Parents, You Are Wise Again

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I am a parent of two emerging adults. If you caught my article last month about parenting skills, you would have heard that term before. It is a fairly new theory of development that applies to our youngest adults, beginning in their late teens to mid/late twenties. These individuals are relatively independent but not yet holding the responsibilities largely associated with adulthood, like mortgages and children.

In the 1970s in America, it was common to be married by the age of twenty-one. Seven years later, the age had moved to twenty-five. More Americans attend tech school, college, or university than ever, prolonging gainful employment. 

Today’s newest adults are continuing this trend of postponing enduring responsibilities, somewhat evidenced by the average age of marriage now approaching thirty. We can say they are approaching adulthood but are not yet into the developmental stage that follows adolescence, young adults.

Emerging adults are in a period of testing and exploration in areas of love, career, identity, and worldview. They may live at home (or return home) and be financially and emotionally dependent on caregivers at some level. But this time is full of change and instability. These adults have a unique freedom from authority with fewer of the responsibilities that encumbered the generations before them. Therefore, they are more socially experimental and likely to engage in risky behaviors. 

Emerging adults require caregiver support. They are making significant decisions that will affect the rest of their lives. It can be a stressful and complex time, even harder for emerging adults who do not have the support of at least one caring adult in their life. 

Caregivers should support the well-being of the emerging adults they are launching. Offer stability and reliability. This means we are not finished parenting on that eighteenth birthday. We will continue to be called upon for advice and support. This may be a listening session, a counseling session, or an invitation to give advice, but take care; unfollowed advice does not mean it wasn’t considered as a viable option. Keep those communication lines open. 

The words of Mark Twain ring true, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

Use your newfound wisdom to meet your goal. It remains the same as the day the child was born; to help grow a well-functioning member of society. You are not there, but you are in the final stretch!

For information and resources on this topic, please contact Pam Kerley, the 4-H Program Assistant for North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center. 4-H is a positive youth development program offering programs that suit a variety of backgrounds, interests, budgets, and schedules. From in-school to after-school, clubs to camps, 4-H programs are available in Lee County, and we welcome children who want to have fun, learn and grow. In North Carolina, 4-H is brought to you by the NC State Cooperative Extension. N.C. Cooperative Extension’s experts and educators share university knowledge, information, and tools you can use daily to improve your life.