Young Adults and Loneliness - How Much Should Parents Help?

Starting out on their own can cause some lonely days for young adults.

young woman alone drinking coffee

The media depicts young adulthood as a time filled with parties, friendship, good and bad dates and roommates who are irreplaceable. Consider television shows like Two Broke Girls, The Big Bang Theory, or the ultimate young adult series, Friends. Yet for many young people, the first years on their own can include bouts of intense loneliness. Going from the familiar confines of college or home to the untethered world of working and living on their own, many young adults find themselves disconnected and isolated.

Consider these day-to-day issues

Difficult roommates, skyrocketing rent prices, eating a healthy diet, finding time to socialize, staying connected to churches and synagogues, looking for relationships of substance, getting enough exercise and sleep. Of course, these things are challenging for anyone, no matter how young or old, but for young adults just beginning their grown-up lives, every little thing can become quite overwhelming.

The average age of newly minted college graduates is somewhere around 22-24 years old. Chronologically it hasn’t been that long since they were still living like children. In many cases, young adults begin their careers far from home, family and friends – and even if they live close by, they may be too busy to find time to see familiar faces. At the same time that they are shifting the way they see themselves and the world is shifting the way it sees them – no longer students, now independent adults – they are scrambling to stay connected or make new connections that will give them the social and emotional support they need to stay confident and motivated.

Living at home - easy and safe

For some young adults, choosing to live with their families long after their career is established solves the problem of personal connections, but in the long run can hinder their growth as independent and self-reliant adults. Parents often welcome young adults back home when they are starting out, and it can take the pressure off financially and emotionally – but use care when determining the length of time your young adult children are welcome to stay with you. While it’s comfortable and easy for them and enjoyable and fulfilling for you, this new trend of emerging adults can keep those young people from finding meaningful relationships and having families of their own.

Technology also keeps young adults tethered to their parents in a way that was unheard of for previous generations. According to, research shows that:

“In 1986, about half of parents reported that they spoke to their grown children once a week. Today, 67 percent of mothers and 51 percent of fathers say they have contact with their young adult child almost every day.”

It’s tempting to continue to be the primary source of support and advice in young adults lives, but be careful not to make it so easy for your adult child to get all of his or her interpersonal needs met by you, the parent. Encourage your young adult to take a risk, reach out to co-workers or acquaintances and develop a social network outside of the family. Not only will these steps help your young adult to find the confidence to build a life as an adult, but it will make your young adult that much more interesting to be with when you do spend time together.