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Parenting adult children: The first step is redefining the relationship

Is your adult child the dependent sort?
Is your adult child the dependent sort?

When it comes to parenting your adult children the first step is redefining your relationship. Ever have a visit from your adult children and found yourself asking, “Who are these strangers, and what are they doing in my house?” Or have you ever been driving home from a visit with the folks and cried out, “Why do they still treat me like a child?” while the kids in the backseat ask, “Mommy, who are you talking to?”

Welcome to the crazy, mixed up world of Adult Child/Parent relationships. The empty nest is not the end of the parenting relationship, but the rules of the game have changed. So has the position of the players. Understanding these changes is the first step toward establishing a healthy and satisfying relationship.

The primary difference in your relationship with your adult children is that you are now in a position of advice, not authority. You cannot ‘lay down the law’ anymore. Moreover, the depth of this new relationship primarily depends on what everyone wants it to be, you can’t make it happen. The good news is that with the absence of authority also comes the relieving of responsibility. The bad news is that you may be forced to watch those you love make poor choices and reap the consequences – and know there is not a whole lot you can do about it directly.

So how does one go about defining this new relationship? Knowing the relationship has changed, embrace the change. Don’t try to turn back the hands of time – it’s impossible, and frustrating too. Accepting your new role as a loving observer rather than a problem solver puts you in a better position to offer your wise counsel and puts them in a better position to receive it.  It’s time to relax and enjoy the fruits of your earlier efforts, you’ve taught them to make good choices, trust they will do so and enjoy their company. 

And for those times when your adult children have made not so good choices and you are not sure how best to proceed there is help available.  The Church of the Resurrection in Leawood has a support group for just this situation.  Or, if you feel you need individual counsel you might try local certified parent coach Laura Murphy.