Parents can also help just by being available for advice and support as their 20-somethings figure out how to find a good job and decide whether to go back to school. Inviting them to live at home for a period can give them a much-needed security net as they are dealing with these pressures. "If you feel like you need to take the first job that comes along, then you can just tread water and never really get ahead," she says.
Ray's final piece of advice to parents: "This is a difficult and confusing time. Try to remember what it was like when you were going through it."
Kimberly Palmer (@alphaconsumer) is the author of the new book Generation Earn: The Young Professional's Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving Back.
Corrected 3/3/2011: In a previous version of this story Barbara Ray's last name was omitted.