How to Support your Child’s Transition to Adulthood

How to Support your Child’s Transition to Adulthood

 

It’s a parent’s job to teach their children, encourage their children, and prepare their children for everything the world might throw at them when they become adults. But what happens when adulthood finally arrives?

Some parents find it difficult to let their children go into the world as young adults, and some parents find that their children aren’t as prepared as they had hoped.

 

Start preparing your child early

Adolescence ends and young adulthood begins in the “early to mid-twenties when a young person becomes psychologically, socially and economically independent,” states Carl E Pickhardt Ph.D. in a Psychology Today article.

So it’s best to start preparing your child for adulthood in their adolescence.

When your child enters high school, they aren’t fully mature, they might lack future plans, and they might go blank-eyed at the mention of a career. It’s okay that your teenager hasn’t decided anything yet. Don’t try to force them to choose a path too early. However, it is good for them to start thinking about what they might like out of a career and their future. Don’t be shy to ask and discuss their thought processes. Encourage them to talk to young adults (older siblings, cousins etc.) who might have more relatable advice than yourself.

Regardless of the path they end up choosing, you should teach them the basic life necessities that will help them when they’re on their own.

  • Finances: There is little formal education in the area of managing finances; thus, parents must help children learn to manage their money. Many young adults find themselves out of the nest and floundering with bills, loans, taxes and budgeting. An article from PsychCentral by Tyler Jacobson  recommends giving your teen an allowance and assigning simple financial tasks. For example, purchasing  their own school supplies or toiletries and snacks. Make it fun, and go with them to the store in case they need support. Don’t criticize or scold them if they struggle, this exercise is meant to help them think about budgeting more realistically. Consider helping them open their first bank account; encourage them to watch or assist when you pay bills or deal with your mortgage; help them create a budget and learn how to manage credit cards.
  • Cooking, cleaning and common chores: These might seem obvious, but you shouldn’t assume what your adolescent knows. Supervise chores to ensure they know how to cook simple and healthy meals, do a load of laundry without shrinking everything, run a dishwasher, jump start a car, change a tire, and anything else they might need to survive on their own.
  • Adult social skills and interview skills: It might be a surprise, but some young adults don’t know what it means to be professional. Go over basic professional skills for job interviews, work ethic and politeness, study habits and conflict resolution skills. Don’t forget to talk to them about the importance of mental health. This is especially important for young adults who leave the nest and take on a new job or begin post-secondary education. They may not know how to manage the stress of a new job or a demanding boss.

 

Find a balance for yourself when your child leaves the nest

Your child leaving home for the first time can be a scary and stressful event for both the parents and the child. According to an article by Christopher Munsey in the American Psychological Association, this is the age when young adults: explore their identities, feel unstable, self-focus, and face abundant opportunities. This can be overwhelming for your child, and as a parent you can help to support them, without controlling them.

Keep regular contact and open communication with your child, but don’t try to force your opinions on them. This is the age where they will make mistakes. It can be hard to sit back and let them make mistakes, but it’s all part of becoming an adult and learning adult responsibilities. Remember when you were leaving your parent’s home, and think about what you wanted from them to feel supported, but not smothered. Offer your support and a shoulder to lean on, but don’t insist upon it. Some young adults will want space, and others will want weekly Facetime calls. If you’re not sure what they want, go ahead and ask them!

 

Remember that times have changed

Life was very different for young adults 50 years ago. A Psychology Today article by Steven Mintz Ph.D.  states, “Following World War II, the young achieved adult status exceptionally quickly. In 1960, the average American woman was married by the age of 20, with her husband two years older. By age 24, most young people had achieved the markers of adult identity: marriage, children, homeownership, and, for men, a steady job.”

This is certainly not the case today. Young adults aren’t getting married, buying homes or finding jobs like people did in the 1960s. Technology has changed, the economy has declined, and social norms have evolved drastically.

Today, it’s not uncommon to see:

  • Young adults living with their parents until their late 20s or 30s
  • Young adults who aren’t interested in having children or getting married
  • Young adults who work brief jobs and spend the rest of their time traveling the world

“A common complaint is that today’s twenty- somethings, coddled as children, are aimless, irresponsible, and emotionally immature exploiters of their parents’ good will, who avoid commitment and spurn entry-level jobs,” writes Mintz.

Mintz goes on to remind parents that these complaints are not unique to today. It’s tradition for older generations to scorn and judge younger generations. It doesn’t mean that today’s generation of millennials is bad or wrong, they just grew up in a different world with different opportunities, and have different values.

As a parent, it’s your job to accept this truth, adjust to it, and decide how to properly support your child in their life’s journey of finding happiness and fulfillment.   If you find that you need helping dealing with the young adult in your household, please reach out to us at Family & Child Development.