We all want our children to grow to become responsible, competent, and confident adults.
But what exactly does that look like, and how do we get there?
Adulting is a term that’s been bantered around rather frequently now and is used by young adults to describe their new roles and experiences. Often, this is done with humour and tagged onto chores you have to pick up, new financial commitments and so on.
But more than these things, young adulthood is also about stepping up – stepping into bigger responsibilities, wider social circles and navigating what the big (and sometimes scary) world means for you as an individual.
Focus on the Family Singapore spoke with two young adults, Nicole Soh, 20, and Jakin Tan, 21, recently on IG Live, on this topic. Here, they share from a young adult’s perspective what adulting looks like, and some tips on how you can set your teen up for success in navigating this life transition and beyond.
Tip #1: Create a safe space for conversations
As Nicole is graduating very soon from polytechnic, for her, adulting for her means making a lot of big decisions about school and career.
She recalled the time when she had to help her dad see the merits of a polytechnic education. Prior to this decision, she felt that conversations with her dad revolved mostly around grades. But as she became more intentional about engaging him in other matters, she found him gradually becoming more open about her pursuing a polytechnic education. Today, she appreciates that she has a safe space to discuss with her parents about the things she learns in school and other happenings around them.
As for mum, Nicole is most appreciative of how she would ask probing questions as she was growing up, questions that would help her to form her own opinions on things, and to have greater clarity on why she wants to make certain choices.
She said, “Dad and mum played different roles in my growing up years. I appreciate that they are able to bring very unique approaches to the table. And that they are willing to discuss things, and go back and forth with me.”
Tip #2: Give them opportunities to make decisions
Jakin is currently waiting to start his university studies in linguistics. But he still remembers vividly how his parents empowered him from young to make his own choices and weighing the pros and cons of each option. (He even kept the notebook he wrote in when deciding on whether to opt for homeschooling or formal schooling!)
He credits his parents for instilling in him a strong sense of independence, and thinks it has helped him to be able to make his own choices, including understanding the “whys” that go into each decision.
Tip #3: Let go, gradually
Jakin described the process of letting go he witnessed in his parents when his elder brother started university, “Because my elder brother is living in a university hall and only comes back on weekends, so a lot of the time he’s living his own life. So I’ve seen my parents be able to chill, and recognise that they have no control over the choices he makes in school. All they can do is just trust that their parenting has been good enough.”
“Now it’s my turn. When I make my own choices, I will have certain reasons, and if I explain it to them, they will let me do what I think is best for myself.”
Nicole chimed in, “If you have younger teens aged 13-14, like just starting secondary school, not only do they have the world to explore, but there are also the dangers of the world. So, it’s totally valid and understandable to be a helicopter parent, to make sure the child is safe.”
“So, on one hand, there are some things parents cannot be there 24/7. On the other hand, there are also instances where the kid wants to hang on for a little bit longer. I think when we have the foundation, we won’t be easily swayed and we know we can always come home to our family, where it’s a safe space.”
“As parents, it’s natural to worry,” Jakin added, “but instead of telling your child not to do this or that, just educate them on what’s good and bad. Your kid will find out anyway, whether it’s about porn or sex, so it’s better to guide them as it will teach them how to make logical decisions.”
Very often, parents may feel guilty for not doing enough. But very often, we already feel very loved when you’re just sitting there beside us, listening to us share about our day.
Tip #4: Sit beside them and listen
It doesn’t mean that parents always have to do the hard work of education or encouraging our teens. Most of the time, our quiet presence is enough.
As Nicole said, “Very often, parents may feel guilty for not doing enough. But very often, we already feel very loved when you’re just sitting there beside us, listening to us share about our day.”
As parents, it can be hard to restrain ourselves from jumping in and making big decisions for our children, so we can “save” them from making mistakes. But if we look at the longer term, we may begin to see the benefit of allowing them some leeway as they grow to make certain choices and to raise their own viewpoints.
By providing a safe space for conversations and heartfelt sharing to take place in the home, we are actually helping them gain a strong sense of self and identity, promoting confidence and responsibility, while also building a healthy parent-child relationship.
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