For decades, there was an arbitrary end point for adolescence of about 18 years old, at which time the child is believed to immediately become an adult. Once a young person graduates from high school, they are considered to be basically an adult, both with their decision making and their expectations.
But we know now that 18 is not necessarily adulthood. Neither is 19, 20, or even 24. There are periods of constant change, pressures, and struggle as a person starts to “become an adult.” As a parent of a child of these ages (known as “emerging adults,”) it’s not uncommon to find yourself unsure of how to move forward, with questions such as:
- When you should get involved?
- Should you let your child learn on their own?
- When do their experiences merit worry?
As a parent, it can be challenging to know what to do with your emerging adult – when to help, when to leave them on their own, etc. The following are several tips to consider for helping your not-quite-adult child.
Emerging Adulthood Parenting Tips
- You’ll Always Be Their Parent – The first thing to remember is that you are now and will always be their parent. Often parents have a natural inclination to want to help their children even as they become adults. If you see something that concerns you, take a step back and evaluate if you think it will be helpful to address it with them.
- Don’t Force Independence or Enable Dependence – This era for your child should be one of self-growth. So be careful of molding your child in a way that doesn’t help their development. Don’t force independence by refusing to offer help or pushing them away, but ideally don’t foster dependence either by doing everything for them. Give them opportunities to make their own way, and let them make that way on their own pace.
- Create Mutual Strategies – Create some plans with your child that helps them meet their own adulthood goals. For example, you can create a savings account with your child and match their own donations so that they learn how to start saving in a way that’s valuable to them. If they live with you, you can collect rent and put it in a savings account for them that they only get when they are a certain age. Come up with mutual strategies so that they can learn adulthood skills, but are not doing it on their own.
Above all else, simply caring and being a parent that understands their child is going through these changes is going to be a big help, and if you find that your child is struggling with adulthood, don’t be afraid to contact an expert in emerging adulthood to counsel your son and daughter and keep them on the right path.