Adulting in the Modern World

May 25, 2018 in Parenting
by Dr. David Alexander

Not everyone grows up at the same speed. A criticism you sometimes hear about the current generation of young adults and teens is that they seem somehow unprepared for adulthood. As a parent, you might wonder, how can I best prepare my teen to succeed in the adult world? Well, development is pretty fluid and can change from person to person, culture to culture, and environment to environment. Society may say that we reach adulthood by age 18, but for many, adulting is not complete until well into our twenties and growth often doesn’t occur in a linear fashion. Some of us move in a more wavelike and even cyclical fashion, jumping between milestones and even falling backwards from time to time.

The one drawback of this is that it means you have accept that failure is inevitable. This is a really tough pill to swallow for most modern-day adolescents and teenagers – and their parents. They are used to being wrapped in figurative bubble wrap and sent on their way to hopefully experience as little distress as possible.Unfortunately, this is not helping them be successful in navigating the challenges of adulthood.

Instead, more and more of these millennial children are struggling to find ways to be truly independent and autonomous adults. The trouble is that no one really taught them how to do that. The issue here is not that parents aren’t doing a good enough job or that kids just “aren’t trying.” It is more of a mindset. We have to empower people to feel more comfortable making decisions for themselves. Adolescents and teenagers need to be given more opportunities to practice being assertive in how they express their ideas, holding themselves accountable for their actions,and understanding the value of hard work.

Independence is something that can be learned over time, but it needs to start early. Parents, teachers,mentors, extended family, friends, and siblings can all play a role in this journey of self-discovery, allowing kids to try things on their own and experience the responsibility of their own choices. Taking a few minutes each day to reflect with your son or daughter, after he or she has made a choice, about the pros and cons of that decision and what’s been learned, can really help. It allows them to tolerate setbacks, learn from their own mistakes, and build confidence in their own decision-making skills.

If you have a son or daughter who is struggling with how to navigate this transition to adulthood, I encourage you to call us here at the Tampa Bay Center for Relational Psychology, where I or one of our other skilled and empathic clinicians can help guide you and your family through the journey to adulting.

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