Parenting adult children can seem like an oxymoron, times two! “Adult children” occupy an amorphous space in your mind, and perhaps in the dictionary. How can you be both a child and an adult? Parenting an adult just sounds mutually exclusive. After all, adults don’t need parenting, right? Once you reach the age of 18, of course you know everything there is to know about life, love and happiness. Perhaps according to the law once the age of emancipation is reached, adults are responsible for their own lives, and counted and entrusted as individuals. But in families, this rarely happens through any passage of time.
As a parent or grandparent, you may feel compelled to share your knowledge, wisdom and life experiences with your adult children, but take care in sharing. The message may be enlightening, amazing or even inspiring. But frustrated recipients often shoot the messenger!
Offer a perspective to your adult children
Provide them not only with your view on the situation, but with the perspective a potential outside third party might have on the matter. Objectivity is the fire extinguisher to life’s blazes. Looking into your adult child’s life from a bird’s eye view, or from the heights, span, or depth from which you can gain an insightful advantage will quell the potential sparks of dreaded “advice.” So remember, try not to give advice. Give perspective.
Tell a story, with an anecdote
Instead of dictating to them what they should or shouldn’t do, inform and entertain your adult child by letting them know you’ve gone through a similar situation. This can help them feel connected to you, instead of being lectured by you. And make sure the story is actually applicable to their experience and has a point.
Focus on what they are doing right or well
Compliment what decisions they’ve made and action’s they’ve taken that have been beneficial for them and their families. Also compliment them about their decisions that have helped them grow into the adult you and they are proud of. Then gently remind them of what they could work on or change. Don’t necessarily admonish, simply caution them about unwise decisions or behavior.
Don’t just hand out suggestions, ask questions
Make sure you ask real questions, with real answers. Not a declaration or advice disguised as a question. Just because it ends in a question mark does not make it a genuine question. So remember, all you have to do is ask.
The best way to get someone to listen to you is to listen to them. Sit there, smile, nod and acknowledge what they’re saying. Even if every fiber of your being is fighting against it. Then, when they pause or are finished with their side, slowly make headway into your end of the bargain. Keep it short and simple. Incorporate the other pointers: offer perspective, tell a short story, commend them on the good they’ve already done, and ask questions. Keep these as concise as possible, then let them talk and keep listening.
It’s hard for any parent to see their child of any age struggling. But your job is to teach them to deal with life’s challenges in a healthy and appropriate way. And guide them into the life you want for them. One filled with abundance, joy, happiness and family.
Remember, you taught them from the beginning
if you find yourself constantly finding fault with your kids and doling out advice, you likely doubt your child’s decision-making abilities. If so, it can be said that you essentially doubt your own parenting practices. You taught them how to grow into adulthood and responsibility, and now you may be trying to make up for misguidance or lost ground. If you were a “helicopter parent,” you may have tended to take responsibility and decision-making away from your kids, preventing them from developing the critical thinking skills and good judgment they would need to succeed as adults. It’s important as a parent for you to learn to let go and allow your children to find their own way. They may sprint; they may stumble. But if they fall, they need to learn to pick themselves up and start again. And when they do, you can be proud of the good job you did.
My mother, bless her heart, has been reiterating insights I’ve given her over the years to comfort and guide me in times of stress lately. She recites remarks I’ve made in my own books and articles whenever she gets the chance. I find this remarkable and flattering. Especially because much of what I write is channeled, and I don’t remember it once it’s written. But it means more coming from her anyhow. More than my mother, she is my best friend. And even though I pretend not to listen (if only to give her a little grief every once in a while) I hear everything she says. And I’m grateful she takes the time to read and digest my writing, then remind me of what she knows I already know. As a parent to an adult child, we have become, and have really stayed friends.
Once grown, adult children may or may not welcome advice from you, especially if it is unsolicited. But rarely does anyone appreciate meddling and interference in their lives. Know the difference. Let the message match the intention, and know that delivery can mean everything.