being young can be tough, and not always this much relaxation and fun!
We usually think in terms of development as clear stages where learning and psychological growth happens stage by stage, the baby becomes the child becomes, who grows into a teen, and the teen becomes an adult, modes of behaviour and ability. The reality is much, much more complex!
I remember when I first came across developmental psychology, I was fascinated by the challenges and how beautifully intricate and subtle the growth happens in humans. Many factors influence, positively and negatively the child and young person. The environment, including the quality of the relationships , play a huge part, but let’s not forget the genetic factors too!
This post focus on a period of young people development that I see as being overlooked and many times, totally ignored in society, unfortunately by professionals too! The young adults from, 18 to 25.
I came to work with this fantastic group of people, when doing a project to support students from Angola in the UK, more on this on another post! And I have learned so much!
One of the biggest challenges they faced was the expectations , many times unrealistic ones , about how they should behave. I am always weary of what the word “should” implies, behave like adults , manage all their lives responsibility and, the worst one for me : enjoy their youth, as if it was so easy to have a good time , just because you are young and living the student life…
I guess what I learned reflecting on my own experiences, is that although technically when we reach the ripe age of 18, we can perform most tasks as, let’s say a 30 year old. In reality this isn’t true, very important structures of the brain only fully mature by around 25. Important skills such a planning, making strategic choices, moral judgement, and others. It’s a bit like having a very sophisticated computer with all the best programs installed but the person behind the machine needs to learn to use the programmes efficiently. This only comes from practice, right?
The learning process will inevitably involve mistakes, and adjustments based on these mistakes until aha… I mastered this… to a certain degree of course, as we continue learning and adjusting as we grow more mature into adulthood, some of us anyway!
My point is that a lot of pain, distress and anxiety is caused by the expectation from the young person themselves and the others around that because they are now adults they should be able to manage, they shouldn’t have meltdowns. More empathy, and gentle loving holding is needed to really understand the challenges and joys of being young and inexperienced.
We need to tell our young adults, that fear and anxiety are part of this incredible period of their lives, as they venture into unknown territory and start to make steps towards real independence. Their mistakes are the proof they are being brave, they are out there living their lives and having faith that something will work out! Let’s celebrate them for their courage and love them in their vulnerability.