Remember when your family looked liked the feature photo of this post? It was so clear what your role was as a parent. Fast forward to when your kiddos turn the magical age of 18. They are adults, grown ups, fully capable of taking care of themselves. Ummm, not really. They still need our guidance, but how we help and support them needs to look differently. I will preface my next thoughts by saying I am still trying to figure out this phase of parenting. But like the big M (Menopause), people don’t talk about parenting adult children. There are no books, online support groups, etc. I feel like we are left to figure it out alone. So, here are some things that I have learned early along in this phase of parenting. I hope that others chime in. I learned so much from my big M post and had lots of real and very honest conversations as a result.
The first thing I learned is to change the way I give advice. Saying things like “you need to …..” is an automatic turn off. Literally, I visualize Charlie Brown’s teacher when I would give advice this way. They cannot hear you. A better approach is “it might be worth looking into…” I liken it to parenting oppositional toddlers who I called “back door” kids. You cannot go straight in the front door telling them to do something. Instead, you need to knock quietly on the back door and offer choices so they feel like they have some control of the decision making. With toddlers, I gave 2 choices and they picked one.
Next, make sure your adult children have supports in place. One of my kiddos called with some worrisome decision making recently, and I immediately texted their therapist and emailed their psychiatrist. I prefaced the correspondence with the fact that they are adults, but as their support people, I wanted them to know I had some concerns. And those supports don’t have to be professionals. Make friends with their friends, and the parents of those friends. Reach out if you have concerns and see if they can check on them (or have their adult kid check on your adult kid).
Lastly, be open to them sharing things you would probably rather not know. My kiddos share A LOT, which sometimes feels like A LOT. But I did not share anything with my parents, and when they do overshare, it can also be an opportunity to offer some back door advice. Whew, parenting. The never ending journey. And this part feels like I am truly learning as I am doing. I will close with some thoughts from a wise friend when I posted on “old people social media” about my kiddos’ over sharing. She said I have done my job, let go and let them have their experiences without worry. I wish it was that easy for my brain. But, I will always work on me and try to be the best parent I can be. So here is to trying!