Q. My teenager recently asked me to explain what being an adult means. Can you help me?

A. That’s a difficult question, especially since every brain on the planet is believed to differ in structure, function, and perception. Here are some thoughts to consider. Adult are individuals whose brains are sufficiently developed (e.g., mid-twenties on average) so that they:

  • No longer need to be continually parented by someone else and who have become their own parent, reparenting themselves as needed
  • Are continually evaluating their behaviors along with the resulting outcomes and are course correcting as needed
  • Are capable (theoretically at least) of becoming a functional and effective parent and role model to a child
  • Have left home

Leaving home means the individual:

  • Accepts physical, emotional, intellectual, financial, sexual, educational, and social responsibility for his or her own life and destiny (minimizing any tendency to whine or blame)
  • Understands that no person is an island and has a core group of individuals who serve as a support system with whom ideas and decisions can be discussed and feedback analyzed
  • Gives up dependency and boundary fusion with parental figures and avoids transferring those qualities to a partner (minimizing any tendency to jump to conclusions, overreact, or take things personally)
  • Is no longer automatically programmed by and blindly following his or her transgenereational script (revising it as needed)