Young Adults Are Young

Young adults are just that…young. Treating them like children is inappropriate. Treating them like adults is inappropriate. So the question is: how do we appropriately treat them as the young adults they are?

The challenge comes in trying to understand where to place our young adults and children and adults given so many extenuating circumstances. The late Erik Erikson was an American developmental psychologist. He researched and recorded theories on human development and placed these qualifiers on the different stages of human development.

  • Ages 13-19: Adolescent
  • Ages 20-40: Young Adult
  • Ages 40-60: Middle Adulthood
  • Ages 60+: Maturity

While these stages are not rigidly defined by the range of ages, it is a good filter within which to view young adulthood.

There are certain biological stages that take place in young adulthood: it is the prime of life, health-wise in regards to muscle tone, fertility, agility and endurance.

There are emotional states that make young adulthood unique among the stages of life: having worked through adolescence and figuring out how to belong, young adults are taking on huge milestone decisions in life: what kind of job to pursue, marriage and partnership, children, life goals. There are risks during this time because this is the stage where huge life choices are made, yet made by people with little experience in actual life.

And this is the crucial factor with which to engage young adults in your life. They are faced with huge life decisions having almost no life experience. Seems almost unfair at times. The challenge at this point in life for the parent of a young adult is to learn how to let them make their own choices. Try as you might, you cannot control their decisions or the outcomes of them. There will be pain and hurt and disappointment. There will also be adventure and beauty and wonder. All of it is wrapped in every choice made—some to a greater degree than others, of course.

The significant perspective to come away with is examining your own life. Recall the events and choices you made as a young adult that brought you to the place you are now with your wonderful young adult—and they are wonderful, whether they’re a troubled young person or a veritable saint. Young adults need to experience the consequences and triumphs of their own decisions free of another’s will or desire which is where you come in.

As a parent of a young adult you can give some of these types of supports:

  • Encourage healthy pursuits
  • Listen to ideas without judgment
  • Ask for permission to comment, question, advise
  • Share yourself and experiences with candor and aplomb
  • Let their mistakes be their mistakes
  • Give them space to handle life circumstances
  • Invite them into your perspective

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