"Failure to Launch", Parenting

Supporting Your Emerging Adult’s Transition to Adulthood

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Supporting an emerging adult’s transition to independence sometimes feels like a tightrope balancing act. Provide too much support to your child, and they become too dependent on your assistance or become resistant and resentful. Don’t provide enough support, and they may never successfully make it out on their own! Coupled with the fact that the transition to adulthood seems to be getting pushed later and later, this balancing act can feel uncomfortable and foreign. Here you have a person needing your help at an age where you had everything pretty much figured out.

You probably heard stories about your parents getting married, starting a family, and beginning their careers in their early twenties. Your grandparents’ generation probably had everything settled in their late teens. To them, emerging adults (18-29 year olds) must feel like a group of late bloomers or procrastinators!

It seems like this generation’s emerging adults are becoming independent even later, with “fully adult” responsibilities being delayed until their late 20s and early 30s. (We could discuss the reasons why this is the case, but that would be a whole other lengthy blog post full of conjectures from all fields of study)

Instead, here are a few practical tips that may help you find some balance:

Recognize that Your Emerging Adult’s World and Experience is Different than Yours

You may have moved out of your parents’ place, found steady employment, and been financially independent at your child’s age, but the world your child lives in is wildly different than the world you grew up in. The economy was a mess for a while and is still in the process of recovering. Plus, over time, each generation has transitioned to adulthood later and later. It might seem ridiculous to you, based on your experiences, but it’s normal for your emerging adult child to have some pieces of the puzzle out of place. Taking this perspective will help you let go some of the anger and frustration. In turn, you’ll approach supporting your child with a positive perspective and energy.

Check out these tips on how to live with an emerging adult child.

Accept that You Can’t Force Your Emerging Adult to do Anything

You may want your emerging adult to go to college and find a white collar job, but this might sound like the worst idea in the world to your child. You can try as hard as you want to try and force your goals on to your emerging adult, but it will likely backfire on you. All it will do is make your child resentful towards you for not allowing him/her to assert his/her independence. Try this instead.

Instead, Find Common Ground!

Have a discussion about different ideas and possibilities and find something that you two can work on together. Your child will be thankful that you’re respecting his/her autonomy and independence, and your relationship will stay intact. Also remember that working together does not mean you do everything for your emerging adult! How else will they learn those essential adulting skills?


Do you need help figuring out how to support your emerging adult child without enabling?  Contact Dr. Crystal I. Lee for a free 20 minute consultation to see how she can help.

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