How to Parent an Adult Child
How to Parent an Adult Child
It’s tricky when the human you have cared for, protected, guided, provided for and loved with all your heart becomes a human who doesn’t need so much of that anymore. Where does that leave you as the parent? What is your new role? Here are a few do’s and dont’s to consider.
1. Only give advice when you’re asked for it. This is a tough one, I admit. But don’t let yourself off the hook or make excuses for yourself. You want to jump in, protect them from making a mistake, be the buffer between your adult chid and heartbreak. But this becomes counterproductive in two ways. First, your now adult chid still doesn’t have the ability or permission from you to make their own decisions which is emotionally thwarting. Second, they will stop sharing ideas, dreams, fears and experiences with you because they do not want your advice but you keep giving it anyway. If they want your advice they will ask for it.
2. Encourage instead of warn or criticize. As adult children they may live different lives, have different values and need different things than you. That’s ok! Unless they want to break the law or want you to break the law then let them live their life fully. When they say they are taking a trip to a remote island don’t tell them to put on sunblock or to look both ways before they cross the big bad foreign street. Instead, tell them how exciting it sounds and that you hope they have the time of their life. When they talk about getting another job or buying a home or riding their bike across the country stop yourself from warning them of all that could go wrong and remind yourself that they will figure it out, they will make a mistake here and there but will learn from it and that you are there to listen, encourage and only give feedback when they ask for it.
3. Have fun with them. You’re both adults now! Isn’t that great? You can build a new relationship of mutual respect. You don’t have to look after them when you go out to eat or go on vacation together. You can relax and learn all about this person who is growing and learning and living an independent life.
4. Listen and learn about what they are interested in. I know a mom who has a son in his late twenties who travels the world with a back pack and his bike. It’s his passion. His mom, however, won’t exercise even for a million dollars and is happy to stay home and relax on her front porch without ever leaving the country. But she delights in listening to her son’s stories even when he tells her he had to sleep outside on the beach in Spain because he was too late getting in to the town he hoped to find a room in. She doesn’t scold him, warn him, tell him how worried she is to hear that. She just laughs and kindly rolls her eyes. This invites her son to tell her so much more than if she were to react with judgement or disinterest. They have a beautiful relationship.
Having a relationship with an adult child can be tricky because it’s all new for both of you. Instead of fighting to keep control fight to let go and watch what blossoms.
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Written by Lisa Smith
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