As people around me are celebrating their birthdays, I have had a moment to reflect on what birthdays really mean. Most of the celebrations I am attending at this point have shifted from large gatherings with large masses of friends and acquaintances cake and ice cream to smaller, more intimate groups. Groups where we carefully count out the appropriate number of candles to top the cake, and then hope the smoke detector doesn’t get set off. There are other shifts that have happened as my peers and I continue to age, namely we have realized that the morning after our special day we wake up and feel the same.
This doesn’t seem to be the case when the clients I am working with turn 18. There is a sense of entitlement that once they reach this age, they are allowed to treat their parents as peers. I realize the government has determined that turning 18 is significant and that is when one reaches adulthood. An adult by the government expectation means that one can now vote and purchase cigarettes. But, there doesn’t seem to be an understanding that with adulthood comes many more responsibilities and challenges.
There are also shifts for the parents of these young adults. The parents are unsure if they should accept their son or daughter as a new adult and therefore no longer have expectations and rules for them, or if things should be maintained as they were when their child was still a teen.
I often highlight for the parents that I am working with that their child turning 18 can be a turning point in their relationship, if the child is ready for it. For those families who are not ready to have their young adult launch for any number of reasons, then 18 is just another number. This can be a very challenging position for parents to be in when our society says otherwise.
The vast majority of the clients I am working with are not prepared to enter into young adulthood in a successful manner. These young adults have never thought twice about running their own lives and they don’t have the skills to take it on. This creates a lot of fear and uncertainty for parents by not knowing how, when, or where they will truly be able to launch their young adult.
This doesn’t have to be the path your family goes down. There are ways parents can begin preparing for this transition early.
- Give your child age appropriate responsibilities around the house.
- Allow your child to feel the consequences of their actions.
- Be clear and consistent in upholding the house rules and consequences.
- Provide a safe place to listen to problems but do not provide the answers.
- You are a role model for your child. They see how you handle struggles as well as successes.
- Don’t provide so much structure your child doesn’t have time for fun.