Help! My Kids are ADULTS?

Authored by Bob Attrill, Director of Preteen and Middle School Ministry

As a dad of four boys, with nearly three decades of parenting in the books, I figured I had seen all the phases of parenting. Finally, Trena and I thought, we are experts in all of our wisdom!

We have invested our lives into parenting our boys, but several years ago we stepped into a new phase – Parenting our adult children. Yes, they are still our children BUT we quickly realized, they aren’t kids any longer, they are adults. We often think our roles as parents end when they graduate from high school and college. The reality is the years following get even more complex.

More often than not, we had to learn the hard way that our role as ‘parent’ needed to change with our adult children. Innocently, as parents, we will always look at them and see that little boy or little girl we would walk down the street to catch the bus. However, that relationship changes over the years and you can either welcome that change or resist it.

Your role and your relationship as “parent” must change when they reach adulthood.

If you welcome it, lean into it and learn along the way, it can be a game-changer. Sure, they will continue to call you Mom or Dad but it isn’t the same as it was when they were younger. Here’s what Jim Burns shares in his book, Doing Life with Your Adult Children, “…you move from a parent-child relationship to an adult-adult relationship.

The conversations in that relationship change too. One of the greatest gifts I am learning in these recent years is learning how to communicate with my two oldest boys (Bobby-29 and TJ-22). To be quite honest with you, I have failed in this arena more than I care to admit. But I will tell you I have learned a thing or two from my mistakes. I switched to a new approach some time ago based on another skill Jim Burns shares, “…talk with them” and “not at them”.

I believe talking with them also means we listen more. When our kids are young, let’s be honest with ourselves, we give lots and lots of direction and advice, whether they want to hear it or not. That’s the “talking at them” part. There is another change in parenting adult children and why we need to talk with them. They don’t always want our advice. Sorry. I tell you from personal experience. I know that hurts a little bit; it gets me too! Think about it for a moment. Sharing unwanted advice with our adult children can come across as criticism. They instead, just want us to listen.

Here’s a simple formula I created from my experience:

Don’t be intrusive with your words and they will invite you into their conversation.

I don’t know about you, but as a young adult I had a lot to learn and I learned much of it through life experience along the way. It worked for us and it can work for our adult children too. Be there for them with grace and let them invite you in.