On Becoming an Adult
Just what is the process we go through to become an adult? First it begins with anatomy. The brain begins to grow more and more each year as reasoning, abstract thinking, and impulse control strengthen.
Next we look at autonomy. We crawl, stand, walk, run and begin to explore the world.
Exploration begins as we touch, taste, feel, smell and try new things out.
Individuation is developing your own identity, making your own choices, deciding what you want and who you are. These are the essential developmental steps at this stage.
As teens become adults they begin forming their world separate from their parents. They want to spend more time alone. They may live in the home, however their world for now is their bedroom and what limited choices they are allowed to make on their own.
Some of those essential choices they should be making are what they will wear (with some modesty adjustments for girls), such as their own style and feel of the clothing. Most adolescents and young adults say one thing MUST influence what they wear; it must be comfortable. They often lean toward certain colors and styles but that is how they claim their life.
Growing up and becoming an adult is more difficult now than it has ever been. I watch as young people try to emerge on their own path. Some parents are supportive and encouraging telling them they believe in them. Some struggle with letting them go and hover like helicopters making their choices for them, telling them what they will and will not do.
How do children react to parents who make their style and life decisions? I will share my observations from my professional setting in my next post.
Remember the three R’s to parenting: we receive our children, we raise our children, and then we release our children. Releasing seems to be painful for many.
On Becoming an Adult (Part II)
One of my mentors I follow is Alan Godwin. He explains that emerging means developing the ability to think for yourself. When adults do the thinking for you then emerging becomes stunted. Adulting is never completed.
How do teens and young adults act or react to parents making their decisions for them? There are three reactions I will discuss.
The first is compliance. The compliant child seeks approval and becomes a people pleaser. They quickly learn to read the unspoken moods and needs of others to get their nods of acceptance.
The second is the rebel. This child rebels and becomes oppositional, defying authority and any requests. Their behavior borders on truancy.
The third is apathy. These children give up and sink into their protective shell and stay distant from the adults. They are apathetic about school and any requests from adults. They simply turn their brain off. Keeping their distance from adults offers them the space to maintain their sense of balance and oneness with themselves.
Sometimes children combine all three reactions while still favoring one that brings them the greatest relief.
Adulting is about choices, autonomy and a personal self-identity. The child makes the choice to become an adult and then they launch. Their launching results from practicing what they will wear, eat, study, decorate, create, and build. They embrace their passions and interests. They discover themselves first, not someone else’s interests, passions, styles, etc. Experience and trying new things becomes the best tool in the tool kit of emerging into adulthood. If someone else is making your choices for you and shaming you into submission then you remain stunted.
It is a great balancing act for the adult to relinquish control as the teen pushes and pushes for more autonomy to grow up. When you find yourself constantly at war and arguing with your teen it is because you are unwilling to give up control here and there and continue to use the word “no”. Many teens tell me “moms favorite word for me is no. There is not one choice I get to make for my own life unless I live in my room with the door shut and that doesn’t even work – she just barges in without knocking or asking to enter.”
Detaching from adults is a necessary developmental task they must undertake to become adults.
Many adults fail at a job, a marriage, a relationship. However failing at adulting is the worst failure of all.
Bob Dylan asks in his song “How many roads must a man walk down before they call him a man?”
Help them become adults by showing warmth and respect. Honor as many of their choices as you can and attempt to stop forcing them to do things your way and be in your world all the time. Demonstrate sustained interest in their lives and their interests. And understand adolescents don’t become adults overnight. Adolescence is a long journey of adults letting go of control and encouraging new behaviors their children take on the journey of adulting. Receive, raise and release.
May God keep them safe on their journey. They are our future.