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  • Writer's pictureErika Bugbee, M.A.

Parenting Teens and Young Adults

In certain ways, young adults are very different from us. There’s a lot going on in their world that’s invisible to parents.

For one thing, the typical young person handles WAY more than it looks like from the outside. Like a plant, there’s a big and elaborate root system underground, they’re collecting food, fighting disease and insects, searching for water.

But to the naked eye, they’re just sitting there.

Just today, for example, these are the topics my young adult clients were trying to weather: a secret and silent eating disorder, panic about career paths (a 15 year old), pressure around disappointing the parents, self-loathing that never shuts up, and a "best friend' that's sometimes sweet and fun, then suddenly cold, secretive, and fake.

And today was a short day for me.

Keep in mind that includes a few clients that are coming to improve their athletic and academic performance and are generally stable and relatively un-troubled. Even the young people that are relatively stable and confident are generally much more tormented about certain things than they may let on.

Often parents know their kids are struggling with certain things. But they only see part of the plot, or don’t realize how much they’re struggling.

That’s because young adults don't tell us, the parents, about their problems. We wouldn’t understand. We’d tell them what to do, tell them what to think, or somehow be dismissive. We’d tell them there’s people in 3rd world countries with real problems, tell them they’re being dramatic, or involve ourselves in their situation in order to be helpful.

And many young adults are very private and prefer to do everything ‘in-house.’ Less risk and less energy involved that way.

And because we don’t understand them, we tend to underestimate them.

As a result, since young adults are caught up inside themselves trying to handle things, and we can’t see any of it, they often come across as self-absorbed, ungrateful, and fragile for what seems like no reason at all.

And that, understandably, creates frustrated parents, tension, conflict, and drama. For everyone.

But what parents also don’t see is that just like plants, young adults are also connected to a universal intelligence that guides all living things, which we only catch glimpses of occasionally.

If you look carefully, you’ll see fleeting moments of maturity, sensibility, and compassion that surprise you. A moment when they’re the responsible person in the friend group. A problem they figured out themselves. Good solid advice they give a friend that seems beyond their years.

Here’s my point: just like plants, young adults are heartier and more resilient than they look. And that resilience is like a muscle group that’s getting exercised and strengthened constantly by the struggle and drama they’re handling.

So you don’t have to save or fix them. In fact, what I find is that the more perspective and insight parents have around their kids’ natural intelligence, the less worry, frustration, or I-wanna-strangle-them moments parents have.

And in turn, without fail, parents with more composure, common sense, and clarity respond to their young adults in a way that improves life for everyone in the house

Today’s recording is designed to bring you a dose of that perspective and insight.


This interview was hosted by my colleagues Rohini and Angus Ross as part of their interview series The Soul-Centered Series. For more information about the amazing work they do, click here .

*This is a pre-recorded webinar - and is not taking place live on 23rd March 2021

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