Supporting Your Teen Through The Transition From Adolescence To Adulthood

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated May 14, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Each stage of adolescence can be complex in its own way. However, the last stage, when the transition to adulthood occurs, can pose unique and potentially difficult challenges for teens and their parents. Teens are often trying to figure out their next steps and how to manage all the new responsibilities of their adult roles. Parents may struggle to figure out how to best support their children without overstepping in this phase of life. For this reason, it may be beneficial to explore the stages of adolescence further and the support options available to you.  

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Growing up can be challenging for kids and parents

The stages of adolescent development

It might help to conceive of adolescence as encompassing several stages, each highlighted by its developmental and behavioral milestones. The stages are as follows. 

Early adolescence

The early adolescence stage of human development typically lasts from ages ten to 13. During early adolescence, physical changes often occur. At this early age, children’s thinking may be rigid or dichotomous. They may see situations as right or wrong, good or bad, and great or terrible. Early adolescents can be self-centered and may be self-conscious about their appearance. They may want to have space, push boundaries, and react strongly to rules and limits.

Middle adolescence

Middle adolescence, from 14 to 17, comes with more physical changes. Some teens become interested in romantic relationships at this age. They may start to want to spend more time with their friends, and peer pressure may be at an all-time high, potentially leading to the risk of substance use due to an immature brain. Though they can think more abstractly and consider how their choices affect their lives, they may be more likely to allow their emotions to drive their impulses and decisions. 

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. Support is available 24/7.

Late adolescence

Late adolescence or early adulthood is the developmental period that occurs at around 18 and continues into your child’s early 20s. By this point, their physical and brain development is nearly complete. Young adults generally reach their adult height and may assess risks more realistically. 

Romantic relationships and friendships may stabilize in this stage, and your teen may begin to separate from the family. Their relationships with their parents or caregivers may change, too. Parents are no longer authority figures at this age, as the child is often ready to go to college or try independent living. As a result, parents may take on more of a mentoring role.

At this stage, teens may have a stronger sense of who they are. They may understand their values more and develop hopes and dreams for the future. While this time is often filled with excitement and promise, it can be intimidating and even distressing for teens transitioning from adolescence to adulthood.

The unique challenges of emerging adulthood

In emerging early adulthood, young people may be balancing more responsibilities than they previously had. They may be taking on more adult commitments while figuring out what they want to do with their lives and navigating cultural expectations about work, relationships, and family. However, they can also face an unsure future influenced by environmental issues, artificial intelligence, and an intense geopolitical climate. 

Some emerging adults may have added challenges to manage. Multiple mental health conditions can appear during this stage of adolescence, including anxiety disorders and eating disorders. Psychosis can occur in emerging adults, indicating significant mental health conditions like schizophrenia. If you have children going through this developmental period, there are steps you can take to help ensure you offer the appropriate support to navigate these challenges and identify any additional mental health challenges they may be facing. 


How parents can help

Parents can note that young people in this stage may not want rules, limits, and punishments. Attempting to control their children’s behavior may be harmful or counterproductive. Instead, they can offer the young person non-judgmental support, love, and guidance. If your young adult child wants support in figuring out what to do with their life, consider the following support options.  

Let go of unfair expectations

Let go of your expectations of what “should” happen, whether these expectations are coming from you or your young adult child. Common phrases that might be harmful can include the following: 

  • “They should have gone to college.”
  • “They should have taken that job.” 
  • “They should have stayed in that relationship.” 
  • “I should have raised them better.” 

The world is different for new adults at this age than it may have been for you, so try to have an open mind when giving them advice. You might ask questions to learn more about the current political, educational, and economic climate they’re experiencing in their generation. 

Be supportive 

Remind your child that it can be expected and okay not to have everything figured out at this age and that sometimes, finding a successful career or another path in life takes time. It is not unusual for kids to move back in with their parents to get back on their feet. However, try to do so with an end goal in mind. For example, you might sit down with them and outline a plan with a time limit. Walk the line of being supportive without enabling them. Although familial support can be crucial, it may be beneficial for young adults to learn to live independently.

Give them space

Young adults may not want to be lectured or punished by their parents, as they may be experiencing stress in their lives outside of the home. Although they may benefit from advice, reassure them that it can be normal to be uncomfortable or afraid in adulthood and that taking space to figure it out is okay. 

Communicate honestly 

Honest communication can be essential to your new parent-child relationship. You may notice arguments arising, but try to control your anger or frustration. Work with your child to solve conflicts and apologize when you are wrong. Treat them as another adult that you respect and care about. 

How to support your young adult's mental health

People face challenges as young adults. However, if you are worried about adolescent health challenges, it may be difficult to know what to do. 

Mental health struggles in this age group are not unusual. A survey from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that 43.6% of young adults (ages 18 to 29) reported having symptoms of anxiety and depression in the previous seven days. If you are worried about your child’s mental health, consider the following steps.  

Be empathetic

Try to put yourself in your child’s position while reminding yourself that the world they’re facing may be different from the world you experienced when you were their age. Given their current circumstances, you might also ask them how you can better support them. 

Refrain from lecturing

Avoid lecturing your child or judging their choices; doing so may shut down communication completely. Ask questions to understand their feelings, and don’t try to solve their problems. Instead, let them know they’re not alone and offer to support them in any way possible.  

Be gentle when offering help

If you’re worried about your child’s mental health and they are willing to seek health services or treatment but are concerned about the cost, offer to help them cover the expenses. Doing so may mean paying for the costs yourself or finding an alternative to traditional treatment, such as online therapy. 

Growing up can be challenging for kids and parents

Support options 

Whether you want to talk to someone for yourself or are looking for a way to help your young adult child, it may be helpful to consider online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp for adults or TeenCounseling for teens aged 13 to 19. Online treatment can be an effective, convenient alternative to traditional therapy and may be a beneficial fit for you.  

When you sign up for online therapy, you are often matched with a qualified therapist within 48 hours. In addition, you can attend sessions from home or anywhere else with an internet connection, removing the need for a commute or extra travel time when running errands. 

Online treatment may be more affordable than traditional in-person therapy, and research shows it’s effective. One review of 14 studies found that online treatment could be as effective as in-person sessions. Regarding support for parents of adolescents, a recent study indicates the same efficacy. A 2023 meta-analysis of online parenting interventions affirmed the effectiveness of those programs in reducing emotional symptoms in children and adolescents.


Transitioning to adulthood may be challenging for young people and their parents, but these challenges can provide pivotal opportunities for growth, resilience, and communication. Knowing how to support your child during young adulthood can be tricky, including what to not take personally and what concerns to address with a professional. Consider contacting a mental health professional online or in your area for further guidance and compassionate support during this transition.
Adolescence can be a challenging life stage
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