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It's OK not to be OK

Updated: Jan 22, 2020

Mental Health is more openly and commonly talked about now, which is great. It’s an issue facing more people than ever, and there are many great initiatives to support those struggling with mental health challenges.

Our young adults are reporting 30% greater levels of anxiety than their parents did at the same time in their lives.

I see the young adults I work with suffering from “FOBO” – Fear of Better Options. They worry that if they pick a career or study path, it may not be the BEST option for them, which causes stress and overwhelm for them. Add onto this the pressure of student debt, social media expectations and parental pressure, and it’s a potent mix of external stressors.

I know, more than at any time in my business life, that for our young adults, selecting a career path isn't just a transaction, like buying a pair of shoes. Our career/study path is intrinsic to how we feel about ourselves, how we see our place in the world, how we want to be seen or considered.

It’s worth placing focus and effort on the career selection process, which is how I help these young adults explore their options and find a solution that makes them feel great about their future.

Growth comes fast for young adults, particularly those moving away from home when starting their tertiary study adventure. For most students, that taste of freedom, excitement about new horizons and feeling of independence is often intertwined with uncertainty and fear, but they may not articulate this or be prepared for it. I certainly remember the uncertainty of starting University and it made me realise how unprepared and naive I was about its challenges.

“If you take care of your mind, you take care of the world.”

Ariana Huffington

When it comes to supporting your child's emotional well-being through the tertiary journey, it's hard to know what to do.

Here's my suggestions:

  1. Ensure your child knows that they should NEVER worry alone. If there was one thing I needed at University, it was someone I could talk to, someone who would REALLY listen to me without judgement, someone who could support me as I found my own solutions.

  2. Every child (no matter what age!) needs someone who BELIEVES in them. Really, really believes in them, no matter what they do or what happens to them. Could you be that person for your child?

  3. Find a communication path that works with your child and be consistent and relentless in using that path - I don't mean nagging them constantly, but calling when you say you will, asking those open questions, reading their body language, giving space for them to express themselves.

  4. Remind them about the issues you faced as a young adult, so they know that if they are facing challenges it is common; share your journey and let them know that you can empathize with their position.

  5. Let them know that whatever issue/challenge/problem they have, you are here for them. Tell them that they WILL be fine, and they CAN get through this. The opposite of depression is not happiness; it's LOVE. Let them know you love them. They may not say anything back, but they are listening.

And finally, remind your gorgeous, special and talented young adult to have fun. Tertiary studies are hard, but they should also be the most fabulous time in their lives (not every day will be perfect, but most days WILL be good).

Find out what REALLY brings them joy? See if they can incorporate a bit of that in their lives; one small change a day can lead to a better, happier and more balanced life over time. It is possible. Life won’t improve immediately; it’s the small, continuous steps forward that leads towards vitality and emotional resilience.

I'm Tracey, the Chief Encouragement Officer at Career Matters. I work with students and young adults aged 16-25 across New Zealand, finding a career and study path that fits THEIR interests. When our young adults succeed, we all succeed, and our young adults have so much to offer in the world of work.

See my Packages page for more info, or message me @Careermattersnz.

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