Parenting Adult Children

We have 5 adult children. I did a lot of babysitting when I was a teenager and so I thought I was ready and prepared for motherhood. When our children were babies and toddlers, I thought for sure it was a “gloriously out-of-balance” time of life that would eventually even out. Days were filled with diapers and midnight feedings; crying and learning to communicate; bumps and bruises while learning to walk…which eventually turned into the child stage…the tween stage…and the teenager stage, and believing that for  SURE each stage was the trickiest! Days turned into years of training, guiding, messing up, being too strict, being too lenient, tiredness, frustration, worry and anxiety about what might happen or what might not happen…all with joy and happiness sprinkled in.

What I was never prepared for was parenting adult children. Is there a class I missed? A podcast that wasn’t invented then?!

A prevailing challenge I am finding is parents who are in the same stage of life and who are shaking their heads at how they are being treated by their adult children–children who responded respectfully before leaving the nest and are now treating them like a problem.

In my own search for answers to see what I cannot see, a friend recommended a fantastic book, Doing Life With Your Adult Children: Keep Your Mouth Shut and the Welcome Mat Out.

“This transition of moving from daily involvement and hands-on parenting to a more intermittent involvement will likely be an easier move for your kids than it is for you.”  Author Jim Burns

And I believe that one of the biggest reasons is because we as parents place our personal value on what our child/children does or does not do.

“Your child’s choices don’t have to break you. Your child’s regrettable decisions do not make you a bad parent. Even good parents have children who make poor choices.”  Jim Burns

Get a pen and paper.

Write down this question:

I believe ____________ about myself because of how my adult child is treating me.

Now look at the statement you wrote. The temptation will be to edit it right away–to fill in what you think you should feel. Instead, allow yourself to get face and feel what is going on inside of you.

Next, ask yourself this question:

Is what I believe about myself true?

If your statement has anything to do with your value or worth, then it is not true. 

Personal value and worth are independent of your choices and the choices of your children.                                                                               Coach Mandy-Marie

Separating our value from how our children interact and treat us opens the door to humility on our part–humility to recognize if there is something we can do better and humility to see them and where they are in their challenges. It opens the door to, as James Burns says:

“…acknowledge your old job description as a parent so that you can set it aside. That’s the only way to make room for your new job description.”

It matters!

(For parents whose children have never treated them with respect, the principle I have taught holds true for you too! Your value is independent of how your child shows up in the world. For parents who have neglected or abandoned or not nurtured their children, your value is still not called into question; understanding what to do as a result of these behaviors is a topic for another day!)


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