Redefining the Relationship: Parenting Adult Children

mother and daughter

Parenting is the one job that never ends. No matter how young or old your children are, they will always be your first concern. As children grow, what they need from their parents can change as well. This is generally difficult for both the child and the parent to navigate.

Parents have such high hopes for their children that it can be quite a shock to discover that their children can fail. The adult child can become resentful that the parent refuses to shift their ideas on success and failure.

It is never too late to change and become a realistic parent. Disowning a child hurts you as much as it hurts them. If they fail, acknowledge that mistakes were made on both sides. Get them the help they need, whether it is therapy or transitional housing. If they are a success but pulling away from you, respect their boundaries, and accept that you must give them the space they need to develop a better relationship with them.

Relinquish Control

Your children were yours to raise as you pleased for their entire childhood. If there were mistakes made or errors in judgment in some situations, you would begin to see the result now that your child is an adult.

Once they leave the nest or are old enough to stop fearing you, they will be vocal about the ways they feel you hurt them. This is not the time to get angry and lash back. Every parent makes mistakes because raising a person with their own personality and dislikes is an obstacle course. Understand that your job now is to help them heal from their past hurts and be a source of support for them.

You cannot tell them or demand or dictate the terms anymore, or you will risk pushing them away even further. Listen, go to therapy with them, and allow them to see that you have your flaws and traumas as well. Relinquishing control can be the kindest way for both you and your child to find the way back to being a loving family again.

Respecting Boundaries


Would you like it if your parent just appeared at your house without calling first? No matter how loving the relationship with them is, you will feel somewhat put-out by their highhandedness in treating your house like an extension of their own.

Call your children before visiting them. Tell them why you want to visit and be open to hearing no. If you respect their schedule, then they will be more likely to include regular visits to you or from you into that schedule.

It can be hard not to see your little boy when you look at your grown son, but he is a man now. Treating him like an adult is more important to your relationship than trying to soothe your own heart by trying to make him relive his childhood. Keep your sentiment and nostalgia for your grandchildren. Grandchildren love stories about their parent’s childhoods and will be much more willing to hear you reminisce.

Let Them Live Their Life

Life now looks very different from the way life was in your youth. People do not get married as young anymore and are more accepting of alternate ways to embrace parenthood than those you are familiar with.

Even if you raised your children to believe that they should get married before 30 and start a family soon after, their thinking on the subject might have changed as they matured. Your concern about their relationship status can come across to them as a constant harping about getting married or having children.

It is not easy to get married or start a family these days. The economy is not conducive to earning enough to support a family comfortably. These days, young people have to choose between continuing their education or getting married or having children because few people earn enough to afford all these options at once.

Instead of insisting that your children follow the same path you took in life, sit down with them and try to understand their reasoning for delaying marriage and children. Remove judgment or what you think are helpful ideas from your approach and open your mind. You will gain a better idea of the fears and roadblocks they are facing. This will allow you to give them the right kind of guidance to help them find the situation in which they will eventually give you the grandchildren you so crave.

Adult children still need their parents, just not in the way that you want them to need you. Give them the space they need and try to stop enabling them. If you are always ready to step in and fix every problem, you are doing them more harm than good.

Make sure they have attempted every avenue before they come to you. Your money, time, and resources should not be constantly available to them as this sets them up for failure in a world where you will no longer be around. Be firm, reset your boundaries, and assert them.

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