Sometimes I Feel Like a Piece of Bologna

Monday, October 23, 2006

Parenting Adult Children

As I’ve watched my son become an adult over the past several years, I’ve often said that parenting adult children is much harder than parenting any other stage. I guess that’s because we no longer have the rule of law on our sides. Only the rule of influence.

Let’s face it. When the kids are little, we can simply pick them up and move them to where we want them to be. They may be kicking and screaming, but when reason fails, Mom and Dad still have the last word. As they grow to teen years, good communication goes a long way in maintaining a good relationship. But when reason fails at this stage, we usually still have the power of the purse and the power of position to persuade them to see things our way. Sure, I know that many kids rebel at this stage and parents feel powerless. But if we’ve not taken our roles too legalistically and have developed good communication in the first 13 years, we can make it through the teen years relatively unscathed.

But then, they’re off to college or work, and their world broadens. They’re meeting people we don’t know and making friends outside of our circle of influence. They’re developing romantic interests without our oversight. This is when we know if our family values have been communicated to the next generation.

We’ve been so pleased with the friends our son has chosen and the wife he married. But as he’s moved into adulthood, he’s made choices that we have frightened us. Choosing to get married younger than we would have preferred. Business decisions we aren’t sure he’s ready for. We trust him, but so often we cringe because we know that our role is no longer to give him the answers. It’s to give him wings and encouragement and trust. It’s to stand on the sidelines and cheer him on, no matter what decision he makes. It’s to pray that the decision he’s making is the right one. That’s so much harder than making his choices for him or even giving him advice, but so essential as we encourage him to become the man God created him to be.

Ann Gowans offers some good tips in an article in today’s Columbia Daily Tribune about parenting adults. For those of us in Gen Sandwich, giving our adult children the freedom to thrive helps to relieve the feeling of being smooshed.

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