“Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days.” Proverbs 19:20
If you’re on this great journey called parenting, you know the milestones along the way. If all goes according to your plans, you and your kids survive together through first steps, potty-training, first day of school, teenhood, driving, going off to college or work, marriage, and eventually parenthood for them.
When your children are small, you’re the stage director of their play. As time goes on, you find yourself directing less and watching more, moving offstage. If you’re not paying attention, though, it’s a rude awakening when you find yourself in the audience, able only to watch their on-stage performance…wondering how you got out there. That’s the reality of parenting adults.
But in the best circumstances, you develop an interactive drama together—one where your children learn to direct their own show but occasionally seek your input to tweak it, make it a bit better, or simply share their story with you.
Our “children” are no longer children. They are both adults on their own and doing well despite the challenges of the COVID environment. But I still want to be a good mom to them…in ways that are best for them. And, they still need my prayers.
Our adult daughter, Elizabeth, is a flourishing PhD candidate in Indiana, currently working on her dissertation, and we were blessed to have her visit with us this week for a fall break. While here, I asked her for advice on how I can be a better parent to her and our son now.
Here’s Elizabeth’s advice—she asks that you, my readers, whose circumstances can be incredibly varied, take her words with a grain of salt and apply them in light of your own adult child-older parent relationship:
- Don’t assume that the world is the same now as it was when you were a young adult. The world is different now—things are harder in some ways, and the tips and tricks that worked for you may not work for your child.
- Listen to your adult children…ask how you can help them. They are adults now, and their lives are their own. You can help them to live good lives, but they must be the ones to work out what a good life looks like for them.
- Be willing to learn and grow. Your adult child has probably learned a lot by this point in their lives, and you and your adult child can probably learn things from each other. Just as your child hasn’t stopped growing, you should be willing to grow and change.
- Not everything will be the same now as it was when your adult children were still children. That can be a good thing. Adulthood can be a good time for you both to renegotiate a better relationship with each other.
- Finally, and most importantly, love your children as they are. Don’t just love the person you think they are or want them to be. If both you and your child start from a place of love and respect, you can figure the rest out. That doesn’t mean that navigating certain parts of your adult child-older parent relationship won’t be hard, but it does give you the basis you need for building a good relationship with each other.
As another tip, I will add that I have learned in conversations to refer to my son and daughter as “adults”—my “adult son” and my “adult daughter,” not “my kids” or even “my children.” Just putting those phrases into my speech patterns helps reinforce the concept that they are no longer babes. I’m proud of them for “adulting” and need to continually remind myself.
As our son, Alex, moves back to our area, we’ll enter a new phase in our relationship that’s different from his pre-college years. I hope to apply some of Elizabeth’s advice to my relationship with him as well.
If you’re a mom or dad of an adult, may God bless you in your relationships. May He keep you watchful, loving, and supportive. May you learn to trust Him over and over again with your adult family…just as you trusted Him when they were taking their first steps.
Gracious God, thank You for the children You have provided in our lives. You are our example of the very best, very good Father—help us always to trust You with them. As we parent or mentor or simply befriend young adults, please give us Your wisdom, patience, and sacrificial love to help them on their journey. Make us good listeners, too. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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© Copyright 2020 Nancy C. Williams, Lightbourne Creative