What should you know by the age of 30

Between 18 and mid 30 : The toughest years of life ever

You did it at the age of 18. The Abitur is within reach, the desired study place is in prospect. You can get your driver's license, maybe you've already earned your first money. Soon you will leave the parental home and then never let yourself be talked into your own way of life again. After all, you're an adult now. But is that true? And do the parents no longer have any task in their children's lives after they reach the age of majority?
Not really. Because the real hardships of life with numerous crises of meaning and orientation only follow after graduation.

“I'm almost 18 and have no idea about taxes, rent or insurance. But I can write a poem analysis. In four languages ​​”, tweeted the 17-year-old student Naina from Cologne some time ago and thus received nationwide attention. Your tweet was shared 10,000 times. Apparently, many people were able to put themselves in the student's shoes, to remember their own insecurities in this phase of life. In the meantime, Naina will have noticed that the problems she mentioned were just trivialities - and have nothing to do with the actual challenges that a young person has to master in the phase of life between 18 and 30 years of age.

You have to take responsibility by your mid-20s at the latest

At 18 you are more free in life than ever before. At the same time, you have to learn what it means to take responsibility. “What then follows is the real step towards growing up,” says psychologist and attachment expert Claus Koch. He has just written a book entitled “Puberty was just the prewash - How young people grow up and find their place in life”. It is a guide that is particularly aimed at parents with children in this phase of life - and helps them to remember their own youth and to empathize with their children's problems.

“The life span between 18 and 30 years affects young people even more than puberty,” says Koch. These are the "hardest years of life" ever. Because during this time it is decided what will actually become of a person. Which way it will go. Errors and failures have far more far-reaching consequences than in other development phases. “You can easily repeat a year during your school days without affecting your later life,” says Koch. But what if you realize at the age of 26 that you have chosen the wrong course? What if your long-term relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend breaks up shortly before your 30th birthday? You actually wanted to start a family.

“By mid-20s at the latest, it's about making far-reaching decisions,” says Koch. The parents slowly turn off the money tap. Suddenly the young people realize that life, as they have been used to since childhood, is pretty expensive. Even those who have successfully completed their studies may only now notice that the hard-earned dream job does not lead to the desired standard of living. That it is not very fulfilling to move from internship to internship. And decisions in love can also have long-term consequences. Very different from what is still the case in teenage years. Do you go from relationship to relationship, or do you look for a partner with whom you can imagine a future together?

In puberty everything is very different, explains the psychologist. “Here you live for the moment”. Today is much more interesting than tomorrow. The school and the parental home form a stable network in which one can move freely, but is always well taken care of when things get difficult. “You have a well-structured daily routine, your parents finance your livelihood.” In this development phase, the question “Who am I?” Plays the decisive role. At 18, the search for identity is not yet over, but there are further questions of meaning. Where do i want to go What fills me What is the goal? And things don't always end well. Some fail in their job search, others in love.

The author knows what he is talking about

And the parents? They are very worried at such moments. Book author Claus Koch, himself 65, knows what he is talking about. He is the father of four grown children. The three older ones are around 30 and the youngest has just turned 18. “I was able to accompany my sons through puberty with relative ease,” he says. But then he also noticed that the most difficult crises in the lives of young people only followed in the years after they came of age. And many parents don't even know how to deal with it. What role should you play in this phase?

Some of them now really developed into controllers, so-called helicopter parents. “They have to learn to let go, but they remain advisors and important companions in their children's lives,” says Koch. An experienced interlocutor at eye level is what young people need most.
While searching through the literature, the non-fiction author noticed that apart from a few American researchers, psychology has so far hardly dealt with the development phase between 18 and 30 years of age. In addition to some popular scientific terms such as “Kidult”, there is also no uniform scientific name for these formative years, which Koch himself describes as the Odysseus years or transit zone. Koch did not find any advisors either, which surprised him.

There is plenty of material in pop culture about these formative years

It looks completely different in fiction and pop culture. Here you can find an above-average amount of material about this moving phase of life, says Koch. “Almost every second pop song is about it.” On the one hand, it's about the limitless freedom that comes to you in your early 20s. Bryan Adams, for example, sings “Those were the best days of my life” in his song “Summer of 69”. On the other hand, one encounters the many crises of meaning that are exemplary for this time. Goethe's epistolary novel “The Sorrows of Young Werther” stands for the dark side of this phase of life. The young Goethe, then also in his mid-twenties, probably knew exactly what he was talking about.

For his book, however, Claus Koch draws less from his own experiences, but rather bundles all available sources, often quoted from studies, sometimes from newspaper articles. He also spoke to 60 women and men between the ages of 18 and their early 30s and around 30 teenagers. How do you define adulthood? What virtues or goals do you associate with it? He asked everyone about that. The interesting thing was that while everyone had their own definition of what adulthood meant, everyone agreed that it was about "taking responsibility". This was the decisive criterion for all those questioned, says Koch.

The author is aware that many topics - such as work or love - are also very normative ideas about adulthood. Is science even allowed to pretend that? Whether you decide to do so or not is up to you. But the trend towards eternal youth does exist. Koch devotes an entire chapter to "Peter Pan Syndrome", the desire to remain a child forever. Some may indulge in this illusion. But that doesn't always happen voluntarily.

After all, studies show that more than 80 percent of 20 to 39-year-olds would like to have children and a family, even if that is no longer synonymous with the desire to get married. Financial independence and a fulfilling job are also very important to young people. But one thing is also certain: Generation Y takes a lot of time to grow up. 40 is known to be the new 30. But sometimes it sounds like an excuse. The 26-year-old Laura, one of the respondents, sums up the problem with a short quote in the book. "Adulthood can be beautiful if you succeed". And who can actually say that about themselves?


In his book “Puberty was only the prewash cycle - How young people grow up and find their place in life”, the psychologist and attachment expert Claus Koch describes and analyzes the important development phase between the ages of 18 and 30. It shows that there are completely different tasks to be done in this life span than in puberty and gives parents tips on how they can support their children in a meaningful way during this period. The book is published by the Gütersloh publishing house and costs 19.99 euros.

On Monday, November 28th, Claus Koch will present his book in Berlin. At 7 p.m. in the Schmalfuß Gallery (Knesebeckstraße 96) in Charlottenburg. He then discussed with the educationalist and journalist Micha Brumlik about the issues of growing up and how parents can support their children during this time.

Admission is free. Please register at: [email protected]

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