The process of your teenage child morphing into an adult is a process that happens over a few years. The unfortunate part is that you don’t realise that it’s happened until they’re standing in front of you, a fully fledged adult. It almost feels like we go to bed as the parent of a teenager, and overnight, wake up as a parent of a young adult. But don’t worry, you are still a parent, even when they become parents.
You may think this article isn’t for you, as your well-behaved and mannered young adult goes off to university. But there will definitely be times over the next few years that will have you looking in the mirror and wandering when things took such a downwards turn.
You are still a parent, and always will be
The first time I came seriously head to head with my son was during his grade 12 year, when my telling him what to do, had him telling me to back off. And yes it was warranted. I had to learn to step from monologues to dialogues! And he had to learn to be an active participant in our relationship.
But four years on, most of the stress of that time has faded disappeared into the past and we are now on more equal terms. The fact that he is unlikely to live under my roof for any period of time again helps.
The teenage mentality lasts from early adolescence until the mid-twenties. Research shows that young adults are using the same parts of their brain at 22 as they did at 15. Thus, a young adult is not really well prepared for adult situations until they are well into their twenties.
As both parents and young adults move into a new dimension of their relationship from dependence to mutually equal and supportive roles between adults. There is inevitably an extended period of stress, sometimes even clear conflict. However, most developmental psychologists agree that your children need you after childhood, and that the parental role moves to being responsive to particular needs, instead of leading the way.
Furthermore, by necessity, many young adults are still financially dependent on their parents well into their 20s, which leaves the young adults in the uncomfortable position of being treated like a child and not an adult. This obviously has its own tension, because in many ways, the Millenial generation reached adult markers (relationships, independence), much quicker than we did, EXCEPT for financial independence.
A few pointers to keep in mind with regards to your role with your young adult:
- Your adult child needs support and not control
- Recognise and respect your differences
- Share your wisdom and insight without added criticism
- Make sure your advice reflects your values and moral authority
- Keep dialogue open where serious discussions can take place
Reaching maturity is a difficult process of life, with recent reports showing that full brain maturity is only achieved in in our 30s and even 40s. However, universally, we all value independence. You can think of your role as two-fold:
- scaffolding -giving the framework to future successes in independence.
- safety-net -care and support if the wheels fall off.
This is a joint exercise between you and your young adult, moving from one life stage to another.
Just remember the saying:
Be careful how you treat your children. They will choose your old age home one day!!
It has been proven through the ages that even as your children grow up and lead their own lives and start their own families is that they will always need their parents. Whether it’s for advice, support or even just companionship. These relationships become less strained as your child ages. Don’t ruin the future relationships because you can’t let go and give them breathing space now. Give them space and let the relationship work itself out.