Somehow, I had the illusion that the day my kids left for college, my parenting job would be over. HA! Little did I know. The job didn’t go away, it just got a new title: Parenting Adult Children.
If you have been around long enough to have grown children you’ve probably noticed that there are at least 5 different ways that parents would write their job description for that new title:
- Parent of Adult Child: Parent must get away quickly. If parent lives on the east coast of the United States, moving to Florida or Maine is best practice. If parent lives on the west coast, Alaska or Hawaii will do.
- Parent of Adult Child: Parent must helicopter. Parent should call adult child’s college professors and/or employers to assure that their young adult is clearly understood and is treated properly in all circumstances. This job also requires that parents phone their adult children each morning to make sure that they got up on time.
- Parent of Adult Child: Parent must nag. Parent must remember that the only way their adult child will accomplish anything is to handle their young adults the same way they did when their kids were in high school. Expert naggers must be able to show adult child that they can persist longer than the young adults can: so they might as well give up and do their adulting.
- Parent of Adult Child: Parent must enable. Parent must understand that life in the 21st century is stressful and the only way adult children can survive is to stay in the basement gaming with their online friends. Parent must supply food, shelter and gas money in return for knowing their young adult has less stress. Parent can also hope that by the time their offspring is 37, he/she will want to get a job and move out.
- Parent of Adult Child: Parent must let go and let God. Parent must also be available for late night phone calls and other appropriate forms of support when their adult child is going through tough stuff. Parent must pray that he/she will be able to:
- rescue when necessary
- refuse to rescue when necessary
- have the wisdom to know the difference
As you might have guessed, job description #5 is a healthy choice: Let go and let God (and still be available).
So, how do you let go and let God when parenting an adult child?
Here are 5 things it helps to remember:
1. You are in charge of the process. When God gave your kids to you, He gave you the assignment to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; to help them develop and discover their callings, strengths and interests; to help them learn to be people who could conduct themselves graciously; and prepare them for adulthood. (Your God-given goals may look a little different than that: there’s not ONE right way to raise kids.) Work the process, then let go.
2. You are not in charge of the outcome. I wish someone had told me this when I started out! We are an outcome-based society. Show me the results! God-given jobs like parenting are different. We live in God’s economy, where we experience 1 Corinthians 3:6 (where Paul explained that he planted, Apollos watered but God gave the increase). Trust God and let God manage the outcomes.
3. You are in charge of the example you set. Adult children are still learning from your example. More about adulting is caught than taught. Set and example and let go.
4. You are in charge of listening. That’s all we can do lots of the time when our adult children have stressors or tough times. Don’t worry. Listening is powerful. Listen well and let God handle your grown kids’ stresses.
5. You are in charge of praying. First, last, always. Your kids NEVER outgrow needing their parents’ intercession. No one prays like a parent. Pray and pray and let God handle the answer.
When do you step in (rescue)?
You step in and do something tangible when:
You prayed and you’re clear that God directed you.
A little tangible support will help them feel encouraged, not disempowered (young mothers needing some extra advice and support- when asked for, sickness with no one local to care for them, things like that).
When do you give them space (refuse to rescue)?
When they asked you not to.
When God directed you to back off.
When they can do it for themselves or can develop their own resources. Even if it is difficult for them.
When you are enabling them. (Drug use, poor choices or laziness do not need rescuing. Rescuing is detrimental for these. It makes things worse.)
How can you know the difference?
We can better know the difference when we:
Don’t act on impulse.
Turn our fears over to God. Acting out of anxiety or fear often leads to a mess.
Train ourselves to calm down and wait. We can tell ourselves that it is okay for our adult children to have some stress in their lives. God will use that. He will act in their best interests.
Pray consistently for our kids and wait for God’s direction.
Make a daily mindset of handing our adult children to God for His wise care. Then stay out of the way until we clearly know to do otherwise.
All my kids are in various states and ages of adulthood. My adult children and I have lovely relationships. I am thankful for that. That’s God’s work for sure: rescuing me from my natural tendency to helicopter.
Here’s a post on advice retired homeschool moms have told me.