In the last issue we began a series for parents on how to empower and launch your child into adulthood. The key point from our introduction was that the underlying goal of healthy parenting is to prepare sons and daughters to be self-reliant, independent individuals who are at home on this planet and in the culture in which they plan to live. In this issue we will look at the first two of the ten steps.
We look at these two together because they define the need and provide the rationale for the solution. The young person needs to see positive examples of adulthood and of how to embrace a life transition. The beauty is that the parents are normally in their own midlife transition as their child is moving into adulthood.
By the time children reach puberty, the opportunity to "tell them" what and how to live life has greatly diminished. Developmentally, the frontal lobe is awakening, moving them from concrete to abstract thinkers. What this means is that children will begin to form their insights and opinions about life through witnessing the actions of others and from their life experiences. "Finding their own answers," is a part of becoming an independent adult.
What many young adults see when they look at the adults around them is a life filled with stress and responsibility. "Becoming an adult" to the younger generation seems too rigid for their awakening spirits. As a result, they are choosing to delay their commitments so they can live the adventurous life now. They have lots of freedom but run the risk of becoming narcissistic.
How do you as an adult parent provide a good example of adulthood while doing your own transition? Fortunately mid-life brings with it the ideal situation for this to happen. Taking good care of yourself can be the most powerful example you can provide for your adolescent or young adult.
Taking time out to explore the deeper meaning of your life as your kids leave home is an important step. There are many ways to do this. Some are very old. Indigenous cultures used to help people reevaluate their life purpose through a rite of passage called a "vision quest." Each individual camped in a ten-foot circle in the wilderness to seek a vision for their own life. All alone, they fasted and prayed for four days and four nights, paying close attention to what the Creator would reveal to them. Whatever form you choose, by consciously stepping out of the dependent parent role and into the next step, you demonstrate a healthy life transition and living with purpose.
The task of the young adult is to leave the family and learn to live life on their own. At mid-life, the task is to shed the limiting and collective beliefs of your family and culture so that you can leave a legacy for the future generation. If you (as the parent) are still seeking the approval of your mother and father, or are striving to "keep up with the Jones's," your life is not your own. By your example you will be modeling for your children that it is important to conform to the needs and wants of others (to succumb to peer pressure) even if it means denying your passions.
The developmental tasks of young adulthood and mid-life are both difficult journeys. They require a passage into the unknown and a letting go of old identities. Sometimes it is easy for adults to forget about their own changing needs when there is so much focus on their kids. Nevertheless, stepping fully onto the path and recognizing your own life challenges at mid-life is an important step in assisting your young adults through their own life transitions.
Watching you meet the challenges and make the necessary changes in your life can give them the courage they need to change.
About the authors:
Randy and Colleen Russell direct Parent Workshops for Empowering Young Adults and lead workshops and coaching for families and individuals. For more information call 208-255-2290 or visit www.empoweringyoungadults.com.