What is the Gift of Adulthood?
As children mature, parents are suppose to naturally transition from an authority role to one that resembles a trusted friend. This promotes their growth into adulthood.
Many parents struggle with giving their children the responsibility of living independently. Adult children are inevitably going to struggle and will have to overcome life challenges. Parents need to watch from the sidelines if they want their adult children to learn valuable life lessons, develop resiliency, and continually grow as a person. Many of the clients in our drug rehab programs experienced this type of parenting. Their inability to handle life’s challenges is partially the reason for their addiction. Drugs or alcohol were used as a coping mechanism.
Adult children must learn to deal with the realities of life like paying bills, struggling in college/university, building their career, and finding a life partner. These are all difficult times for parents to watch, but outside of encouragement and emotional support, it is crucial parents let their adult children do these things for themselves.
Some adult children embrace this challenge (some even call it an opportunity), while some evade it with all their effort. It can be hard to support adult children when they struggle with – or refuse to accept – change. You just want to get in there and fix the problem! You shouldn’t though; you know it’ll inhibit your adult child’s ability to function as a healthy adult. Here are 6 tips to help you let go.
1. Accept the Consequences
In order for individuals to learn personal responsibility, they must face and accept consequences. Parents who remove this learning experience don’t let their adult children develop personal responsibility. If a parent is invited to help with an adult child’s problem, an accountability measure needs to be in place. For example, if parents loan money, they and their adult children need to set up a repayment plan or agree upon a condition like passing courses or staying sober.
2. Look Past Short-Term Setbacks
If adult children are assuming greater responsibility, there is no failure. Having personal responsibility is a process – something continually done – not a trait suddenly possessed. A mistake today teaches us how to do something differently tomorrow.
3. Provide Emotional Support
During your adult child’s growth through his or her life, it is important to ‘walk alongside’ them rather than ‘walking ahead’ or ‘snowplowing’ the problems that lie ahead in their path.
Allowing your children to develop personal responsibility doesn’t mean you have to withdraw emotional support. Emotional support is something we all need; especially, from family members. Walking alongside means using supportive dialogue like “Wow! That sounds difficult. How are you dealing with it?”
Avoid providing is financial support. Financial support is a poor substitute in comparison to the empowering effect of emotional support.
4. Listen First, Hesitate Before Giving Advice
Parents instinctively try and give advice when their children need help. Advice can sometimes be unhelpful as it may not be suitable – even the wrong advice – for your adult child’s current challenges. When you listen first, it gives adult children the opportunity to formulate their own solutions. Listening in a way that supports others in creating their own solutions is called “Active Listening”.
5. Hesitate Before “Collaborating”
Another instinct for parents is to collaborate – or assist – their adult children in their endeavors. While you may think they’ll be relieved and grateful for your help, many wish to complete such tasks on their own.
When you do assist in these situations, often it can dampen your adult child’s spirit. For example, he or she may become excited about the prospects of university or college. You share their excitement, by getting their course calendar and application forms and completing them yourself. Again, you may think it’s helpful – if fact, maybe you wished you had similar help in the past – but you actually may have removed what excited them in the first place.
6. Allow Your Children to Choose Their Own Path
Almost all parents have difficulty accepting their child’s life path if it deviates too much from what they expect. For example, parents want their child to go to university or carry on the family business, but instead he or she takes up a trade. Maybe a parent expects their child to find a life partner whose values align with their own, but they don’t. These expectations can cause issues though. Being pressured to be or behave like someone you are not has implications for personal meaning and purpose. Meaning is one of life’s strongest motivators and a lack of it can have many negative consequences like addiction.
On the other hand, you should be quick to give our adult children credit when credit is due for making the right decision. Your adult children may not recognize their accomplishments and by recognizing them, you can encourage additional positive consequences in the future.
Remember, your adult child’s setbacks are not a reflection of your parenting skills or personal character.