Parenting Adult Children

As a parent of two adult children, I’ve experienced the need to change my parenting style from an “authoritarian” approach to a mentor approach.  My children no longer need my authority but my encouragement.  That was a difficult transition for me as I’ve done it one way for so long.  However, in order to foster a good relationship with both my kids I knew I had to change.  I remembered I didn’t like it when my parents told me what to do once I grew up and left the house.  I didn’t want to be one of those parents where their kids would only spend time with them because they had to, not because they wanted to.

In order to become a mentor I needed to remind myself of a few facts.  I was reading “Parenting Tips for Staying close To Your Child While Letting Go” by Jackie Burrell on About.com and thought they were helpful.

Be a consultant not a 24/7 manager:  This advice was the first one I followed because my son said I had a “managerial style” to my parenting and he wasn’t being complimentary.  I transitioned into the consultant extraordinaire but it took some practice. I learned to converse and ask questions that didn’t put him on defense rather than make obvious suggestions.  I would say “have you considered or thought about this?” or “I was wondering if you thought through this scenario?”   At first it didn’t come easily but the more we casually talked the easier it became.

Continue to Communicate:  Don’t stop talking because you aren’t giving advice.  Be sure to continue having open conversations without giving advice and let them talk about what they think and have experienced.  This is one of the most challenging tips to follow because most parents feel this nagging need to impart their wisdom at every opportunity because that is what parents are for.  The tricky part is to remember you’ve done your parenting job already.  Now it is time for your child to learn from their own mistakes.  Believe it or not, they become alienated when you are always pointing to their wayward thinking.  Think about how you would feel if a friend of yours did that to you all the time.

Be Respectful and Listen:  Remember your child will more than likely perceive that everything you say is critical even if it isn’t meant to be.  This requires a lot more listening on your part.  Repeat back what your child says in your words so they will know you heard them and try to keep your editorials to a minimum.  They are more interested in talking about themselves than listening to anything you say.  Wait for them to ask for your advice rather than offering unsolicited advice.  Try to find out their opinions and don’t add anything more.  Remember, you have finished parenting.

Find ways to stay connected:   Find a regular time during the week that you can talk even if it is only for 5 minutes.  Spend time with them on their terms. Find things to talk about that interest your adult child.

Allow them to grow up on their terms:  Resist the temptation to parent your adult child when you see them on a path of stupidity.  Remind yourself you have finished your job as parent and have become a mentor.  A mentor doesn’t always point out what is wrong but gives room for self-discovery.

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