“I’m 20-years old! You can’t tell me what to do!”
“I live on my own at school and I do fine. I don’t need restrictions or curfews when I come home for the summer!”
“Uh, mom can I have some cash? I don’t have any money left in my account.”
“Dad, I got arrested and I’m in jail. I need help.”
Parenting young adults can be like stepping into an alternative culture. A culture in which you thought you knew the language and the customs, but seemingly overnight everything changes.
Sleep habits now resemble those of vampires rather than most humans.
Somehow your clean-cut high school student has returned home with a full beard, a nose piercing or rainbow colored hair.
Your college graduate calls you asking for a loan because he can’t understand how his bank account has negative funds in it.
Your adult child who attended 12 years of religious education announces that he no longer embraces the religion he grew up with and won’t be attending church services with the family.
What has happened and how do parents—and the adult children—make adjustments to live cohesively amongst all of these changes?
When discussing how to parent adult children, many parents express confusion and frustration. It’s the true definition of being in an alien situation in which there are no rules and it seems like there are no definitive answers. It’s a quandary as many parents who have may orchestrated every move for their children through high school now realize their children want little of that “help” now that they are 18.
For many parents, this is typically a time where there are minefields to negotiate while trying to maintain a good relationship with their children, set boundaries, and be supportive.
For adult children, an internal struggle exists between wanting to be independent and having awareness that they are still dependent on their parents, and at the same time striving for independence and self-sufficiency. It’s a tough place to be emotionally and psychologically.
Parents see their children making poor decisions, having difficulties managing stress and engaging in self-medicating behaviors. At the same time, adult children see themselves as independent adults who have managed to successfully live away from home, do laundry and not starve for 9 months away at school.
As I have discussed previously, every family is different and some families will not encounter these issues, others may deal with a few rough spots, while others may have more difficulty during this time.
Regardless of your individual situation, there are some basic tips to help negotiate this time.
Be clear about your expectations!
Avoid assuming that your child will know anything about the rules or expectations that you may have about finances, curfew, household rules or anything else.
That means-communicate clearly! If a child is coming home to live or just for the summer, setting expectations is essential. At the same time, try to have an open mind and listen to your what is important to your child.
Be clear about what will occur if the rules are violated.
Remember that your child is in the process of learning to be an adult and independent. Allow him space. LISTEN to his concerns.
This is also a good time to enlist the services of a professional if difficulties continue to affect family dynamics. Many times adult children benefit greatly from coaching to help them with stress, new roles, and confusion about the future. It is actually typical for college students to experience anxiety about their futures. The coaching process is perfect to help address these issues.
Parents benefit from understanding how to create healthy boundaries and work with their adult children. This can be a tough time, and having support and a judgment-free space to work out emotions can be a lifesaver.
Even though we have focused on the possible difficulties in parenting adult children, this stage of life can be refreshingly joyful and rewarding for parents and children alike. To see them happy and successful is a parent’s dream. As with most journeys in life, there are rough patches. To be successful, one must learn from what didn’t go as planned in order to pave the way to the accomplishment of future goals.