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Parenting Adult Children: 3 Crucial Do's and Don'ts

Updated: Jul 21, 2020



Time flies. Your now-adult children are no longer that challenging teens they used to be, and suddenly they are ready to move out and live their own lives. This developmental transition from children to teens, and onto adulthood can be a significant shift for both parents and adult-child. While parents have to shift from being a primary guide to letting go control and encourage independence, adult-children have to change from being parent-dependent to learning how to adapt and survive in the outside world.


If we want children to have a smooth transition to adulthood, our parental roles have to change to accommodate children's autonomy and capability. You may wonder if your adult-child still needs you and the thought of it pains you. Don't worry. Just because they are not bothering you every moment like they were five, does not mean they don't need you anymore. They do, only in different ways.


To adapt to these changes, it requires effort, understanding and respect from both sides of the parent-child relationship. Parenting adult-children can be one of the most conflicted stages, and yet the least discussed. That's why today we will discuss 3 crucial tips to help you navigate better in your adult-children's lives.



DON'T OVER PROTECT. LET GO WORRY.

Do you find yourself constantly worrying about your adult-child's choice on partners, their career, and everything else in their life? If yes, then it is time for you to let go of those worries. I understand as parents, we are wired to care and protect them from harm and failure. That's why letting go worry can be so hard for parents. But, I'm going to ask you to try it anyway.


Our adult-child is no longer a child, and it is a fact we need to accept. Which also means, our role as parents will have to change too. Parenting adult-children is no longer about controlling and seeking obedience. It is about being a mentor to them by offering your unconditional support and guidance.


There will be times where we disagree with their choices. But, we can't be there to review all their decisions and mistakes. We can't tell them to break up with their partner because we don't like them. We can't ask them to quit that low-paying job or look for a new job. We have to learn to let go worry. We have to let them learn and experience the consequences of their choices. After all, experiences are the best teacher. When they need help, they will come to us. Unlike teenagers, adult-children are more likely to discuss and process disagreements.



DON'T HOVER. RESPECT BOUNDARIES.

Parenting adult-children is about giving personal space and respecting boundaries. Unlike before, we can't expect our adult-child to listen and agree to everything we say or do. And we certainly can't guilt-trip them to give us whatever we want. We need to learn to provide them with space to make their own decision and to let them live their lives. At the end of the day, they have their own lives, and we have ours. That's why we can't be expecting our adult-child to please us all the time.


Parents who used to have a close-knit relationship with their children may suddenly feel a sense of loss when adult-children starts to get busy with their own lives. They no longer spend time at home, they no longer eat with you, they no longer have movie marathons with you, and they no longer hang out with you. These changes can be hard for parents. While it's normal to miss this intimacy, it is also important for us to respect and understand their need for independence, space and control over their lives.


Instead of guilt-tripping our children ("you don't love me anymore", "you don't need me anymore"), we can set healthy boundaries for everyone. Adult-children can be busy with work and family. So, do discuss and arrange weekly dinner meet-ups, celebrate big festivities together, schedule phone calls once a week, or go on annual vacations. Adult-children are very much capable of planning and making decisions. So you can always include them in organising family gatherings together.



DON'T OVERPOWER. BE A GOOD LISTENER.

"I'm gone through life more than you, and you'll have to listen to what I say." One of the biggest adjustment in parenting adult-children is that the above phrase no longer works on them. Gone are the days where we expect them to believe what we say and follow what we ask them to. They are now mature enough to have their own beliefs and their own way of doing things. And what we can do as parents, is to respect and listen to what they have to say as an adult, not as an overpowering parental figure. You will be hearing opinions, thoughts and ideas of another adult, not of a child. Sometimes they may be wrong, but sometimes they may actually teach us to think from a different perspective and take on modern views.


If we refuse to listen and insist on instilling our own views on them, we will only push them away further. That's why many parents have learned to let go of giving advice unless it's being asked. We may want to jump in to help fix our children's problems, but when parenting adult-children, we want to stop ourselves from getting too involved in their lives.


However, there's a catch in this. If you're wondering, "what if it's something dangerous and illegal, should I give advice?" Yes. We certainly want to address life-threatening situations or habits and guide them to get help as soon as possible. First, restrain yourself from giving judgmental comments or advice. Instead, offer your wisdom and guidance in a calm and supportive manner. Second, make sure to have faith and confidence in them to get through this hurdle. If you're in doubt, they can feel it, and they will less likely listen to your advice. Be mindful not to use "I told you so" or "I knew this was coming" when conversing with an adult-child. At this point, they need your love and support, not criticism.


This parental shift can seem overwhelming and daunting. But your hard work for the past 20 years have paid off, and they are finally embracing their adulthood with confidence. So instead of being upset about these changes, you should be proud of who they have become. After all, this change is a good one!

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