Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Parenting "Adult" Children

It was the best and worst of times. No, not when the kids were babies but when they became old enough to start acting like adults. All their lives we try to help them mature into independent, healthy beings capable of living on their own but when the time comes it's pretty scary.

Our kids don't just arrive at adulthood either nor do all kids get there at the same time in life. Some are still not very adult at twenty while others seem like they could handle life by themselves at sixteen. Yes, every teenager and young adult will need to be considered individually for graduation into the next phase of life.

However, there are a few basic principles that seem to apply uniquely to our kids during this challenging time along with a couple ideas worth keeping in your parenting notebook. Principle one: gradually give your kids more and more opportunities to experiment with adulthood. As I alluded to a moment ago, becoming an adult is a process not an event. It starts with their first few steps of trying out independence. It may begin with adding a new freedom to stay out a little later or to go somewhere different with a friend. (For what it's worth, we let our kids totally pick their own times for coming in and going to bed their senior year. Up to that time we gave them more and more freedom.)

Their training can advance a notch when they learn to drive and begin to take the responsibility to look out for the safety of others. Some parents, however, are unwilling to give in to those experiments and as a result their kids don't get much chance to experience adult behaviors and responding.

This is where different parents with unique children will all likely use varying options and ages in which to implement this process but the results can be similar.

Principle two: Being an adult means accepting responsibility for your choices so we as parents must be willing to parent accordingly. Many young people merely want the privileges of adulthood without the consequences and challenges. But we must show them that's not how life works. For example, if we suggest to our young person that they must now pay for the gas they use in the car (assuming they work), then we must not jump in and just buy them more gas when they've chosen to use their money for something else. That's what adults have to do.

Or, for an older adult child, if we require them to pay "rent," whatever the amount, then we must give them a rent due date and expect them to pay on time. There can be a grace period just like an apartment might offer, but we should also consider adding a penalty similar to what they'll face in the real world.

Principle three: We will need to treat TRUE adults differently than maturing ones. That means that a child who is eighteen or older will have different rules than a younger one. Students home from college, for example, should be allowed to set their own rules about when to be in, what they do with their time and the like. However, they can still be respectful to the fact that they are living in someone else's home. If they want to have dinner with you they need to let you know when they'll be there and when they won't. You're teaching them courtesy in the process.

If you're paying for their tuition, you then have a right to expect them to do well in school or quit paying for it.

The fun part about adult children is that your relationship with them can change for the better. Instead of being a parent as much (though we'll always be and should be parents in some way) you'll connect on more of an adult level, more like friends who are also family.

It's a great time of life. Just don't forget to prepare them for it.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

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