Having adult children is a whole different ballgame. You are still “mom and dad,” yet the old relationship no longer works, especially the older they get. Parents often wonder how to manage the transition, and how to support without meddling. Here are three tips:
1) Continue to listen. If your adult child comes to you, make sure you spend 99% of the time listening. They will ask you when they want your advice. If you’re not sure, ask them, “Do you want me to give you advice, or just to listen?” Sometimes they just need a sounding board. Be flexible. Listen well. Be there for them. This is your opportunity to touch their life in a new way. Create a safe space. If you give unsolicited advice, eventually they will stop confiding in you. How often do you want to “run something by” one of your parents? If your parents tend to meddle, you probably don’t ask very often. Just keep that in mind.
2) Let go. Easier said than done, letting go is an important step in launching our children. We will always have more life experience and more wisdom in many areas. However, it may not be the time to give advice. There is no problem with the desire to help, support and protect. However, your job is changing. Your position in their life is changing. It is important that you let go (the degree will depend on their age) and allow them the space to grow up. If you have kept the lines of communication open, you will find that letting go takes nothing away from your connection with them. It is merely a shift, not an ending. It is not about separating from them, gaining distance, or cutting ties; it is about “releasing” them to create their life. And … stay close. They do still need you.
3) Evaluate. This is a great time to evaluate your relationship with your own parents. What have you enjoyed about your relationship with them since you became an adult? What have you not enjoyed so much? Use those experiences in creating a new relationship with your own children. And, remember to ask your children what they need and want from you now. Everyone is different. Everyone matures at a different pace. Everyone needs different amounts of space. And, whether or not they are still living at home will impact your amount of influence as well. This can be a huge adjustment. Take time to evaluate your relationship periodically. It is always changing and growing. Look to see what is and is not working in your relationship with your children, no matter how old they are.
With adult children, focus on keeping the lines of communication open, while honoring the need for autonomy. When you’re not sure about something, talk about it. This is a time to develop an even deeper, more connected, respect-filled relationship. When done well, your relationship will grow and blossom in ways you never imagined.