April 11, 2024

The Creative Parent Method: Creating Space for your Young Adult to Thrive.

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I’ve worked with young adults and parents of young adults for many years.

What I’ve discovered is that this is the hardest phase of separation and individuation. At the heart of this transition is finding the courage and faith to let the process unfold.

As Pema Chödrön reminds us:

We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things dont really get solved. They come together and they fall apart…The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen.”

Young adults are trying to navigate life without the predictability of the school year. It’s easy to feel a lot of pressure. They face identity confusion, changing relationships, and managing expectations when many assumed it would feel amazing to finally be “free.”

Parents are dealing with the need to let go, performance anxiety, and rejected guidance. You’re trying to discern how to let your child be responsible. Your access is limited to what they decide to reveal. You may be yearning for your own kind of freedom that’s difficult to find.

Art therapy is a powerful tool for self-expression. It helps you relieve distress and improve creative problem-solving. You don’t have to be an artist to benefit from these practices. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, just follow your creative instinct.

There are two steps for each exercise. The first is to do the art project. The second is to describe what it represents. The first step helps you get it off your chest, the second step helps you find deeper meaning and understanding.

I’ve designed the following exercises for young adults with their specific needs in mind. Since this is a time of transition for both of you, I recommend that you both complete the projects. It’s a wonderful way to connect and share mindfully with one another.

1. Vision Boards.

As a psychotherapist, I believe that vision boards are best utilized when they reflect how you want to feel. When this is your focus, it’s easier to build confidence and self-worth. You can think proactively about what you need for skills, resources, and have fun imagining how it will improve your life.

To begin, select a word or two that represents how you want to feel. Your board is divided into three main parts. The first answers the question: what supports my intention? The second answers the question: how does it feel to live this way? The third answers the question: how living this way manifests in my life.

2. Self-Portrait.

This practice expresses who you are today. It doesn’t need to be visually accurate. For some, making an abstract image may feel better. Trust your instinct.

You may also wish to do two additional self-portraits. The first is how you believe others see you and the second is how you wish to be seen. This process brings new ways of seeing and emotionally connecting to one another.

3. The Timeline of Our Lives.

This is an interesting exercise for you both to complete because it’s an opportunity to share the history of your family and tell the story of your independence. You should have separate pieces of paper.

Create a timeline that marks important events, memories, and experiences that both of you have experienced since childhood. Determine how much detail to share with one another. You can always revisit the timeline when you’re ready to disclose more.

Now, fill in any thoughts, feelings, or beliefs associated with the different ages and stages on your timeline. Make note of how they’ve evolved. Write down the important details of what contributed to these changes, whether it felt positive or negative. This is an opportunity to normalize the highs and lows of life and what helped you to adapt.

Raising young adults is messier than we’re often prepared for it to be. These exercises are designed to help you find insight and understanding. May these recommendations help you to feel more capable as a parent and more connected as a family.


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