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When Nicholas Papich graduated high school, he decided to leave his mom’s house and move in with his dad.
Eleven years on — aside from a 12-month period when he worked as a model in Miami — the cozy arrangement still stands. The 29-year-old lives rent-free with his father, Anton, and there are no signs of finding a place of his own.
“I feel like when he turns 30, I’m going to have to take a stand,” says Anton, 64, of Brooklyn. “Nick is clearly a late bloomer but we have gotten to the point where he needs a push.”
According to the latest US census data, one-third of adults ages 18 to 34 live at home with their parents. Some 15 percent of 25- to 35-year-old millennials are in that category, compared to 10 percent of Generation Xers who hadn’t flown the nest by the same age back in 2000.
It’s a growing phenomenon that, when things go wrong, can lead to embarrassing headlines. Last week, Mark and Christina Rotondo, of upstate Camillus, NY, got international attention when they won the legal right to evict their layabout son, Michael, 30. He has lived in their home for the past eight years.
Evicting Nicholas is too drastic a measure for Anton, but his son’s constant presence has given him pause. The photographer recently collaborated on an ironic book: “Get a F–king Job!,” which pokes fun at the trend of lazy millennials outstaying their welcome at home.
“[Moving out] is the next logical step for Nick but it hasn’t happened,” says Anton. “I asked him outright, ‘What if I died? What would you do?’ And he just replied, ‘That’s ridiculous. You have the body of a 45-year-old.’
“He just doesn’t get it.”
Meanwhile, Nicholas, a part-time criminology student, who does occasional shifts as an Uber driver, is quick to justify his living situation.
“It’s a different world than it used to be,” he says. “The problem is that the cost of living is constantly going up and earnings are going down. Most of my friends around this age group live with their parents. It’s just too expensive to afford rent.
“I understand why my dad is concerned — I’m almost 30 and I guess I should be on my own by now — but the reality is that everything costs too much.”
Nicholas’ lament is familiar to licensed marriage and family therapist Allen Wagner, who counsels individuals in similar situations. The Los Angeles-based professional “sees this phenomenon a lot,” in which a kid’s failure to launch takes its toll on the entire household.
“Sadly, the parents are often partly to blame because they’ve enabled their kid to become so entitled,” he says. “I call it ‘learned helplessness,’ and it’s increasingly common.”
‘We have gotten to the point where he needs a push.’
Although it’s fine to live with your parents temporarily while you lick your wounds over something like a divorce, sickness or job loss, it’s another thing when the months turn into years — or even decades.
“Some kids are totally reliant on their parents and don’t know how to become adults,” says Wagner. “My definition of a grown-up is an independent person who supports themselves. But these are people in their 20s, 30s and 40s who can’t afford rent, don’t feed themselves or pay for their own health insurance.”
He believes tough-love measures such as kicking them out without notice are too cruel. Instead, the family needs to implement a multistage plan to wean the child and have them fly the nest.
“Parents can say: ‘We’re willing to give you six months, but after that, you are out.’ During those months, they can help motivate the child to find a job, quit wasting time watching TV or doing social media, and face the real challenges of adulthood.”
Pure economic necessity is the reason why both Lucky Fischer, 26, and Kristina Koller, 23, recently returned to their parents’ homes in Philadelphia and Yorktown Heights, NY, respectively.
Fischer, who works with the mentally handicapped, has been crashing on his mother’s couch since late 2017. He left an apartment he shared with roommates in order to save $300-a-month rent and put aside cash for his dream of moving permanently to New York City and becoming a publicist.
“There’s not much privacy,” says Fischer, who lodges with his mom, Deborah Bell, 53, and sisters Syyana, 25, and 16-year-old Salimatu. “And my stuff is spread out all over the house.”
But his biggest headache is having to wait in line for the one bathroom he shares with three women.
“It’s a case of sucking it up, because I have a long-term goal in sight,” he says. “I know it will be worth it in the end.”
In an ideal world, he’ll remain at home only for the next six months. He will try to pay off at least some of his $34,000 student loan debt, while saving for the deposit on a rental in New York for 2019.
Meanwhile, Koller, a jazz singer, sublet her shared $1,100-a-month apartment in Astoria four months ago and now lives rent-free with her parents, Steve, 57, and Laura, 60, in Westchester. She had been feeling the pinch because she needs to pay her musicians no matter how many people show up to each gig.
She is now holed up in her old bedroom, which is still adorned with posters of her childhood heroes, including John Mayer and Amy Winehouse.
“The pros are that I sleep a lot better here because it’s so much quieter, there’s a lot more space and I’m saving money,” she says. “The cons are there is not as much to do here as in the city and my mom likes watching shows like ‘Vanderpump Rules.’”
Koller has also found that living at home tends to put off guys she meets while online dating.
“Some men think it’s uncool that I’ve moved back home,” she says. “But that’s their problem, not mine.”
Mom Laura has just two issues with her daughter’s return: her untidiness — “she leaves her makeup everywhere” — plus, concerns about her staying out late and driving at night.
“I can’t sleep until I know she is safely home,” Laura says.
Luckily, since the family is close, any problems arising from the new living arrangements can be brought up in open conversation and not swept under the rug.
“We are friends as well as family,” says Laura.
Still, she is glad Kristina’s stay won’t be forever.
“We’ll support her for as long as she needs, but this isn’t a permanent solution,” Laura says. “She’s already getting itchy feet and won’t be here long term.”
How to kick them out of the house:
Parents shouldn’t have to take their kids to court to get them to leave the nest — or, at least, behave while they’re there. Here’s how to create a successful exit strategy.
Set a clear timeline
To keep children from staying stuck rather than striking out on their own, make it clear from the start that the arrangement is temporary, Vienna Pharaon, a therapist at Mindful Marriage and Family Therapy in Midtown, tells The Post.
Determine who does what
Before adult children come home, they and their parents need to discuss how they’ll divvy up household responsibilities. “Parents need to be able to see their child as an adult,” says Pharaon.
Enforce rules and curfews
“The home environment is not an equal one,” says marriage and family therapist Allen Wagner. Parents should be the boss and must remain committed to the long-term plan. “It should never be good cop, bad cop,” he says.
Cut off their finances
“Stop funding your child’s entitled lifestyle by no longer providing them with cash or credit cards,” says Wagner. “They need to learn responsibility and to stand on their own feet financially.”
Be prepared for pushback
“Stick to your resolve, even when the child doubles down and gives you the silent treatment,” says Wagner. “It’s emotional manipulation and you have to ignore it.” Even though your kid might hate you at the moment, they are still family and love you deep down.
— Christian Gollayan and Jane Ridley
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