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  • daniellesmithlcsw

The Many Transitions of Young Adulthood

Updated: Jun 24, 2021

“Why is ‘adulting’ SO hard?!?” I know you’ve had this thought before (please say you have so I feel better about myself, thanks!). But really, why does it feel like the transition from being a “kid” to a “young adult” is so difficult? Personally, I think one big reason is because of the many changes that happen during this time. I know for me, I’ve had so many life events since I’ve become a young adult, most have been exciting and seemingly positive, but I think that also makes it a bit confusing. If these changes have been positive, then why do they still bring about stress?

The reality is, any change, whether positive or negative will come with at least a little bit of stress. For example, to go from being single to being in a relationship can be so exciting but it also potentially comes with pressure and uncertainty which can trigger emotions like anxiety and worry.

Before I go into detail about some of these potential transitions and changes that occur during the young adult years, I think it’s important to note that not everyone follows the same path in life. Often, there is this idea that life events are linear and need to follow a certain path, this is probably because of upbringing and society, but reality is, there is no “one way” or “right way” to go through life. Whatever path you are on is exactly where you are supposed to be. It may not make sense right now, but my hope for you is that eventually it will.

Okay, so I’ll get to my point now – there are SO many transitions one goes through when entering and living life in the “young adult” stage, these are just a few of the main themes I hear when working with the young adult population in therapy:

  1. Relationships: Let’s be real, relationships are constantly changing and evolving as the people in those relationships are changing and evolving. But, in the young adult stage, often we see the greatest shifts in relationships. When it comes to romantic relationships, this is usually the time when people decide if a relationship is leading to marriage or leading to a “dead end” which may result in a breakup. Friendships also change as each individual person progresses through life and priorities shift, leaving less time to foster certain relationships.

  2. Independence: Ah, independence – the thing most people are so excited for but once they get it, they usually realize it it’s not as appealing as they thought. For most people, during the childhood years they rely heavily on the thoughts, opinions, and demands of parents or caretakers. Days are structured by those who are in charge and these people are also the ones who are usually providing financial support. However, once in the young adult state of life, for a lot of people, this changes and now they must make their own decisions and support themselves financially.

  3. Occupation: During the young adult years, many people transition from a part time job or from being a student to a full-time job (because of the dreaded financial independence I spoke about above). Another stressor may be if you are not sure what you want as your career. Society puts so much pressure on young adults to know exactly what they want to “do” for the rest of their lives; however, a lot of young adults really are not sure yet (& that is OKAY!).

  4. Roles: Everything discussed so far comes with many changes in roles. Some young adults go from being “single,” to being a “girlfriend/boyfriend,” and then to being a “husband/wife.” Or maybe they go from being a “student” to a “businessman.” Another huge life role may be going from being childless to a “mom/dad.” There are also roles that society may view as more negative, like going from being a “married person” to a “divorced person” and, although, you might be confident in this decision, this role change is still a big life adjustment. There are so many role shifts during this stage of life, we could go on and on, but I think you get my point. As I’ve stated before, these roles can be so exciting but could also bring about many stressors and emotions.

  5. Identity: I think this section can connect a lot with what I was saying above about independence because, for some, as you gain independence you also begin to think more about yourself and your own identity, morals, and values apart from your parents. This is the time where a lot of people explore further, who they are and what they want out of life, love, work, friendships, etc.

These are just a very few of the many changes and transitions young adults go through. You may relate to some, you may relate to all, or you may relate to none and that is OK! The overall note to take away is that the young adult state can be hard and if you are struggling with this stage of life, please know YOU ARE NOT ALONE! It is so common, but you do not need to suffer. Contact me today to see how I can help you navigate this stage of life and it’s many changes.

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