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How To Avoid Going Through a Quarter-Life Crisis

Lori Freson

Health, Wellness, & Safety

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk amongst millennial about them having a “quarter-life crisis”. So what is it and what does it mean? “The quarter-life crisis is a period of life ranging from twenties to thirties, in which a person begins to feel doubtful about their own lives, brought on by the stress of becoming an adult. Common symptoms of a quarter life crisis are often feelings of being ‘lost, scared, lonely or confused’ about what steps to take in order to transition properly into adulthood”.

Erik H. Erikson came up with stages of psychosocial development more than 50 years ago. His theory was that at each of these stages, people enter into a sort of conflict, where they must resolve a dilemma. Back then, it seems the task of young adulthood was to find love and settle down. Take a look at the chart below (

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As you can see, he lumps ages 18-40 all together as one developmental stage. But, if you listen to what is going on in the lives of 20-somethings these days, it seems they are facing a different struggle, one that isn’t mentioned here. The days where kids would go off to college, get a good job upon graduation in their desired field, get a place of their own and start living as an adult seem to be gone. Instead, it’s now become increasingly “normal” for college graduates to move back home, struggle with unemployment or even a clear direction that they want to head in professionally. Once they have moved back home, they can easily become isolated from their peers, feel bored and apathetic, and just unsure about their futures. All of this can be very anxiety provoking, or even lead to depression, thereby making any decisions or forward movement even more of a challenge.

As parents, there are things we can do to guide our young adult children successfully into adulthood, hopefully avoiding or at least minimizing any type of “quarter-life crisis”. You thought your job was done when they turned 18 and left for college, but really, as a parent, your job is never done. Here is what I recommend to help kids navigate through this challenging time in their lives:

  1. Start early teaching your children how to be independent. They should know how to do all the things required to live on your own: laundry, dishes, cleaning, etc.
  2. Don’t do for your adult children things they are capable of doing on their own: don’t do their laundry, cooking, dishes, etc.
  3. Don’t make it too comfortable for your child to come back home long term after college. Start taking over their room with your gym equipment or sewing machine. Make it clear that this is not really their room so much anymore, rather a place they’re staying for a while.
  4. Encourage your child to hold down some type of job starting in the teen years and also through college. Current research shows that most employers feel that holding down a job is far more important than where you went to school or even what your GPA is. In other words, they’re looking for people that work hard, not spoiled or entitled brats.
  5. On that note, don’t raise your kids to be spoiled or entitled brats. Make them earn the things they want, teach them the value of hard work and money. Don’t buy them a BMW for their 16th birthday, even if you can afford it. Just because you can doesn’t mean you
  6. Guide them as they enter college. Talk about majors and possible careers and the realities of the job market. Encourage them to make choices that will actually allow them to be employable when they graduate. There are jobs out there. Employers complain that there are very few kids graduating these days with degrees that qualify them for the jobs that actually exist. Graduating with a 4.0 in English still renders you less employable than the kid who has a 3.0 in Engineering or Environmental Science.
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Lori Freson

Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas.