Emerging adulthood is a time of transition. As a child, you possess a sense of optimism– the world is your oyster. Infinite possibilities lie ahead of you, and it’s possible to attain whichever one you set your heart on. Upon entering adulthood, you begin to blend that child-like optimism with hard-earned pragmatism.

As a parent, you have lived through and survived this transition. You have the benefit of being able to look at your emerging adulthood with 20/20 hindsight. Your emerging adult child could certainly benefit from the lessons you learned. However, you don’t want to alienate them by pushing unsolicited life lessons on them. So how do you help your emerging adult begin to be more realistic about the future?

What is “Realistic”?

In many cases, “realistic” is in the eye of the beholder. Your child may declare they are dedicating all their time and energy to becoming a professional video gamer or a You Tube celebrity. For their generation, this goal probably sounds at least semi-realistic. Meanwhile, you’re hitting the panic button. This disconnect can make parent-child communication feel like a minefield. The first step for you may be a “realistic” assessment of how you can be useful.

How to Help Your Emerging Adult Child Be More Realistic About Their Future

1. Learn to Truly Listen and Validate

You’ve reached a time when your child expects to be taken seriously as an adult. Put away the language and vocal tones that you used in their childhood. Cultivate good listening skills, become open to learning from your children, and do not dismiss ideas until you have done some work. Yes, they are not yet a fully-formed “adult”, but talking to them like they’re still an adolescent will not help them get there.

2. Do Your Homework About Their Ideas and Dreams

The work mentioned in #1 involves respect. If your emerging adult child talks excitedly about becoming a professional gamer, do a deep dive to better understand what this means. Show them you take them seriously and you’re willing to put in the effort to meet them where they’re at. If you dismiss their dream right off hand, they will accuse you of not knowing what you’re talking about… and, in that case, you won’t because you didn’t do your homework.

3. Reach Out to Others in Your Child’s Chosen Field

You and your child do not have to reinvent the wheel. Find role models who have blazed a path and see what you can learn from them. Your emerging adult is more likely to listen to the cautionary tales from someone who’s actually achieved their dream career versus you. Plus, you may find that the path to their dreams is not as unattainable as you originally thought.

4. Encourage at Least One Parallel Track

If the dream job still seems a bit too unrealistic, encourage your child to continue researching different career paths to keep their options open. Every successful person has backup plans and fallback options. It may even help your child to hear about how you, other family members they admire, or even celebrities had to work a back-up plan while pursuing their dreams.

5. Remember that You Can’t Do It for Them

Adulting can be partially learned via observation. Mostly, though, it is something we acquire through experience. As much as you want to just impart all of your hard-earned wisdom to your child, it won’t be as helpful as allowing your child to live the life lessons, just as you had. It’s tough to feel like you’re sitting back and doing nothing. But, in reality, you’re giving your emerging adult invaluable opportunities to learn for themselves what’s realistic and what’s idealistic.

You May Need a “Reality Counselor”

Every parent-child relationship is fraught with baggage. The intimate history of this connection is, by itself, a potential obstacle. Parents want their children to thrive but may sometimes be too close to the situation to offer a full range of input. This is why so many choose therapy. You and your child may attend sessions together or, more commonly, your emerging adult can engage in individual therapy. Either way, you will both gain the benefit of an experienced, unbiased, and skilled perspective.

I can help serve as a guide during this delicate transition period. Both you and your child deserve a confidant and mentor as you manage and navigate this challenging new chapter of your lives. Please read more about parenting an emerging adult and contact me soon for a free 20 minute consultation.