplify the problems afflicting too many of our nation’s children, adolescents, and young adults.
Starting your twenties while desperately attempting to compensate for the damage done in your childhood and adolescence by absent dad and gone mom—whether they were technically present or not is irrelevant—can lead to a first foray into grown-up life that disintegrates into a series futile attempts to overcome the fears and insecurities baked into your soul. Given the cascading effects of family dysfunction we have seen over the past several generations, it is little surprise that we see more and more young adults flailing as they attempt to launch independent lives.