Today I have a special guest writing for you! This past year our son-in-law Stephen has launched his life coaching business and he agreed to share with my readers some encouragement for parents who have children on the brink of adulthood. My husband and I are are abundantly blessed and it’s exciting to see what amazing adults our children have become!
Being a parent of adult children requires one thing in abundance: Humility. If you really want the best for them and you’ve spent years training them up in the way they should go, here are some questions you can ask yourself to help as you learn to parent through this next stage in life.
- Are you prepared for your kids to be better than you?
- Are you ready for them to honor you by being smarter, better and more sold out to God’s purpose for their lives?
- Wouldn’t it be incredible for your kids to have more intelligence and greater skills than you ever had as a young adult ready to start in the world?
- Are you willing to treat them as equals as they grow into their twenties with jobs, going to school, or getting married?
How, exactly, do you prepare your children to be what God made them to be? Give them tools and get out of the way. How many of you remember times where your parents projected their expectations on to you as you made different decisions with your life? When you wanted you to go to school instead of getting married, or they wanted you to find a house in a certain area. How about when your parents expected you to continue to take advice as commands even as you were an adult starting your life in college, getting a job, getting married. Is advice good? It can be. But it should be given as advice, and not as an order.
It is important that you are willing to allow them to grow and ask for help on their own, to not protect them from losing a job or failing a class. The opportunity for them to learn from experience and try their skills in real life cannot be overvalued. It is critical that parents not run their children as they become adults. As a parent of adult children, are you willing to trust God to direct them? Are you willing to let your kids make a wrong decision and learn? Or are you trying to MAKE them avoid all the things that you feel were dumb mistakes from your past? Are you willing to trust the first 10, 15, 18 years of raising them, trusting that you gave them the tools they need? Are you parening them like an 8 year old when they are in college?
These are really tough questions. These are hard things to wrestle with, since as a good parent, you want to protect your children from any possible pain and hardship. No one tells you when you have little ones how life will look in fifteen years. Everyone is so ready to give you advice on spanking, education, diet, and essential oils.
But what about life with young adult and adult children? No one tells you about the disappointment you might feel if they seem to choose the wrong path, or how to love them when they make bad choices. Or how to see your children as autonomous adults who now must live with the reward and/or consequences of their OWN choices, not yours. And lastly, how do you handle them being smarter than you, and accept with an open mind that they in some ways may be beyond what you have achieved in life?
All of this doesn’t mean you have no influence or that you should throw in the towel and hope for the best. Your role in their lives is very valuable and you still can help them make the best decisions possible. Here are some ideas on how you can help your young adult children to become responsible adults and how to allow them to be their own awesome selves.
- Don’t take personal responsibility for their actions. They must take responsibility for the rewards or consequences of their own actions. If not, they won’t become well-practiced adults and will instead remain kids, expecting Mom and Dad to always clean up their messes.
- Don’t feel the need to help them make their decisions. By this point they should know how to decide what job to take, what classes to take, what type of car to buy. If they ask for help, then go ahead and offer advice. But even then, encourage them to find additional resources to help them instead of your opinion being the only advice they get. As adults, isn’t this what we do? We don’t want our parents telling us what house to buy or how many kids to have.
- Encourage them to look to others beyond you for advice. As a parent, it might hurt to admit that you don’t know every answer your young adult is looking for. They are not asking 2, or even 10 year old questions anymore. And college is not the only source of additional information they should have. They will need to get advice from people who have more experience than you in different areas.
- Be humble enough to accept that if your child makes a different choice than you would make – you are not automatically right and they may not be wrong. If they make different choices, they are not necessarily rejecting your love or you as a parent. It just means they are learning to be the unique individual God designed them to be. This is something to celebrate even though they will make mistakes along the way.
- Learn to love them without condition. For example, don’t withhold aspects of your relationship with your child if they make a bad marriage choice. Continue to love them even when they really mess up or are just different. I think most parents love their kids no matter what, but it can be hard not to unintentionally place behavior conditions on whether or not you will do or say encouraging or loving things to them.
- Learn how to respect their boundaries. Allow them their space and independence while still maintaining a healthy relationship. If they say “We need space and are not open for a visit right now,” it doesn’t automatically mean “I don’t love you.” It may just mean, “I am an adult with an identity to be respected, just like you respect the boundaries of your other adult friends”.
These things can help to push them to become the adults that we hoped our kids would become when they were 5. As they get older it can be difficult to change parenting styles, but it’s essential. That way when our kids are 18, 20, or 25, they are equipped to be adults, to serve God as they were individually designed to do, and to have a healthy, strong relationship, even friendship, with us, instead of still being children.
Stephen offers a 14-Day email course in which he teaches young adults to step out in life with confidence. You might wish to lace the lessons into what you’re teaching your kids now – at any age – it’s absolutely free at Stephen Andrew Coaching.
Stephen Andrew Couture lives in the Kansas City area with his wife and three young children. He has had a passion for hard work and mentoring others from a very young age. He would love to help you launch your own story and discover your passion. Just click over to his website to get started!