Can Midlife Transition Bring Renewal? 3: Teenage Kids
Those undergoing midlife transition often have some surprising things in common with their teenage kids.
You might not think that these two stages of life have much in common with each other, but they actually have some important common dimensions.
Teen years and midlife years initially look so different. But there are two things that they have in common: 1) the individual is often undergoing tremendous life changes during these two periods; and, 2) individuals often have to find a whole new way to move forward in their lives.
The Teen’s Questing Can Re-Open Questions for the Adult
A recent National Geographic article outlines some of the normal developmental challenges teenagers face to making the transition to the first adulthood. Very often, this entails questioning key parts of the value system that the teen has grown up with, and exploring aspects of the self, and new options for living — taking risks.
Similar challenges exist for many in midlife transition. This stage of life may entail questioning some of the key values that the individual has held until this point in life. It may also be that, in a number of new ways — occupation, way of life, family and relationships — the individual has to explore new patterns.
Moving out of the Familiar
Many psychological authorities consider the teen’s movement out from the family of origin to be one of the most difficult psychological tasks that humans accomplish. That would seem true. But it’s rivalled in importance by the process of adaptation that has to take place in the second half of life, to allow life to stay full and vital, and for individuals to find true, lasting values.
Hunger for Experience
Now, not surprisingly, there are some important places where the challenges and the experience of a teenager and a person at midlife diverge. For instance, where a teen may well have to learn to temper a tendency towards excessive risk taking, individuals at midlife transition, such as professionals, may need to learn to move beyond excessive inertia, habit and caution. In some respects, it’s almost as if the person at midlife “needs more teenager” inside of them, to spur them to willingness to move in new directions.
One characteristic which the teenager and the individual in midlife transition most definitely do share is a deep hunger for new experience — to connect with something in life that is alive, vital and meaningful.
Adaptation to a New Form of Life
One of the characteristics that neuroscientists point to in the teen brain is its plasticity, a staggering capacity for adaptation to new situations. Teenagers require this to complete the enormous, creative process of adaptation to a new world. What is often not appreciated is that midlife transition requires a similar kind of open-ness, and a willingness to explore aspects of self and life that are unknown territory. This exploration is at the heart of individual /a-midlife-transition.