The road from the late teen years to adulthood is sometimes windy and maybe even rocky. As a parent this can be difficult or frustrating to witness. There are many transitions that can be challenging for young adults including getting out of high school, choosing a college or vocation, staying in college, finding a job or successfully living on their own. Many factors can affect the process like ADHD, involvement with alcohol or drugs or just not knowing what they want. There are however, effective ways to help.
Identify What is Happening
Often, it’s hard for the young adult to verbalize what the problem is. They might not know what the problem is or why they are stuck. Also, when feeling overwhelmed, especially at a young age, it can be hard to even imagine a way forward. Parents can help by asking non-judgmental and open-ended questions designed to help with clarity. A calm approach will help your child sort through the issue and clarify the problem.
As parents, we have the perspective of life experiences and often want to give advice or fix the problem for our struggling young adult. Unfortunately, this usually does not work for a few reasons. First, if we always fix the issue they will never gain the experience of learning how to do so on their own. Also in their quest for independence young adults might be naturally resistant to advice. Try instead brainstorming solutions together to create possible ways to move forward. Without getting attached to any one idea, throw out any possibility you both can think of and see what sounds like a good first step. If one way does not work, try another.
Getting Help for the Young Adult
Fortunately, there are many professionals who can help with appropriate resources. Academic support tutors can help with school, therapists can help with emotional issues, and teachers and guidance counselors can also provide school support. Life coaches who work with young people can also help with life direction and managing transitions. A coach can provide an objective assessment to help a young person either prior to college or after graduating to see what career choices might be best for them based on strengths and interests. In addition, life skills such as budgeting, time management and organization can be part of the plan. For those with ADHD, an ADHD coach can help with issues stemming from ADHD.
The Path is not Always Linear
Most young people do not go from high school to living independently without any bumps in the road. Knowing that there will be ups and downs along the way can make the process easier to experience and witness. Moreover, not everyone goes from high school to college directly or at all. It might not be the right choice if the young adult is not ready. Often, taking a year or so to work and mature is a great option as well as attending community college or apprenticing in a trade.
What’s Normal and What’s Not
Many parents worry about whether what their child is experiencing is “normal” or if it’s a problem. For example, is their alcohol use a “phase” or is it abuse? A doctor who knows your child or a guidance counselor or advisor can provide guidance in this area.
Get Support for Yourself
When you are worried about you child, no matter what their age, it can be scary. It can also be lonely when you perceive that your child is the only one having these problems. Having a supportive, non-judgmental person to talk to can help alleviate the worry and loneliness. In addition, reaching out to professionals who can help you gain perspective and find resources, will be beneficial in finding the best way forward.