Loving Young Adults through Transitions and Decisions

College finals week. Laundry mishap ruins a favorite shirt. Misunderstanding with a close friend. Moving out. Wedding planning.

Life decisions and transitions breed stress, lack of confidence, doubt. 

How can a parent help a young adult through transition and difficult times?

Listen first, ask later. People crave a listening ear, especially when things go awry. Young adults are no different.

Text. A short line of encouragement shortens anyone’s long day.

Public praise. A positive public comment, whether live or on social media, adds spring to rough steps. Statements about character and work ethic speak volumes.

Make a date. Invite a young adult to share coffee or ice cream at a favorite sweet spot.  Getting away with someone who can encourage and build up, even for 30 minutes, adds vitality.

Say, “I like you!” Strong words—needing to be heard over the clamor of good grades and long hours—can be scribed on a napkin, placed on a piece of paper under a coaster or included in a text message. We all long to be liked for who we are, not just the grades earned, the kudos given or the numbers accumulated.

Wash a load. Offer to do a load or two of laundry. For students who usually do their own, having someone help in a time tight transition assures fresh socks and towels will greet a difficult day.

Fix a favorite. Nourishment when under stress is essential. Cook up a favorite meal and serve with a listening ear. If the young adult lives independently, offer to drop off something special at his or her convenience.

Ask. One of life greatest questions, “How can I help?” can be a blessing in a “give me more” society.

Surprise them. Drop off a surprise—balloon, cookies and cupcakes work well—at your young adult’s home or office, or leave a bouquet of flowers on his or her workspace, even if that workspace is in your home.

Instant message. In the days of instant contact, make it count! Everyone loves to answer the “ping” and read sweet thought.

Empathize. Send a letter or special card, snail mail. We like our inbox messages, but a letter in the mailbox still says, “I care about you!”

Be a study buddy.  When your young adult is studying hard with more assignments on the horizon, offer to work together at a venue away from home. Take your work—even if it is catching up on emails—and accomplish tasks together.  Fresh space speaks fresh mind.

Life can be difficult, transitions tough to tackle. All of us face them.

I remember one evening, about a year ago, my then college junior had taken up study camp in his quiet bedroom. I had not seen him in a few hours. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the bedroom door open. He emerged, eyes tired, weary. When he entered the kitchen to refill a water glass, I quickly scooped up a few bite-size chocolates and tip-toed down the hallway. My mission—set a few chocolates on his textbook.

Several minutes later I heard him close his door and then reopen. “Hey, who put these there?”

Mission accomplished. I met him in the hallway. We smiled simultaneously.

No need to exchange words. We both knew.  

Young adults, even good time managers and planners, will face transitions and decisions—a natural part of life. As parents when we walk with our young adults, offering words of endearment, a shoulder to hug, an ear to listen, a prayer to share, we are model what walking with someone through difficulty looks and feels like.

As with anything in life, balance and prayerful consideration is needed. We cannot do their course work, take their online exams or show up at important meetings. Most importantly, we cannot fix their mistakes or solve their problems. And if we attempted a rescue, often the solution or answer we fashion is limited to our perspective or vantage point. How much better to help the young adult process the situation and allow them to work out a solution?

Lessen stress of life decisions and transitions, patting a back or offering help. Build confidence, commenting on a character attribute. Fill the holes of doubt with words of affirmation and hope. In doing so, young adults learn how to walk through transitions and decisions with someone by their side, and will be better equipped to stand alongside someone else in the future.