“Mum, I thought parenting kids would get easier as they got older,” I exclaimed one day in desperation about my 20-something girls.
After she quit laughing, she asked, “Why on earth would you think that?” Fair question.
We raise our kids to be independent, but then when they try to exert this independence, we push back in full helicopter mode. The struggle is real, friend, and I’m right there with you.
I have only three thoughts: Open heart. Open door. Closed Mouth. And boundaries as needed. Oops, that was four. And, no, I don’t practice these things perfectly. Especially the closed mouth one.
Open heart. Open door. Closed mouth. Boundaries as needed.
The crux of the matter is that the nature of our relationship changes as our children mature. If we want our relationship to continue to thrive, we need to change with our kids. Or rather, our young adults.
I say young adults to remind myself that my kids are not dependent children anymore (unless they need to know how to get stains out of their favorite sweatshirt). We need to deliberately change the way we talk and relate to them and ensure we’re treating them like adults. If we want them to act like adults (i.e., take responsibility for their own bills and move into their own apartments), then we need to treat them as such. I admit that’s really hard when they’re visiting or staying for an extended time (due to a pandemic or other emergency).
Along those same lines, we need to not give them unasked-for advice. We’ll both be frustrated. Yes, I know how tempting it is. Yes, I know that we know better, but let’s save ourselves the headache (and possibly a few missed phone calls and bitter feelings) and keep our advice to ourselves. We had 18 years to pour all our hard-won experience into them. Now we need to reserve it for when they ask for it, which means they may be more likely to follow it. Maybe. We can let this be our prayer:
Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!Deuteronomy 5:29
We also need to respect their choices. Yes, even the ones we don’t agree with. By respect I mean accept that they have the right to make their own choices, even if they’re mistakes. We need to let go of our feelings of responsibility for the choices they make. I struggled fiercely with this a few years ago when one of my kids made a life-changing decision that went against everything I believed. But I had to release my feelings of guilt and shame because I could not own her decisions. I had to let her own them. That took a lot of time on my knees, and I still struggle with it sometimes, but it’s much easier now.
Sometimes kids just have to fail and take the consequences in order to grow. We know from our own experiences that we grow spiritually and emotionally when we go through trials, and the same is true for our kids. As much as we hurt when they hurt, we can’t fix everything for them. We shouldn’t enable them, and sometimes that means setting hard boundaries and then sticking to them. It’s called tough love for a reason!
I don’t have all of the answers. But I can spend time on my knees and cling to this promise:
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.Philippians 1:6
Where are you and your kids in this growing up process? What have you found that has blessed your relationship with your young adult children? Please share your wisdom!