Parenting Adult Children: How Best to Grow Into This New Stage
You decide to introduce an old friend you ran into at the supermarket to your child, only to realize that they are no longer a child, but a grownup. Where did the time go? Before you know it, traditional milestones fly by like graduating college, starting careers, getting married, having children children, retiring, and more.
If your children are no longer little kids, does this mean you stop being a parent?
Just because your children may stop coming to you for homework help or to give them a ride to their friend’s house does not mean that they still don’t need their parents.
The Challenges of the Parent-Adult Child Relationship:
- Finding common ground without disrespecting boundaries.
- Figuring out how much time to spend together and how to spend it.
- Deciding how much information to give each other.
- Choosing which battles to fight.
- Figuring out what advice to give.
A competitive job market and the pressure to succeed while you are young can change the way emerging adults rely on their parents. Parents may feel offended if their children cannot have long, chatty phone calls with them or come home during the holidays.
Luckily, according to the book When Will My Grown-Up Kid Grow Up?, 75% of parents felt like their current relationship with their adult children has gotten better compared to when their kids were 15. Although they are adults now, they are still your children. They just require a different approach and specific boundaries.
So don’t worry—parents can continue being a source of support to their adult children while still establishing healthy boundaries.
How Do You Set Respectful Boundaries When Parenting Adult Children?
Privacy is the key to helping adults build confidence in making their own decisions and establishing independence. If you feel like your kids are calling you way too much for help or they just are not calling you enough, have a talk with them about it. Remember not to approach the conversation with blame.
Additionally, your grown children do not need to hear the intimate discussions and details that you share with your spouse. Just because they are adults doesn’t mean they need to hear all about your own private life.
Conversely, don’t be offended if your grown child is trying to be independent. Embrace that independence instead. Let them go off on their own adventures and figure things out for themselves.
The more you stick with these boundaries, the easier it will get.
How To Listen to Adult Children Without Being Nosy
It can be tempting to interrupt when your grown-up child is venting their problems to you. From one adult to another, a parent should not be sticking their nose in where it does not belong. Remember that they may not be asking for advice, they just want someone to listen.
You will have to learn to bite your tongue every once in a while to avoid any tension. Being too quick to fix your grownup children’s problems will not help them learn how to solve problems of their own.
If your child’s behavior is serious, dangerous, or life-threatening, then that is the time to say something to them.
Find Activities That You Both Love To Do
Seeing your children transition to adulthood does not have to be bittersweet. Rather, it’s the next chapter of your lives to look forward to.
Your child is learning that they cannot rely on you all the time like before, and parents need to learn when to take a step back or forward. While there may be battles you cannot avoid as you both adjust to this transition, you can still have fun and figure it out together.
Moving out of the house and having separate lives can make family get-togethers harder. Speak with your kid about any openings in their schedules and try not to pressure them or put any expectations on them. This is their life and schedule, so working out a time that works best mutually is key.
You can continue to do the same things you like to do with your grown kids like going to a baseball game or having a shopping day. These will be both nostalgic moments and an opportunity to create new memories.
You can also use this opportunity to try new, fun, adult-friendly things to do together.
The transition of seeing your kids suddenly becoming adults can be a hard one. Navigating these new rules can be tricky, but it is also rewarding. If you continue to struggle with this transition, speaking to a family therapist can help ease the tension and prevent any hard feelings.