Parenting Adult Children
In my humble opinion, parenting adult children is much harder than parenting younger children, even the tenacious teens.
During the years of parenting my children, I did my best to keep trauma at bay. I tried to shield them and protect them from as much hurt as I could while teaching them how to be productive, reasonable, intelligent young women. I stressed the importance of respect, education, self-worth and value. I built them up as much as I could and did my best to play the role of both parents, even to the point of putting my own issues aside and trying to co-parent so my girls could identify and run away from dysfunction, unhealthy relationships, and the like. So, you can imagine my horror and confusion as they entered into adulthood and make some of what I can only call the craziest choices (notice I did not use the word, mistakes).
I have not always worked as a licensed therapist. However, currently working in the mental health profession, my senses are heightened, and it makes my heart heavy when I see an issue I can help my adult children avoid but because “mom” made a suggestion they choose the wrong path anyway. So how does the parent of adult children step back and allow said children to make poor choices, get hurt, experience unnecessary setbacks, I can go on and on, but you get what I’m saying.
Ross Campbell, MD and Gary Chapman, MD, writers of “How To Really Love Your Adult Child” suggest forgiving yourself first. Release yourself from any shame or guilt you’ve ever experienced in the past as you parented your younger children. They also suggest illustrating self-control and don’t lose sight of the prize. What’s the prize you ask? If you’re thinking the prize is to continue “parenting” your adult child as you have all their lives and those children suddenly become grateful and obedient, then like me, you are incorrect ma’am and/or sir. According to the great authors, the prize is to preserve and progress in your relationship with your adult child(ren). So, in other words, leading by this example would be the most effective lesson you can ever teach your adult child. Let your actions take place of your words, they don’t listen to them anyway.
Pamela Smith, MS, LPC