Parenting Adult Children
by SM Ford
When your young adults move out, even if it’s just to attend college, life changes for both them and you. Sometimes that means we have to take a look at some of our habits.
First habit to break: giving orders. We should not tell this "kid" what to do all the time. Especially if this “child” is living on their own, paying their own bills, etc., it’s time to treat him as a grown-up. If you wouldn’t say it to a coworker or friend, you shouldn’t say it to your daughter or son.
Instead, learn to ask permission to give advice. Sometimes people, our children included, don’t want us to solve the problem. They just want us to listen. If they are like my husband, talking things out helps him reach a solution. It’s simple to ask, “Do you want advice?” If your children don’t, keep your mouth closed. If you’re uncomfortable with the term advice, use something else. “May I make a suggestion?” “Would you like some help brainstorming this problem?” Either way honor them by accepting their answer.
What if your adult kids aren’t acting grown-up around you? Are you teaching them to? Or are you retaining the parent role by habitually paying for lunch, that movie or show, doing their laundry or shopping, etc.?
If the latter, stop. It doesn’t mean you can’t treat your adult children on occasion, but expect them to be responsible. Going out together? Discuss splitting the bill or each paying their own. Do so ahead of time, so she isn’t caught short.
It is not a parent’s responsibility to cover an adult child’s bills. Yes, sometimes when the unexpected happens they may need help. However, if you help too much, it doesn’t let this new adult stand on his own feet. She will miss out on the joy of solving financial problems without Mama and Daddy handling it. We saw this in action so many times. Here’s one example. When our daughter’s laptop wasn’t working, we were tempted to buy her a new one, but restrained ourselves. She opened the laptop case up, soldered the broken bit, and her laptop worked again. Rightfully, she was proud of what she had accomplished. We were proud too.
Will your child still call to cry on your shoulder or ask for help now and then? Probably. But that’s okay. Friends do the same. And you may be calling him or her up for help or sympathy too.
It’s a real joy when the parent child relationship translates into a friendship because you quit parenting.
About the Author
SM Ford is a Pacific Northwest gal, who has also lived in the Midwest (Colorado and Kansas) and on the east coast (New Jersey). She and her husband have two daughters and two sons-in-law and three grandsons. She can't figure out how she got to be old enough for all that, however.
You can read Sue’s “Real Parenting” column on the 4th Thursday each month here at Mustard Seed Sentinel.