Navigating the Storm: Understanding Your Young Adult’s Unspoken Struggles

Beautiful mixed race African American girl teenager female young woman outside wearing a green bomber jacket looking sad depressed or thoughtful

Are you a mom caught in the crossfire of your late teen or 20-something’s emotional storms? Perhaps you’ve been the perpetual problem solver, but now it feels like you’re taking on their frustrations. In the realm of late arrivals and unpreparedness, emotions run high, and it can be helpful to understand what’s going on behind the scenes.


Let’s think about the feelings that go on behind the crap that they’re throwing at you.


When your young adult vents their frustrations, it’s essential to recognize these emotions are likely not directed at you. Behind the anger, disappointment, and anxiety lies a complex set of feelings. Often, it’s their dissatisfaction with themselves, coupled with a fear of not knowing how to navigate situations.

In these moments, they may lack the confidence to ask for guidance directly. Instead, it’s easier to project their feelings onto you, the ever-supportive mom. This dynamic creates a cycle where you, as a mom, end up shouldering their responsibilities to prevent their unhappiness.

Does it help you to learn this?


I want you to know that according to Dr. Mark McConville (author of Failure to Launch) young adults often operate unconsciously from two questions. Am I Capable? Will I Be Taken Seriously?

As young adults grapple with the challenges of transitioning into adulthood, they are continually unconsciously seeking answers to those two fundamental questions. This internal dialogue becomes the backdrop for many interactions during their young adult years.

They may not have all the answers, but their hesitancy to seek your help stems from a desire to prove their capabilities independently. As a result, seemingly trivial situations, like being late for an appointment, become opportunities for them to assert their independence, even if it means projecting frustration onto you.

The constant dynamic of you stepping in to resolve their issues might lead to a point where resentment builds up. They may resent feeling incapable or misunderstood, and you may resent the lack of responsibility on their end. This cycle can harm the parent-child relationship, eroding the trust and understanding that should underpin it.

It’s a delicate balance between offering support and allowing them the space to learn and grow on their terms. Recognizing this cycle early on is crucial to breaking the pattern before it damages the relationship irreparably.

In moments of heightened emotions, your ability to remain calm and detached becomes a powerful tool. Instead of getting drawn into the emotional whirlwind, try holding space for their feelings. If asking questions triggers them further, gently express your willingness to help while indicating you need more information.

This approach invites them to take responsibility for their actions while offering your support in a way that respects their need for autonomy. Staying composed provides a steady anchor for them to regulate their emotions and navigate the situation more clearly.


Summary Points


Navigating the stormy seas of late adolescence and early adulthood requires a nuanced understanding of the emotional undercurrents. Behind the frustration and apparent resistance lies a struggle for autonomy and self-discovery. As a parent, recognizing these dynamics and consciously choosing how to respond can make all the difference.

So, remember to see beyond the surface emotions the next time you encounter a heated exchange. Your role as a mom is not to fix everything, but to guide and support your young adults as they navigate the choppy waters of independence. Understanding their unspoken struggles will pave the way for a healthier, more resilient relationship.