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The H3O/Art of Life Blog

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Minding the Children: Charting the Course

By Jamelia R. Hand MHS CADC CODP

Presented by Omni-U Virtual University

Jamelia R. Hand

According to the "American Psychologist,"[1] there is a phase in the human lifespan between adolescence and full-fledged adulthood called “Emerging Adult” or post-adolescence. It is the distinct period between the ages of 18-25 when young adults are becoming more independent while exploring life’s possibilities. It is the period of time where, by all accounts, they have the legal responsibility for themselves, but are still quite dependent on their parents. This is a period where parents are assisting their children with the planning of a gap year, college applications, fees, tuition, health insurance, rent, food, gas, vocational training/employment, and the list goes on.

Parents still have most (if not all) of the financial responsibility for their child/ren during this phase, with limited to no ability to control their actions. And, if you want a healthy, even enjoyable, relationship with your child, you will assume most of the financial risk while providing a safe environment and/or soft landing for them to make high-risk decisions and mistakes. This can be a challenging time for parents. Conversely, this can be an amazing period for both children and adults. When handled with prayer, faith, respect, gratitude, and genuine curiosity, children (and their parents) can be stretched beyond anything they ever could have imagined.

Here is my story:

My son is in his final year of a dual-degree program in Mechanical Engineering and Science. When he was in pre-school, he would spend hours assembling Lego sets and puzzles that were far beyond the age printed on the packaging. He was also very interested in constructing things and taking things apart, only to reconstruct them again. Like many other parents, I enrolled him in various sports, Boy Scouts, life skills, and financial literacy classes. He participated regularly in all hobbies until age 13 when he was going into his final year in elementary school and wanted to explore his independence. He was too young to get a job and too old to go to day camp so, I was stranded. How could I help him to cultivate his independence while providing the structure that we both needed?

My solution started with a "job" at a neighborhood candy store owned by a neighbor. I proposed, to my neighbor, that she would provide him with an apprenticeship in her store. In exchange, I would pay his salary up to the cost of summer camp. In turn, she would teach him the business of sales, customer service, inventory, and other skills. He was required to interview and we worked hard on communicating his life experience via his resume. We practiced interview questions and wore a suit to his interview. He was hired and, within a year, he was promoted to “Mini-Manager.” He held this position for 2 years.

When he reached the age of 15, I proposed the same model, under the same terms, to a neighborhood restaurant. He became one of their most valued employees and continued to work at the restaurant until he went to college. He returned to work at the restaurant during the summers. This arrangement proved to be rewarding for all parties. My son was able to earn his own money and learn valuable job skills while, at the same time, I was able to invest in two local Black-owned businesses. It was a great arrangement that did not take me too far outside of my skills or comfort zone. By this time, my son was preparing for college, and he was laser-focused on becoming an engineer. My career has always been in the helping professions and I did not know how to help him to pursue his goals. My fear of failing him was anxiety-producing for me. I didn't know any engineers or how to help him select the best program. How could I learn engineering really quickly? Needless to say, I was extremely uncomfortable. So, here is my advice:

Get uncomfortable...

If we want them to succeed, our children need us to step outside of our comfort zones. They need us to be well-connected, to have access to resources, and their needs also require us to be strategic networkers. It is not enough to provide love, food, and clothing. "Minding" our children requires that we be competent and positioned to open doors for them based on their interests and needs. It's not just about us- the parents- it's about all of Us: the Parents, the family, the children, and the community as well.

Since my son is a future Mechanical Engineer, I had already begun connecting with engineers, who were willing to have mentorship discussions with him, by the time he left for college. I began cultivating and enhancing my relationships with engineers within the company for which I worked, as well as on LinkedIn while connecting with new engineering contacts. I reached out to local engineering associations to determine whether or not they would be interested in having a student member. My goal was to be able to provide my son with a name or resource within 3 phone calls/emails or less. Now, I can.

I aim to help him maximize the benefits of our contacts so that he can secure employment prior to graduation. He wants to teach students about STEM. We've already identified a couple of nonprofit organizations where he can volunteer until he starts his own. I have also set Google alerts for engineering scholarships so that they are delivered to my e-mail inbox daily. I have kept a running note of local STEM thought- leaders in my phone and I tag them to updates I post on LinkedIn about my son’s academic progress. I'm extremely uncomfortable right now...

I have always been a think-y/feel-y/touch-y type of person who works in "Addiction Treatment and Re-entry" services. Hugs are a core element in my field. The world of engineering appears very sterile and technical, which is outside of my unique innateness. The field of engineering subscribes neither to my academic constitution nor passion; however, I AM passionate about my child and the children who are a part of my life. I have never before been this uncomfortable and I look forward to being even more so. I hope that you will join me.

Preparing for a rewarding career is an important step in a young adult's life, and parents can play a significant role in supporting their child(ren) in this process. Here are a few practical suggestions that can help you to get started:

Encourage exploration of interests and passions as early as possible:

It is essential that young adults explore their interests and passions as well as consider career options that align with these. Parents can support their child(ren) in this process by encouraging them to try new things, and pursue internships or part-time jobs in their field of interest. They also need to research career options early.

Guidance and resources must be provided.

Parents can provide guidance and resources to their child(ren) as they explore their academic/career options. This can include helping them to research job opportunities, assisting with writing cover letters and resumes, and providing access to career resources and networking opportunities. Accept that this might require you to step outside of your comfort zone.

• Encourage education and training: Continuing education and training can be beneficial for a young adult's career development. Parents can encourage their child(ren) to pursue further education or training in their field of interest and provide support in finding and financing these opportunities.

Foster a growth mindset:

Encouraging a growth mindset can be helpful in preparing for a rewarding career. Parents can support their child(ren) by emphasizing the importance of learning and growth, encouraging them to take on new challenges and learning from their mistakes which can provide positive reinforcement and encouragement.

Offer emotional support:

Preparing for a rewarding career can be a stressful and uncertain process for young adults. Parents can offer emotional support by being available to listen, providing encouragement and motivation, and helping their child(ren) manage stress and anxiety.

Supporting an emerging adult involves having an open mind and a strategic approach.

Encouraging exploration of interests and passions; providing guidance and resources; encouraging education and training; fostering a growth mindset, and offering emotional support is only the beginning. The biggest step is the one you will take. The one that requires you to understand a world that might be scary for you.

Accept that you do not know all of the answers and that, whether or not they realize it, the choices that are made should not be solely about them since these decisions also affect you and others. Flexibility and tolerance should be encouraged and exercised.

By taking these steps, parents can play a significant role in helping their child(ren) succeed in their chosen academic and/or career endeavors.


[1] "American Psychologist, "108th Annual Convention, August 4-8 2000. Washington, D.C.

Recommended Viewing*

Recommended Readings*

Gordon Neufeld,Ph.D and Gabor Mate, M.D. Hold On to Your Kids; Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers.

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