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A local mental health expert says that maturity isn't something that you can teach someone, but rather something that grows when the conditions are right.

"Age and maturity are two very different things. Maturity is not inevitable. At first glance, that might sound surprising, but I suspect that as you think of all of the adults in your life, or even public figures, you can think of one or two that act in ways that seem very immature. We make a big mistake when we assume that someone is “mature” because they are a certain age," says Terry Warburton, the Director of Recovery of Hope in Winnipeg. 

One book in particular has stayed with Warburton during her studies, titled Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers. It's written by Canadian developmental psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld.

"One of the things that he said that has always stuck with me is that 'everyone gets older, but not everyone grows up.'"

During some counselling sessions, Warburton says a client will talk about their child with the behaviour pointing to something akin to a toddler. 

"Perhaps the child talks back, pouts, has big loud tantrums, acts impulsively, gets in trouble, blurts things out of their mouth without thinking. I’m assuming that this parent is talking about their preschooler. There have been times when this parent is describing an adult child in their 20s."

Even if a person is approaching their 70s or 80s, maturity is not automatic. It must have the right conditions for a person to be allowed to mature.

"The fruit of maturity will not grow in a child (or adult for that matter) if there isn’t a context of warm human connection and attachment to a caring adult," says Warburton.

According to the director, there are three signs, or fruit, of maturity. 

"The first fruit of maturity is adaptation. An adaptive person learns from the things that aren’t working and can feel the grief about the the things that they are not able to change - and there are many things in life that we cannot change. Adaptive people benefit from adversity and can “bounce back.” They can accept not getting their own way and find creative solutions to problems."

The second fruit of helping a person become mature is integration. 

"Integration is when we can consider and integrate more than one feeling, thought or impulse at a time. It’s being able to overcome black and white thinking and being capable of true cooperation, self-control and overcoming impulsiveness. It’s someone who can be patient when frustrated, and understands fairness.  It’s the capacity to feel intensely frustrated, at our child, or partner for example, but not lash out at them, because our frustration is also mixing with the care that we have for that person and the desire to not hurt them."

The third fruit to becoming mature, no matter what age a person is, is emergence.

"What that means is that someone is interested and curious, wanting to try new things. Solitude gets filled with creativity. An emergent person assumes responsibility for their actions, and values uniqueness and differences. This person wants to be their own person."

The freedom to pick and choose for oneself gives space for emergence.

"As much as we may try, none of us act in a mature way all the time. Our feelings and impulses sometimes get away on us. I think that growing in maturity is a lifelong process, and we get a lot of opportunities to respond from the values that we hold dear, versus impulsively reacting."