Being afraid to grow up is rooted in a fear of independence and responsibility. Identifying the root cause of your fears, taking steps such as asserting yourself and moving out on your own to initiate change, and seeking counseling, are helpful options to break free from the attachment to being a child.
Identify Your Fears
People who are afraid to grow up typically suffer from a variety of fears, including losing the security of one's parents, being responsible, and growing old, writes clinical psychologist Robert W. Firestone, in the Psych Alive article "Why Are People Afraid to Grow Up?" Leaving home, starting a career, and developing outside relationships are all signs of growing up -- and they can be frightening to someone who still feels like a kid inside. The first step to growing up is to identify the fears that are holding you back.
Take Small Steps
Once you've identified the broad fears that fuel your distaste for growing up, it's time to ask yourself "What is in it for me to give up being a kid?" writes licensed psychotherapist Beverly Amsel in the Good Therapy article "It's Scary Being a Grown-up." There may have been many benefits of staying a child, such as being taken care of, having help with decisions, and not having to take responsibility. However, there are also many negatives to not growing up. Having a place of your own, a career, and outside relationships come with feelings of self-confidence and power. Find a motivating force that will drive you to grow up, and then take small steps in that direction, such as asserting yourself in conversations with your parents, dressing for success, and taking responsibility for household chores.
Take Significant Action
You may find yourself still stuck. In these cases, take significant action, even if you feel afraid of failure, notes licensed clinical social worker Julie Hanks, in the Psych Central article "Afraid to Grow Up." Send out job applications and offer to start paying your parents rent to jump-start yourself in a new, independent direction. Make a plan for your future and enroll in a college course to get you started toward your goal. Open a savings account and set aside regular amounts toward the purchase of a vehicle. If, despite these actions, you truly feel stuck and unable to move forward it may be helpful to talk to a mental health professional about what is holding you back.
Fears about growing up are sometimes enabled or made worse by parents who don't want their kids to leave, notes Hanks. This enabling behavior can be the result of parents' fears of children leaving the nest, or a side effect of other family dynamics, such as an unsteady marriage that threatens to topple if the youngest child leaves the home. Sometimes fears are even enabled by other individuals, such as friends who don't want to be left behind, or competitive siblings who are afraid of your success. When a fear of growing up is enabled by family members, counseling that involves the whole family may be in order. Otherwise, you may find that even when you develop the courage to branch out on your own, there are forces pulling you back into the role of a child. When it comes to friends who are enablers, offer reassurance that you will stay in touch, even though your lives are going in different directions.
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