Supporting Young People into Adulthood

Introduction

Adolescence is between childhood and adulthood, marked by rapid physical, cognitive, and psychosocial growth. How young people feel, think, make decisions, and interact with the world changes significantly during this period. They explore different things and search for where they fit in their world.

Life Between Childhood and Adulthood

Caring for a young person can be challenging as you support them in navigating this transition safely. Adolescents face decisions about sexuality, intimate relationships, their sense of self, and the challenges of moving towards independence.

The Challenges of 2022

Young people are facing additional challenges in 2022 with the uncertainty of COVID-19, the threat of war, social media, and climate change. A recent survey of Australian young people found that 44% felt stressed most of the time, and 42% were highly concerned about their mental health (Mission Australia 2021).

While supporting young people, I have frequently encountered themes of loneliness, lack of motivation, and inadequacy. They often feel judged and disconnected from peers and adults. Teens respond well to spaces where they can talk without fear of judgment and discuss their inner thoughts.

What Can You Do?

Make Space: Provide a safe environment for young people to explore their expression and creativity. Adolescence is a time of experimentation and exploration. It can be challenging if their choices don’t align with your values. Ask respectful and open questions to gain understanding about their options and, most of all, accept them for who they are.

Improvise and Adapt: Perfection is not a realistic or reasonable expectation for yourself or the young person. Acknowledge that you are learning, make mistakes, and keep trying. Most importantly, remember to look after yourself.

Social Media: Carers often want to remove access to social media for young people who feel out of their depth in this new world. While the desire to ban it all and return to the ‘good old days’ is expected, a total ban is challenging at a time when social media is the primary way for young people to connect with peers and the world. There are many challenges associated with social media, such as screen time, exposure to confronting content, and access to unwanted people.

When Things Don’t Go Well: Adolescence is a time for trying new things, and sometimes things don’t go well. Young people probably already know when things have gone wrong; avoid shaming and guilt-tripping, as this only adds to how bad they feel. Working to remain calm in your involvement is critical. This approach will also help them calm down and open opportunities for discussions, even if you have to wait a while.

Help Them Out of Their Head: When young people struggle, they often become introspective and caught in a spiral of their thoughts. Supporting them in getting out of their rooms and connecting with family can be challenging but is never more critical. Patience and perseverance are essential. Be creative and get involved in activities that interest them. This may mean watching their TV shows or listening to their music. Most importantly, connect as often and positively as possible and reach out to family, friends, and professionals for support.

Conclusion

Supporting young people through adolescence into adulthood requires patience, adaptability, and understanding. By providing safe spaces, accepting their exploration, and connecting positively, you can help them navigate this challenging period. Remember, seeking support for yourself and the young person is crucial for a healthy transition into adulthood.