PARENTING ADULT CHILDREN
When children are old enough to strike out on their own, it can be a bittersweet moment. In part because the child no longer lives at home, but also because the entire relationship between a parent and their child must change.
For most of us, being a parent isn’t merely a responsibility, it’s an identity. So when a child leaves home, it can feel like a part of us has gone with them. Some moms and dads cope with that emptiness by continuing to parent their child, in some cases for years afterward. But this mindset ignores a crucial truth. For a teenager to successfully transition into adulthood, the relationship must move from a parent-to-child dynamic to an adult-to-adult one.
At its heart, parenting was designed by God to be about raising children into independent adults. In the early years, a child needs help with even the simplest of tasks, like eating or tying their shoes. As the child grows, those tasks and others ought to become the child’s responsibility. And by the time they’re old enough to leave home, the emerging adult should not only be capable of managing the daily tasks of their own life, but they should be able to establish appropriate boundaries with friends and romantic relationships.
This doesn’t mean moms and dads should disconnect from their child altogether, but the parent’s role should shift from a position of authority to one of subtle influence. It’s okay to offer advice if it’s requested, but the adult child needs the freedom to make their own decisions – and, yes, mistakes. Learning through experience is the key to an individual following the Apostle Paul’s admonition to leave behind childish attitudes and fully mature into adulthood.
For a daily dose of encouragement and perspective, check out Jim Daly’s blog, Daly Focus, at JimDalyBlog.com.