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Parenting Adult Children—The Great Shift of Motherhood

Parenting-Adult-Children—The-Great-Shift-of-Motherhood

There is a seismic shift that occurs somewhere between high school graduation and the “pay your own rent” season in every parent and child’s life. This human, who went from underfoot toddler to challenging teen, is suddenly out the door, certain they are equipped with everything they need to be a “grown-up.” As you watch them confidently stride forward, you realize they have no idea that you’re still trying to figure that one out!

But you have spent the last 18+ years getting them ready for this transition, so they are, probably, equipped well enough. The mother-child roles are changing, and it’s a good thing. Walking alongside of a healthy, productive adult, who was once that baby in your arms, is a joyful, rewarding place to be. You did it… All of those days when you questioned your abilities and just hoped to retain some level of sanity are behind you. But you do find that adapting to the change requires work from both sides of the relationship… especially from you, mom.

You wonder if they need you any longer. Don’t fret; they do… just less often and in different ways. Look at this as the season you pined for when they were toddling around your every move. You finally get to pursue the passions you set aside long ago, because back then, your plate was too full. Now you have the time. So do it.

The mother-child roles are changing, and it’s a good thing. Walking alongside of a healthy, productive adult, who was once that baby in your arms, is a joyful, rewarding place to be.

Occasionally, they may ask you to put your new ventures on pause. They will need you to listen when they want to speak. But remember, when you were their age, you were busy building an independent life. They will be too, so expect conversations to be less frequent. That’s ok, because you want your grown-up child to build a successful, adult life. It’s what you worked so hard for—so be happy that they are!

One cataclysmic change that requires a huge adjustment is when they now speak, you must listen as an adult. You will be hearing the thoughts, ideas and concerns of another adult. You can no longer expect them to agree with everything you think, believe exactly what you believe, or, in the season of politics, vote for the same candidate. They are making their own determinations, some of which you may realize are glaringly wrong, but others may surprise to you. They might even make an argument that changes your mind.

Give advice if asked. Yes, I said “if asked.” This is hard for Type A folks like me. Especially because most of what your children go through, you have already gone through. You want to keep them from the hurt, challenges and difficulties you faced. But if you keep your mouth shut long enough to ponder your own life, you often realize that the very things you want to protect your children from are the ones that made you strong. Don’t attempt to rob them of that same life growth.

There will also be choices your adult child makes that you know will cause them hurt. They will trust in someone who you know is untrustworthy… whether in a job, faith, finances or relationships. Your response should be twofold. First, find an opportunity to discuss. This is the time when you should volunteer your wisdom, in a calm, non-condemning manner. Make sure they know you have confidence in them as an adult, but that life has taught you some things that make you wary. Then share your heart.

There is a good chance they will still run headlong toward the very thing that you know will cost them. Your words may not alter their course. If you keep talking and beating that horse that is already dead, you will lose the rider, your child. You aren’t so old that you fail to remember making your own choices—some that blew up in your face. If you say this never happened, I just don’t believe you. We’ve all done it. That’s the reason we know what’s coming down the pike.

They will need you to be there when that decision starts hitting them back. If you have chosen to protect your relationship, there’s a good chance they’ll want you there when it does. They will need you. Know this, the “I warned you this was coming” should never be part of these conversations. At that point, who cares? It doesn’t change what they’re facing. The important thing is that you love them through the challenge.

If you keep talking and beating that horse that is already dead, you will lose the rider, your child.

Your role may be to just listen, or to pray with them and for them, or to help point them down a road that moves them forward, walking alongside if need be. It will never be to take the wheel on their behalf.

This parental shift can seem daunting. Your motherhood footing feels uncertain. Well it is. Like every other season in your child’s life, this is new territory. But like every other season in your child’s life, it becomes truly wonderful.

These people you’ve raised will bring you such richness. Their accomplishments will be rewarding. They will love well, caring for others in a way that makes you so very proud. They’ll land on your doorstop at holidays with the familiar smiles, normal rancor, and multiplied family members. They’ll bake the Turkey (yes, I did say that I’m now off the hook for Thanksgiving!), clean the kitchen, fix the family brunch, and play the board games, competing just as passionately as they did when they were kids.

They’ll want to take care of you, even though you’ll let them know you’re not near that stage in life yet! But they’ll do it because you’ve cared for them so well. So, even though life changes, this change is a good one. After all, this is what you’ve worked so hard to pull off!


You’ll also like Empty Nest, High School Graduation: a Mom’s Rite of Passage, and Boy Mom.
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Darlene, President of The Grit and Grace Project, is crazy enough to jump in the deep end then realize she may not have a clue where she’s landed. She has spent her adult life juggling careers in the music business, been an author, a video producer, and also cared for her family … some days drowning, other days believing she’s capable of synchronized swimming.

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