Parenting Adult Children
Parenting adult children may be one of the hardest parts of the parenting journey. There are millions of resources for dealing with toddler tantrums and teen angst, but not many on how to have a successful relationship with your child once they become an adult.
We have 2 adult children and one almost adult child. Our oldest is now not only a “legal adult,” but also a college graduate living over 1000 miles from us. It is tough to know when to give advice, when to let them figure it out, and when to trust that they know what they are doing (or almost know what they are doing).
I have put together my best tips for parenting adult children below. I am walking this road with you and welcome your input in the comments section.
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Parenting Adult Children
We legally begin parenting adult children on the day they turn 18. It almost seems absurd because almost all of them are still in high school. But it is a magic day legally. The legal consequences for their behavior changes and your access to their health and some other information ceases. (For information about your access to their health information, read What to do if Your College Student has a Medical Emergency.)
Many of our kids move away from home this same year and begin college. Others stay home for a while and work or commute to college. Both situations have a unique set of challenges, but they both involve letting go and stepping back as they make many of their own decisions. Here are some tips for navigating this road.
Learn to communicate with their methods. They may not call. They may not answer when you call. They may ignore your texts begging them to call. This generation rarely “talks” on the phone. They don't get it. (We used to send texts to our oldest son demanding “proof of life.” He responded one time with a picture of his fish.) Instead text them pictures from home, pictures of their pet, articles from the local paper about their high school, anything you can think of that might be of interest to them. They still may not respond, but they will appreciate this much more than a text to “CALL HOME!!!”
If you don't already have one, set up a family group text. Some of our best communication takes place on this group text. My husband and I enjoy it when the kids banter back and forth with each other on the group text even when we are not involved in the discussion.
Vow to NEVER EMBARRASS THEM on SOCIAL MEDIA. It's ok to follow them, but don't comment except to wish them a happy birthday or something else equally benign. Be very careful what you post about them. They don't want their life aired in public. They don't want you asking for advice about them in public. If you are in doubt about posting something, ask them first if it is ok.
Make your home a place of warmth and peace. Home should be a place where they can let down their guard and not have to perform. It should not be a place they do not want to go because they know they will be confronted about anything and everything. If something has to be discussed, do it gently and with a consideration of where they may be coming from.
What if my adult child lives at home? This one is a toughie. Because of the economic realities of living on their own and the price of college and the debt they may incur, many adult children live in their childhood home. There is a balancing act between allowing them to be an “adult,” while also laying down some rules and expectations for them to meet. A conversation upfront (like within a week of high school graduation or whenever they are moving back into the house) will help address issues before they arise.
Make your rules and expectation reasonable. Your adult child is an adult and wishes to be treated as one. However, they must understand that your home is not a free rent, free food, free to do as I please whenever I please zone. If you want them to mow the grass in the summer in return for living with you, that is reasonable. Keeping everyone up who has to be someone where at 8am the next morning while they entertain friends is rude and is an unreasonable expectation on their part. However, insisting they keep their high school curfew is unreasonable on your part. Listen to them about their expectations like you would any other adult. Even if you turn them down, don't treat them like they are not worthy of being heard. I would not hesitate to put an agreement in writing between you and your child.
Continue to love them unconditionally. Regardless of their behavior, lack of accomplishment, or other ways they seem to go against everything you have ever taught them, continue to love them. Love is not approval and love is not enabling. Love is just being there. Love is setting yourself as a lighthouse to which they can always return.
Pray without ceasing! God loves your children more than you are capable of loving them. Ask his guidance in helping you maintain and strengthen your relationship with your adult children.
Our kids can make us crazy. Whether we are potty-training, running to the store at 10pm for something they need the next day (that they have known about for a week), or watching them stumble through a series of bad decisions as an adult, we never stop worrying, caring, or pulling our hair out. It only seemed like the terrible twos were the hardest part of parenting. Parenting adult children can be some of the toughest parenting we have faced, but it can also be some of the most rewarding. Just remember: Whatever happens, don't give up on them! God may not be finished.
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