Adulting in the Modern World
By Dr. David Alexander
Not everyone grows up at the samespeed. A criticism you sometimes hear about the current generation of youngadults and teens is that they seem somehow unprepared for adulthood. As aparent, you might wonder, how can I best prepare my teen to succeed in theadult world? Well, development is pretty fluid and can change from person toperson, culture to culture, and environment to environment. Society may saythat we reach adulthood by age 18, but for many, adulting is not complete untilwell into our twenties and growth often doesn’t occur in a linear fashion. Someof us move in a more wavelike and even cyclical fashion, jumping betweenmilestones and even falling backwards from time to time.
The one drawback of this is thatit means you have accept that failure is inevitable. This is a really toughpill to swallow for most modern-day adolescents and teenagers – and theirparents. They are used to being wrapped in figurative bubble wrap and sent ontheir way to hopefully experience as little distress as possible.Unfortunately, this is not helping them be successful in navigating thechallenges of adulthood.
Instead, more and more of thesemillennial children are struggling to find ways to be truly independent andautonomous adults. The trouble is that no one really taught them how to dothat. The issue here is not that parents aren’t doing a good enough job or thatkids just “aren’t trying.” It is more of a mindset. We have to empower peopleto feel more comfortable making decisions for themselves. Adolescents andteenagers need to be given more opportunities to practice being assertive inhow they express their ideas, holding themselves accountable for their actions,and understanding the value of hard work.
Independence is something thatcan be learned over time, but it needs to start early. Parents, teachers,mentors, extended family, friends, and siblings can all play a role in thisjourney of self-discovery, allowing kids to try things on their own and experiencethe responsibility of their own choices. Taking a few minutes each day toreflect with your son or daughter, after he or she has made a choice, about thepros and cons of that decision and what’s been learned, can really help. Itallows them to tolerate setbacks, learn from their own mistakes, and buildconfidence in their own decision-making skills.
If you have a son or daughter whois struggling with how to navigate this transition to adulthood, I encourageyou to call us here at the Tampa Bay Center for Relational Psychology, where Ior one of our other skilled and empathic clinicians can help guide you and yourfamily through the journey to adulting.