8 Tips to Help Your Adult Children Thrive

Written by Jen Bonn

maidmomA parent’s job doesn’t end when his or her children move out of the house; it just looks different. I always thought that the major need for my parenting skills would be completed by the time my youngest turned 18, but I have discovered that I am still very much needed, just in different ways.

Those in their twenties and thirties often struggle with the responsibilities of being out on their own, attempting to forge their own identities. It can be heart wrenching for parents to watch them go through the inevitable ups and downs.

So how can we help our adult children mature into adulthood without having them rely on us too much?

Here are some of the challenges I’ve had and what I’ve learned. These eight pointers should help you come alongside them so they can flourish, and at the same time, help you maintain a healthy and strong relationship. I hope reading this makes you smile and that you’ll be encouraged to embrace your ongoing parenting role for their benefit.

1) Let Them Make Mistakes

Although you see them making the same mistakes that you made, realize that they will learn from them just as you did. It bothers me to watch my oldest daughter attack life with a vengeance. She is driven and determined to prove herself, so often ends up stressed out and exhausted. It took me until my forties to realize that “busy” and “productive” are two different things, and that life is better enjoyed at a slower speed. I just have to hope that she will learn to slow down earlier than I did.

2) Comfort Them When Reality Sets In

When our children first set out on their own, they were excited about their impending independence until the bills started flowing in and the reality of the cost of living hit home. Both of my older children moved back in with us after their initial taste of independence in order to put some money aside to help make that independence feasible.

3) Smile When They Get their Kids’ Names Wrong

Parenting young children requires most of someone’s brain capacity. They have to be on all the time, so minor details like the correct name of the person to whom they are speaking can be tricky. I once called my oldest the dead dog’s name, a mistake that she still reminds me of today. Now that she has her own child, I laugh every time she mixes them up, and of course she reminds me that at least it wasn’t the dead dog’s name.

4) Don’t Withhold Advice

You may think that once they leave your house they won’t need your advice anymore. The truth is that they probably
need it more now than ever. The trick though is not to offer it until your child asks for it.

5) Welcome them Home, Just for Visits

One of the most difficult things for parents is to know the difference between helping out and enabling. Making your child dependent on you is a recipe for disaster. At some point in your child’s life, they need to learn to make it on their own. If you always bail them out, they will never learn how to be resourceful and resilient.

6) Don’t Roll Your Eyes When They Complain of Exhaustion

I’m sure you can recall how you were sleepless when they were babies, laying in bed worried when they were teens, or up all night helping with projects and homework, before heading off to work feeling like a zombie. They will eventually begin to understand what you did for them.

7) Offer Babysitting, Not Full-time Daycare

My oldest said to me, “Mom, I want to have a child in the next five years, so by then you will have retired and you can take care of my baby while I work.” I explained to her that I was excited about grandbabies, would help out with babysitting occasionally, and would enjoy spoiling her children rotten, but that I have been waiting to retire way too long to start another full-time job.

8) Consider Prayer

My middle child is an artist. He is creative, lives for the moment, and dreams of an amazing future. He just has not been able to come up with a plan on how to make that happen. I think he was lost for a time, trying to find a purpose and a goal. That journey caused me a great deal of anxiety. Finally, one day I prayed, “God, he is in your hands. I trust that you have a plan, and I hope it is one that will make him happy.” Prayer helped me let go of the worry because I had to really believe it was out of my hands.

I wish you all the best as you care for your aging children. It is a difficult, but rewarding job, and as with all the other seasons of parenting, it will make us stronger, and probably make our hair a touch more gray, too!

Further Reading:

Living Near Your Children: Bonus or Bad Move?
Widowhood: Till Death Do Us Part

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