In my early young adult years, while working in a local Seafood Restaurant, I was taunted by several of my co-workers to jump off of the 34th street Bridge that joins Ocean City, New Jersey (an island) with the mainland. Not to back down from a dare, I jumped off the bridge. It’s maybe forty or fifty feet high so boats could travel under it. We never even checked to see if a boat was coming through. That was crazy behavior. Would I do it now? No way! Why would I have done this stunt then, and why do some young adults participate in risky behavior such as this?
Developing Young Adult Brains
We now know from brain science that young adult’s brains are still developing well into their twenties. The part of the brain that is still growing in the young adult years is the frontal cortex, home to the executive function, decision making, logic, etc. Maybe if you are a parent of a young adult reading this, you may consider confessing to some crazy behavior during your young adult years. Or maybe not. If you do – be selective, but let them know that you acted like you had half a brain during your young adult years. It’s also good to remember that we all grow up eventually.
Beyond appreciating that brain development is still occurring, there are other factors to consider in understanding our young adult children. A good starting point is to recognize that we are different. Different does not mean one is right, and the other is wrong. Letting our kids know we are willing to try to understand their opinions and actions can go a long way toward building a better relationship with them. Being able to develop and sustain a caring and open relationship with our young adult children is essential to their successful launch into adulthood. Listening to understand and not judge is the quality we need to demonstrate to make such a connection.
3 Developmental Tasks
As I describe in my book Can You Speak Millennial”ese?”, it’s essential to observe and understand their behavior in terms of three developmental tasks. These include identity, independence, and intimacy. Observe their behavior and ask yourself what developmental task are they trying to master even though their actions may appear unusual or irresponsible. The challenge is to lift up, praise, and support those behaviors that are constructive to these tasks. Concurrently, decrease the attention, reactivity, and drama around acts that may not be constructive toward the accomplishment of these developmental tasks.
Today’s young adults are taking a lot longer to grow into adulthood, and that’s not all bad, just different. Getting married later in life, with a full brain I might add, is one such trend to be lauded.