In Part I and Part II of this 3-part series, we discussed what some of the developmental needs and stages of our youth are from ages 11-18 years. As our youth grow and develop physically, emotionally, socially, intellectually, mentally, etc., their needs change. The ages of 18-24 are no different, and are a unique moment in time for young people, as they are on the cusp of , or have already begun barreling down the slope of young adulthood. These are the blooming years for young adults and of manifestation for the parents. This is also where they need the space, time, freedom, and wherewithal to really figure out who they are, and equally as important, who they are not.
This begs the question of how do we give them the space to do that while maintaining the role of parent/guardian, especially when a parents oftentimes immediate inclination is to protect, provide, etc.? The answer is- by trusting that the way you raised them has provided them with the right foundation and seeds. Now is their time to truly and fully bloom. In short, it is reaping season for you as a parent, where all of the hard work, continued worry, at times sleepless nights of rearing a child will begin to pay off, and it is where the benefits from your oftentimes thankless job will begin to manifests and to come into fruition.
So, how can we best support the growth and development of 18-24 year olds, knowing that they are no longer children, but who still need some form of guidance more so on life than on who they should or should not be? Some of the best ways to positively support the young adults’ growth and development include a few recommendations that are listed below, where results may not be immediate but as with all things worth having, they will take time before the fruits of your labor and parenting begin to manifests:
- Trust the process- this trust comes in multiple forms: trust that the principles you raised your now 18-24 year old have been ingrained in them, trust that you did a good job of parenting them early on, trust that those principles are at the core of who they are and will help guide them to make wise and informed decisions, and trust that their upbringing has provided them with everything they need to go out into the world to make their mark and to make you proud- you did a good job raising them, now let them go out their on their own.
- Be there– this means being there to provide social and emotional support when it is sought out or requested. It does not mean being intrusive, unsolicited, or overbearing. Give them the space they need to grow, and convey (like, say it- literally) that you are there whenever they need, so that when they do need your help, guidance, and/or support…and they will need it at some point…they know that you are a safe space for them to seek counsel, as needed. So, be there figuratively and literally speaking so that when they need you, they know that you will be there.
- Get to know the new adult version- though you would like to think that they will always be your baby (and to be honest, they will), the fact of the matter is that your baby has grown up, has his/her own thoughts, convictions, values, likes, dislikes, etc. that may or may not align with yours, or they may be a more developed version. They have now taken all of the seeds you’ve sown and created their own version of what you planted. This person may be recognizable or they may not be. Regardless, get to know them as the adult version of themselves, which may be similar or vastly different from who you knew them to be as you raised them.
In saying all of the above, sometimes it’s best to get the experience and/or narrative straight from the “horse’s mouth.” As a result, I decided to interview a budding young professional, to get their take on what it takes to parent a young adult. Below you will find the abbreviated transcript from the interview with a 23 years old student in her final year of college. Her name is Ms. Barrie and she is a college senior majoring in International Affairs. She reflects on some of the things that she deems important based on her experience as a budding young professional in her early-to-mid 20’s…
What are the 3 most important things parents need to know when raising an 18-24 years old?
I think the 3 more important things a parent (s) should know are that they are growing up, so let them. They are not a baby anymore, so you have to also respect their space and have open, not combative, communication with them.
How would you describe the developmental process of young adults, meaning- how would you describe this stage of your lives?
The developmental process for young adults and this stage of their lives really involves them wanting to do their things on their own. Though it might seem risky or scary because parents always want to protect, you have to let them take risk and to learn from their mistakes. Sometimes the best way to learn is from experience, so let them do things on their own and be independent even if it means a mistake is made. Then, they will have the opportunity to learn from it.
What do 18-24 years olds need to thrive and to be successful from those around them during this time period and age of growing up?
They need to take on their own responsibilities and to be entrusted with it, finances included. They have to feel like they have responsibility for themselves and ownership of their futures.
Lastly, if you could give advice to parents of 18-24 years olds, what would you tell them?
As you get older, so do your kids. Things are going to be harder at some point- that’s a part of life- but there is always a lesson to be learned. Responsibility is learned through experience, and through trial and error. Give your young adult the opportunity to take care of themselves so that they can then know, on their own, how to take care of others. Parents should do the same too, leading by example.
These are some nuggets, words of wisdom, and tips for adapting to the 18-24 year old young adult you may now have, as the parent. What are some tips, recommendations, or suggestions you have based on personal experience or in general?