It’s Tough Parenting Adult Children

A Travel Guide for Life, Faith, and Relationships!

 

Being a parent is tough. Being the parent of an adult child is even harder.

 

You have all the same concerns and fears but absolutely no control. It's not like you can threaten to ground your thirty-something kid! 

 

Of course, parenting is also fun at times, but it’s never easy. About the time you think you have your kids figured out, they change.

 

My wife and I raised four children, two boys, and two girls, each unique and continually evolving. So I was frequently challenged in my parenting. (Which is a nice way of saying I was often clueless.)

 

 

What's more, having the hard conversations with your adult child is often difficult.

 

  • No mom or dad finds it easy to ask his or her son or daughter about porn or about how they’re doing regarding sexual purity.

 

  • No parent enjoys looking a married adult child in the eye and saying, “How’s your marriage doing?”

 

  • Most parents find it awkward to talk to their kids about the way they’re raising their children.

 

  • We feel uncomfortable inquiring about finances or about the quality of a married kid’s sex life. We’re quite certain we’ll hear an emphatic, “Mom, I can’t talk about that with you! For heaven’s sake, you’re my mother!”

 

 

Apparently, there’s some unspoken and unwritten rule about what is and isn’t okay to ask your adult kids. We can talk about football and, of course, have an innocuous conversation about the weather. But nobody likes it when Mom or Dad says, “I think the way you’re speaking to your spouse needs to change. I know you can do better.”

 

In the early years of my marriage to Laura, neither her parents nor mine ever asked about our relationship. Not. Even. Once. And sadly, when we were in our 20s and early 30s we were a mess more often than not!

 

We didn’t know how to raise kids.

 

We didn’t know what was or wasn’t okay and normal regarding our sex life.

 

We didn’t (or at least, I didn’t) have any idea how to manage our finances.

 

Sure, we read books, and we talked to friends.

 

Certainly, we prayed for wisdom.

 

But no one we trusted—like a parent should be trusted—ever offered to give us their wisdom and guidance.

 

 

In fact, it was so unusual that I remember the first time it happened. I was in my mid-30s when Frank, my step-dad, noticed we were in a financial pickle, and he said, “I won’t give you money to bail you out, but I can teach you what I’ve learned about managing finances.”

 

I was desperate, so I listened, and I cried because I was so grateful that he cared. Frank changed our lives by his input and wisdom.

 

So why don’t kids ask for help, and why are parents so reticent to offer advice? Two words: embarrassment and fear.

 

We’re ashamed, and so we hide. Think about what Adam and Eve (who happened to be the first kids and the first parents). Shame makes us feel humiliated and awkward. So we run and hide rather than openly face and admit our failure.

 

 

Adult children are embarrassed to admit they’re not as strong as they pretend to be, and parents are mortified by seeing the fruit of their past parenting mistakes manifest in the lives of their grown children.

 

Tragically, shame shuts us down.

 

And shame and embarrassment lead to distress and fear. We worry too much about what our kids might think of us if we asked the hard questions. We’re anxious about being rejected by them, and we don’t like confrontation or sticky situations—especially in our family. Fear keeps us hiding, silent, and alone.

 

Kids are too proud to ask for help. Parents are too afraid to offer advice because they fear an adverse reaction.

 

How silly. It just shouldn’t be this way with family.

 

We’re blood.

 

Of all people, we should have each other’s back.

 

 

If your kid can’t trust the mother who nursed him or the dad who taught her how to ride her first bike, then who can he or she trust?

 

Being “all grown up” doesn’t mean they don’t need us anymore.

 

I know. I know. Most adult kids are smarter than their parents (as they like to remind us).

 

And for the record, if Mom and Dad raised their children well, they should be smarter and better equipped for life! But that doesn’t mean anyone should ever stop learning or growing.

 

Not kids.

 

Not parents.

 

We need the passion of our adult kids, and our children need the wisdom of their old parents.

 

We need each other. Seriously.

 

 

Why is that so hard to admit?

 

Maybe it’s time to pick up the phone or to make a coffee date with your son or daughter so that you can speak loving truth into their lives.

 

Perhaps it’s best to step through the shame or fear barriers and be what they need—a trusted parent who loves them unconditionally, and so much so, that you are willing to say the hard things when needed.

 

Whether their child is ten or sixty, that’s what a loving mom and dad do.

 

Yes, it’s hard, but the alternative is far more difficult for everyone.

 

So go ahead and make that call.

 

Even if it’s painful, shared wisdom is better than silent suffering.

 

 

We will speak the truth in love,

growing in every way more and more like Christ.

Ephesians 4:15  (NLT)

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