When I was pregnant with my oldest son, I remember many well-meaning people telling me two things:
- You have 18 years to teach, guide, and develop this baby into a young man.
- The next 18 years will fly by, so make the most of every day.
The time did fly by, and 18 years is really not all that long in terms of a long life. While it’s true that parents lay the foundation in the first 18 years of a child’s life, the real building is tested, strengthened, and reinforced as children become adults and make their own decisions and choose the path that is best for them.
Parenting takes on new meanings and requires different techniques for adult children. In fact, the parent-child relationship grows and matures into a more of a friendship that is mutually respectful and an interdependent relationship. Interdependent is the opposite of co-dependent and means there is energy gain (or at least neutrality) for all persons involved.
Parenting adult children is not a straight line. There will be bumps, twists, turns, and curves we don’t see coming, but the number one thing we can do is pray. And then, we can turn everything over to God and follow His lead.
However, there are a few things we, as parents, can do to create positive connections with adult children.
1. Guide adult children rather than redirecting their path.
Guidance is giving advice or information to help resolve a problem or overcome a challenge. Redirection is directing their path to a new place or purpose.
As parents of adult children, our job is to help them make their own choices on their own path by guiding them when they face difficulty. It is not our job to direct their actions and paths for them.
The difference between the two actions is intent. Redirecting can be overbearing and controlling. Guidance is acting in the best interest of our adult children.
2. Be a coach for your adult children.
Being a coach is giving advice and instruction to (someone) regarding the course that is being followed.
A coach trains by offering encouragement and suggesting courses of action rather than having a set-in-stone way for the player to act or react in the position. As parents, we need to listen and offer advice with encouragement as our adult children wrestle with issues and challenges rather than making the decisions for them or judging them about their choices.
Again, creating positive connections with adult children is about encouraging and guiding them on the unique path they (and God) have chosen for their lives rather than directing their paths for them.
3. Set broad boundaries rather than narrow pathways.
Broad boundaries are real or imaginary points beyond which a person or thing cannot go or should not go. A narrow path is the line or a relatively narrow space that marks the outer limit of something.
As our children grow, our expectations and boundaries expand with them. As young kids, we had to establish a narrow path for them to follow because it was our responsibility to teach and develop them into respectable members of society. Yet, as they mature and begin making their own way, the boundaries should be widened to allow them to direct their own lives.
As adult children move beyond college, we are supposed to apply the same concept of setting boundaries. As parents, we need to set boundaries such as how much energy, time, and resources we give to our adult children. This will help us give our adult children the space they need to live their life and make their own choices. Preventing micro-management and interference on our part is a great step toward building positive connections with adult children.
Additional Parenting Resources
Here are some other great resources I have found to help create positive connections with adult children.
- The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children by Stormie Omartian
- How to Really Love Your Adult Child by Gary Chapman
- Focus on the Family’s Parenting Adult Children
- Home Team Toolkit
Join us for the Family Now Conference on Saturday, September 21, from 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. where Kara Powell, PhD, will discuss how to narrow the gap between you and your young person. With six new research-based strategies, you will feel equipped to grow with your young person as you, together, navigate the roller coaster of young adulthood. Register today! Your family is worth the investment!