Late Bloomers – Hang in There

I often work with parents of kids who are in their 20’s. When your child has passed the teen years and is not entirely “launched,” the issues become more complex and stressful. We must ask ourselves, what are reasonable and appropriate expectations? How do we set boundaries while managing our parental stress?

To begin to answer some of these questions, we, of course, need to understand some of the underlying reasons why the young adult may be in the situation they find themselves in. Why has typical development not lead to a path of independence and self-sufficiency? This is not about setting blame or dwelling on past mistakes. Instead, it is necessary to understand what skills the young adult may be lacking.

• What internal beliefs may be holding him back?
• What emotional challenges may he be facing?
• What knowledge and information may he need to help him adjust and move forward?

One factor that is sometimes overlooked, especially when dealing with ADHD and executive function challenges is that for some, the brain develops more slowly than is typical. While this may not be impacting their intelligence, they may need more time to develop their skills and talents. And there is one more factor that I believe plays a role for all children, and that is: what are we setting as the gold standard for success?

Somewhere along the line, it seems that society started to value early success as a measure for intelligence. This pressure to rush success has led to a wide range of problems for so many wonderful individuals who were not quite ready to blossom on such a quick schedule. I have known of many young adults – and adults, who have felt that if they weren’t already successful. then their time and opportunity had passed – it was now too late to ever happen for them. In truth, many people first hit their stride later in life, and often after some missteps and wrong turns. [I suggest watching the video “Famous Failures”]. We call these people, “Late Bloomers.”

Rich Karlgaard, the author of the book Late Bloomers, explains that “A late bloomer is a person who fulfills their potential later than expected; they often have talents that aren’t visible to others initially. And they fulfill their potential frequently in novel and unexpected ways, surprising even those closest to them.” One example he gives is Astronaut Scott Kelly. Kelly says that he was so bored in high school that “I finished in the half of the class that made the top half possible.”

In his book, Karlgaard shares some of the history of how we got here and some of the significant concerns we should have when we disproportionally value early success. One thing he talks about is that we have created a situation where some kids are scared to try new things when they are not sure if they will succeed – making it harder for them to maintain their high GPA or extracurricular standing. This fear of failure has the dangerous and devastating impact that it prevents kids from trying new things or pursuing avenues they may find interesting or novel. How can they possibly discover themselves if they feel the constant need to filter their present actions through a filter of the future? How limiting!

The challenges “twentysomethings” face these days are real. As parents, we need to recognize that while we may feel they should be ready to manage on their own, the reality is that they may still need our support and our guidance – as much as many of them may resist our help. We may need to gain new skills and strategies to manage our role as parents of young adults. There is still work to do. As Karlgaard says, “But with insight, practice, and patience, we can harness them toward a lifetime of blooming.”