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  • 3 Tips for Parents Navigating the Tricky Waters of Raising Young Adult Children

    Parenting is the toughest job in the world. Each stage of parenting children has its ups and downs. The newborn through toddler stage is a test of endurance. It is a grueling labor of love. The elementary years bring up bigger challenges as kids become more self-aware and their problems become more complex. Then the pre-teen years and teen years can bring up a host of insecurities for parents as children become more independent and more likely to want their privacy.

    And then children turn 18 and all of a sudden, from one day to another, children are legally recognized as adults. All the consequences and responsibilities of adulthood are now applied, even though most 18 year olds are nowhere near ready for full independence. In this young adulthood stage, It is absolutely normal and expected for parents to want to continue influencing their adult children. However, using the same old parenting patterns can actually create distance when parenting adult children.

    As children grow into adults, the fears for parents can be even stronger. Parents often wonder if their adult children are on the right path, or if they have the tools and resources to know how to ask for help. If they are no longer “in the loop” on what their adult children are doing on a daily basis, it can be tempting to want to exert control via finances, or it can bring up feelings of insecurity in the relationship.

    Although all children and adult children are different and unique, there are some common pathways to take when parenting young adult children who still need lots of guidance. Here are a few to consider:

    1. Learn to influence rather than lecture

    We know this can be hard! After so many years of guiding and placing boundaries, lecturing can become second nature for many parents. Unfortunately, lecturing can only drive an adult child further away as this can feel invalidating and critical to them. Finding a way to influence them without directly lecturing or telling them what to do can make a difference. This could look like going to the gym and asking them to come along for company, rather than pointing out the freshman 15 they have gained while in college. If you are noticing they need more cooking skills, then inviting them to help with cooking while telling your own stories and memories of cooking with loved ones can leave an impression. Similarly, if you notice something that could be dangerous or detrimental, sharing a story of your own and including your regrets and what you have learned can help. It is more humanizing to show your own imperfections rather than acting like you never would have done the same risk-taking they may be partaking in.

    1. Keep the connection going in new ways

    Your kids may no longer giggle over bathroom humor and silly noises the way they did when they were younger. Parents may feel isolated when they don’t fully understand what their children find so funny. This is the perfect opportunity to keep an open mind and learn new things from them. Ask them to explain their favorite memes, or their favorite TV shows. Take delight in the things that bring a sparkle to their eyes and bring them joy. This may require making some time to connect and get to know them in a different way.

    1. Learn to offer help or ask for permission to help

    We don’t want to see our kids suffer, and this can lead most parents to either rush in to rescue their adult children, or take charge in situations which ultimately leave them without tools to problem solve. Asking a simple question such as, “Is it okay if I offer you a different perspective?” or, “Is it okay if I connect you with someone who can help?” can be an important way to give them a sense of choice and accountability. More often than not, adult children are open to hearing different opinions, as long as they genuinely feel that there is no hidden agenda when receiving the information.