I’m not a parent, but I’m observant enough to notice that parenting changes as children get older. It has to. No good parent would continue to treat their 16-year-old the same way they would a 5-year-old, or even a 14-year-old.
Most parents adjust their parenting techniques naturally as their children get older. However, many parents struggle to adjust when their children have moved out of the house and no longer depend on them for basic necessities.
Having been fully independent for a couple of years, there are a few things my parents and I have learned about the parent-adult child relationship; things that I wish all parents knew.
I may not be a “real” adult yet, but I’m not a teenager, either
Variations of the phrase (usually shouted in a whiny voice) “I’m not a kid anymore!” are a big clue to parents that their kids aren’t as grown-up as they think they are, but hear me out.
I often go to my parents’ house for family get-togethers. Sometimes I will arrive early to help prepare the meals. I do this to show my appreciation to my mom for all the years she’s worked in the kitchen to keep her family fed and happy. And, yes, I also do it to show her that I’ve matured a little since moving away.
But throughout the visit, my mom will keep saying things like, “Don’t forget to put your dishes in the sink” or “You’d better put some real shoes on if you want to go on a walk with us.” Simple admonitions I had heard every day of my growing up years.
There’s nothing wrong with these mothering statements. But I’ve often wished that I was given the chance to prove that I can clean up after myself without being told, or to demonstrate that I’ve wised up enough not to wear flip-flops when it is 40 degrees Fahrenheit outside.
The best thing parents can do for their adult children is to treat them like an adult. If they don’t, it will be all too easy for the child to sink back into old teenage habits.
I’ll always need my parents, but can’t we be friends, too?
One stricture my parents always stuck to — with which I happen to agree — is that parents should be parents first, friends second.
However, there comes a time when even that rule should be broken. Eventually, parents must stop being parent-like in order to let their children traverse the world on their own.
Switching from “parent” mode to “friend” mode was difficult for my parents, but they figured it out eventually. I still go to them for advice all the time and respect them for their wisdom. Yet it wasn’t until we were able to face one another as equals that our adult relationship was able to form and grow. Today, I consider my parents some of my best friends. I’d harbor a guess that they feel the same way about me.