For twenty odd years you’ve been telling your kids what to do and how to do it. Now they are grown and sometimes do dumb things. You’d love to say, “I told you so,” but is that the right thing to do?
Young adulthood is a difficult period for parent and child. As the parent, you want your child to be independent and make their own way in life, but when they ignore your advice and make mistakes it’s hard to keep your mouth shut.
What do you do when your grown kids don’t take your advice? Should you say something or should you keep quiet?
Here’s what your adult kids really need from you:
Love. Your adult child needs to know they are loved no matter how they perform. Just because they’ve left home doesn’t mean they’ve outgrown your love and approval. Be a safe haven for your children to come back to when their lives fall apart and they need some unconditional love.
Moral support. Be available for your kids in a crisis or anytime they want to talk. They won’t want your advice often but when they do, be there. Support your kids by praying for them. Focus on the positives in your relationship with them and show your support by telling them the things you appreciate about them.
Respect your kids’ autonomy. Assume that your kids are competent. Don’t treat them like little kids. Give them freedom to grow. Allow them to pull away from you and find their own way. Everyone has to make their own mistakes and learn from them. That can be hard to watch because your instinct as a parent is to protect your child from hurt and suffering. It can be difficult to watch your kids making mistakes or doing things differently to the way you would, but letting them come back to you on their own terms acknowledges their adult freedom.
Be an ally not an enemy. Treat your kids like an equal, not someone subservient to you. Don’t force your opinions on them or offer unsolicited advice. Apologize if necessary if you have not respected their adulthood. Be a friend.
Take an interest in your kids’ lives as they are, not as they could or should be.
And here’s what your adult children don’t need:
Enmeshment. Live your own life and let your child live his. Making your kids feel guilty because they have left home won’t make them more attached to you. Don’t make your kids feel like your life is incomplete without them. Give them freedom and enjoy your own.
One of the best things you can do for your adult children is to have a life of your own. Find new things to do with your life so that you are not so wrapped up in theirs. And be sure to be fun to be around when your kids do choose to be with you.
Enabling. Don’t keep rescuing your adult children when they get themselves into a fix. Think carefully about bailing them out of financial difficulty. Listen to their woes, encourage them, but don’t rescue them. The sooner they learn life’s lessons the more solid and stable they will be.
Explore and enjoy the new dimensions to your relationships with your adult children. Cultivate their friendship, enjoy their successes, support them in their trials, and be a true friend at all times.
Oh, and unless asked, keep your mouth shut. 😉
How is your relationship with your adult children? Are there some things you need to change?