(parenting the adult child)
I remember everything.
Every first step, first game, first dance, first drive….
- Letting go of the bike as they boldly took over
- Watching as they left for school
- Letting go of my hand in public
Every milestone our kids achieve is one step closer to them needing us a little less. And of course, we want our children to grow up and be responsible leaders in their own lives. But this also presents a problem when the relationship dynamics change or their choices aren’t what we would want for them.
It’s so hard to let our adult children experience their own failures.
So how do we stop parenting and become just advice-givers when they ask, and not say anything when they don’t? How do we navigate beating ourselves up with the thought that we did something wrong because they’re not succeeding the way we think they should be?
Your relationship is changing…and recognizing that you are both navigating this change will allow for some breathing room.
1. Recognize and respect your differences.
Respect is key. They must be allowed to be in charge of their own lives. You may not always agree with their life choices, but as their independence grows, find joy in connecting and learning about what they’ve learned along the way.
2. Listen more than you talk
Restraint is the key to keep from giving too much unwelcome advice or asking too many nosy questions. Don’t try and ‘fix it’ or jump into a problem they’ve created. Let them problem-solve and learn the lesson as it happens. That said, there still may be times during your kids’ 20’s when you do have to voice your concerns over dangerous habits or behaviors.
3. Share your wisdom and insight only when asked
Avoid criticism which could make your child shut down completely. Remember that they are evolving and still need guidance. Learn to communicate effectively, but save the advice until it’s asked for. It’s difficult to navigate this new terrain, but if you look at it like you’re a consultant, it’s only about giving advice when asked.
4. Create boundaries
Especially when living together, it’s important to have healthy boundaries with your adult children. Make sure everyone understands expectations, what’s okay and not okay and the ground rules. Children are supposed to distance themselves at this stage in their lives. That’s healthy. Try not to take it personally. It’s just their growth.
5. Connect over shared activities
If you used to go shopping together, have family game night or go for a bike ride, do it. Don’t forget that fun is part of what makes you family. Quality over quantity.
6. Embrace their choices
Especially when it comes to their significant other, it is imperative that you remain open-minded without being pushy or critical. Letting go of your adult children means that they are going to choose other relationships. That’s what you want! And if they choose problematic relationships, you are unfortunately going to have to allow them to make those mistakes.
7. Be there
Things will get rough. As they branch out and try new things and have relationships, they will make mistakes. Be there for them when that happens. Leave the judgment and critical comments for a discussion with your journal, and just be their sounding board. Let them talk. Let them feel heard.
8. This is about them, not you
Kids make mistakes… we ALL do. Trying new things and navigating our own individual journeys is how we learn. But learning usually requires making mistakes. It’s within these errors of judgment that exist a lesson and that lesson is what they need to learn right now. Let them. This is not about how you parented or what mistakes you may have made, allow them to learn what they need along the way. This is their learning and their journey. Don’t make it about you.
Inevitably, parenting is a process of letting go…in every phase there are challenges in letting go a little more. As they make decisions they are bound to fail, but these failures are teaching them the tools that they must learn to move forward.
We never really stop parenting, but we make room for more ideas than just our own.
You got this.