How do we know when our children are ready to take on the responsibilities of “emerging adulthood?” How can we be sure we have given them the tools they will need in order to be successful in their lives? What exactly are those tools anyway?
Emerging adulthood is a term used to describe that hazy period of time between adolescence and the true independence of adulthood with a stable job, committed relationship, and parenthood. I once presented a parent education workshop in which I reported that the timeline of “adolescence” has grown to include children as young as 11 and as old as 25. It was not well-received, as evidenced by the evaluations! This is a 21st century truth, and college is smack-dab in the middle of it!
In his book, Uncommon Sense for Parents with Teenagers, author Michael Riera advises readers to make an essential transition in the parent-adolescent relationship from manager to consultant. Manager parents, according to Riera, focus on their children making the best decisions, but consultant parents help their children develop decision-making skills that will carry them through college and adulthood.
For many young adults, going to college is the first time they will be on their own and responsible for themselves to some degree. This is an emotional time for most families. Teens can experience a myriad of feelings, from fear to elation, as they consider the great adventure ahead: meeting new people and beginning to discover a world that they will one day lead. Parents, too, are proud and excited, yet anxious about the unknowns. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to keep your sanity as you and your teen figure this one out.
Of course it starts with communication — what good parenting advice doesn’t? Riera looks at communication from all angles and talks about the “hidden benefits” of arguing with your teen. If we, as parents, can stay calm and listen to our teens, we can help them develop skills to be calm, confident, and persuasive with their peers. Psychologist Joseph Allen conducted research at the University of Virginia that confirms teens who learned to effectively argue with their parents were 40 percent more likely to avoid drugs and alcohol than their peers who didn’t argue well with their parents.
All parents worry about alcohol and drug use for good reasons: the short-term concerns about safety and the long-term question: will my child become addicted? Most teenagers who use alcohol and drugs do so because they can; these substances are readily available to them, and parents have very little control over their teen’s decisions around use. They do, however, have considerable influence in their teen’s decisions. The conversations you have and the example you set are the most crucial factors that influence your teen.
This is great news for parents! Riera concludes that behaviors will come and go, but the values we instill in our children will be with them as they “emerge” from adolescence into successful and happy adults.