Thursday, November 1, 2007

Parenting Tips: Parenting Your Adult Children

As our children become adults our role as a parent changes. They no longer need us to keep them safe, to set boundaries, to provide for them financially, or to “kiss their boo-boos”.

Navigating the parent/adult child relationship can be treacherous if we forget our role or if they want to remain dependent. I had an adult child in my office a few years ago that was still living with mom and dad. She was complaining that her dad treated her like a child and was taking away privileges like her cell phone and car. I told her that at the age of 21 she should not tolerate that kind of behavior from anyone!! After all, she could go out and get a job, move out, purchase her own car and phone, and not have anyone tell her what to do!! For some reason she wasn’t too happy with me.

I have also had parents in my office who are still trying to figure out how to solve their adult children’s problems. One family came to me to help them figure out how to pay their son’s medical bills. It wouldn’t have been so obviously wrong if mom hadn’t been in her 80’s.

So, how do we parent and let go at the same time? Here are some suggestions for managing the transition from parent /child to parent/adult child relationship:

Don’t take responsibility for your adult children. We are responsible TO our children; to feed them, educate them, give them shelter, clothe them, etc. But we are not responsible FOR the decisions they make as adults.

Allow your adult children to suffer their own consequences. The principle is, if I rob a bank, you shouldn’t have to go to jail! Right?! Unfortunately, when it comes to our kids we sometimes feel responsible for their messes and try to fix them. Don’t bail them out of financial messes, don’t intervene in their relationship messes, don’t buy them out of trouble!

Separate love and acceptance from approval. Your kids may decide to do something that you find morally wrong or at least irritating. You can love your adult child without approving of their behavior. Our kids need to know that they are loved and accepted regardless of what they do.

Give advice ONLY when asked. I know this is a tough one! We have much more life experience than they do, and we love them so much we just want to save them the heartache of making the same mistakes we did. But think about it…how do you learn best? Most of us learn the hard way…I don’t drive the speed limit because I think it’s a great law! I drive the speed limit (most of the time) because I have had a few tickets in my life, and I really don’t want to pay the fine again!!

Don’t try to guilt-trip your adult children. Don’t try to make them feel bad if they don’t call as often as you would like. (By the way…the phone lines work both ways! If you want to talk to them, pick up the phone and call them!) Don’t try to guilt them into coming to your house for EVERY holiday. If they are married they will have to divide their time.

Let them parent their own children!! Check out this post to read more about your role as a grandparent.


Heather said...

LOL at your WW picture! But I wanted to comment here because this was such a timely topic for me (my two oldest are 18 and 20). Thank you for writing on it. Very good and helpful advice!

And thanks for stopping by my blog for wordless wednesday!

Linda said...

Great advice. My kids are 35 and 37 and parenting doesn't end when the kids leave home. We just taken on a different role that is more challenging.

Pastorwes said...

Thanks for the family insights.

parenting tips said...

Parenting your older children is more difficult than parenting your young children. I am so thankful that I read this tips. Thank you for sharing.