Ped Day keynote was about building resilience in emerging adulthood

Erin Barker’s talk at Ped Day on Oct. 13 helped the audience understand the psychological stage that most of our students are in: emerging adulthood, which is from 18 years old to the late 20s.

At this age, young adults are “not fully independent, but they are less dependent. It is an age of feeling in between, of instability,” developmental psychologist Erin Barker said.

It is a time for identity exploration, self-focus and an age of possibilities, she said. “Each new generation is characterized as having something wrong with them. It is an important time to be self-focused,” she said. They are figuring out “who they want to be and who they want to be with.”

One of the key takeaways from the talk is that our students are living through a very high stress period in their lives. It does not mean that other periods of life are less stressful, she said. Erin explained that it is because young adults are still building “resilience assets and resources,” which they will use in later stages of life to manage stress.

Academics, the learning environment and campus culture appear on the stressors index, she said. Many post-secondary institutions pay a lot of attention to helping mitigate these kinds of stressors. Erin mentioned that interpersonal and personal stressors are often overlooked.

Extracurricular activities and sports are really important activities to promote and support because they give students opportunities to foster these resilience assets and resources, she said. “Students learn through participation how to adapt to challenges. This is where we have the opportunity to really foster these assets and resources,” she said. Graduating students who participate in extracurriculars “have another skill and network; they can find resources in the community,” she said.

College and university are important places to experience clubs, activities and sports. “Where else can they have access to all this?” she said.

Computer Science faculty member Swetha Rajagopal attended and had this feedback about the keynote: “The entire keynote talk on Transition and Resilience Building in Emerging Adulthood was very interesting. As a coordinator of the Dawson Ada Society, a community dedicated to supporting women and gender minority students in Computer Science, I found it particularly gratifying to discover that involvement in extracurricular activities and the ability to foster interpersonal relationships have been shown to not only alleviate stress but also significantly enrich the overall student experience.”

Alan Stewart of the Office of the Academic Dean also attended and found it very relevant for the College’s new strategic plan: “Erin Barker pointed out that 18-25-year-olds are under high levels of stress, arising not only from academics but also from the learning environment, campus culture, interpersonal relationships and personal factors such as sleep, diet, exercise and finances.

“Post-secondary institutions need to be aware of students’ well-being and help them learn how to identify stress and develop the self-understanding and supports that will contribute to resilience. What was also very interesting, and relates directly to Dawson’s new strategic plan, is the role that extra-curricular activities can play in helping students develop coping mechanisms, optimism and motivation.”

Erin concluded with sharing the COMPASS concept: coping, optimism, motivation, pursuits, affect (emotions), self (sense of purpose), social support. “We can help young people know they have a COMPASS and that they are in this stage of life to build resilience,” she said.

Erin Barker is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and a member of the Centre for Research in Human Development at Concordia University.

Human Resources has set up a Resources page for Ped Day. A recording of this keynote presentation is expected to be posted soon. Please note you must be signed into Office 365 to access it.

Last Modified: November 9, 2023