Can we learn to help our kids transition into adulthood?
I was reading articles about transition into adulthood lately (it’s a big question for parents these days) and I was wondering what adulthood meant to me, what is the point anyway of being an adult, and can we learn to help our kids transition into adulthood?
Here is a compilation of my own thoughts (for what it’s worth) and research I made (for what it’s worth too!)
What does adulthood mean?
When I lost both of my parents (my dad passed away when I was 20 and my mom 15 years later) one of my kids told me “you are an adult now”, meaning that I don’t have this safety net anymore. You know that feeling that no matter what, you can always go back home and your parents will find a way, that you don’t have to worry anymore (I am fortunate enough to have my family now and my siblings and their spouses and that feeling that I will always be at home with them). Yes adults have/need their “home” too.
Adults advocate for themselves in a respectful way. “Through the clash of different ideas and points of view, we often emerge with deeper insights and stronger solutions to the problems that affect us all” said Caroline Hopper and Laura Tavares in their article “Is there a better way to have an argument”. Adults argue thoughtfully and constructively by paying attention to context, taking winning off the table, prioritizing relationships and listening passionately, embracing vulnerability and being open to transformation.
Adults tend to know why they are doing things. Start with the “why” of Simon Sinek. If you know why you are doing something then the what and the how will follow. “Many students work hard but they have no idea why. Or they do not work hard at all because they see no real-world benefit from it.
Adults with a sense of purpose know why they are working hard. They have a vision for the world, understand how their work moves them closer to realizing that vision, and believe that their work is aligned with their deeply held values” said Patrick Cook-Deegan in his article “7 ways to help high schoolers find purpose”.
Adults know that struggle is part of the process.
Adults know that if you want something, work for it yourself.
Adults know that there will be a million choices. They will have to make one and then own it.
Adults know how to manage their emotions and other’s emotions so that they do not make them completely crazy
With all that in mind: what is the point of being an adult anyway?
Lots of my clients ask me that question. It doesn’t look very attractive to them. It is a long list of should, must, do’s and don’ts… and we don’t seem that fulfilled or happy in their opinion. We aren’t exactly great examples for them. They think we are stressed out about everything: finances/education/life and death/drugs/video-games…
So, can we find how to help our kids transition into adulthood in books or articles? Yes and…
I think we need to trust our kids more. I think we make a big deal out of helping our kids transition into adulthood. Tons of books and articles have been written such as “iGen why today’s super-connected kids are growing up less rebellious, more tolerant, less happy and completely unprepared for adulthood”. Those are great books. Don’t get me wrong!
I met a mom at a farewell party last May and knowing I was an Academic and Career Coach she asked me: “I know it’s a bit early but my son is 13 and I was wondering what are your recommendations for him to go to Stanford?” I asked her why she wanted her son to go to Stanford? She answered among other obvious reasons, because he will have a great network! So outside of Stanford our kids can’t have a network? Outside of Stanford they won’t have a great life? So this mom is trying to get her 13 YO son into Stanford like we are trying to help our kids transition into adulthood. Of course it’s our job as parents to “Build(ing) resilience in children and teens by giving them roots and wings” (another great book!) but I think there are other ways as well.
I think we as parents/educators/teachers/coaches have everything we need to help our kids and the kids we are responsible for into transitioning to adulthood by choosing our battles (can’t fight for everything), letting them be teens and enjoy their youth (don’t pile AP Classes and sports at a competitive level plus volunteering hours… it might end in burn-out/depression…), teaching them core values (and helping them find theirs), supporting them in their choices, showing them all the possibilities they have in terms of studies (they can study everywhere in the world, not necessarily in the US or in the most competitive schools) and reassuring them that nothing is written in stone.
My 16 YO daughter came to me last week begging me to let her go to this “once in a year” party on Saturday night while she was committed to going camping with the scouts. It would have been easier to just say “yes”. It would have avoided a fight and an endless discussion about commitment. I want to believe that in the long run it will be beneficial for her.
By trying to understand how we can help our kids transition into adulthood, and do everything by the book, we might miss the point.
The question might be: what roots and wings did we give them so that we can trust them enough to choose the path that will suit them (even if it’s not the path we would have chosen for us)?
Most of us didn’t know what we wanted to do at 19! Most of us who were orphaned too young didn’t know what life was without our parents! Most of my friends from dysfunctional families didn’t learn what parenting was.
It all worked out. We had ups and downs, we made bad decisions and made tons of mistakes like everyone else but we figured it out. I have tons of good and reliable friends today that I didn’t meet at Stanford! And my parents didn’t learn how to help me figure out in books or articles (like this one :)).