The art of parenting adult children

rowing

Once I thought of writing a book about parenting adult children. I decided it would have one page in it. That page would have two words in large, boldfaced font, “Let Go.”

Letting go is the hardest part of parenting adult children. Letting go of their decisions, their whereabouts, their lifestyle choices — so much to let go of!

The hardest part is that, unlike when they are young, their choices have such HUGE consequences. They might be on-track for college and end up sidelined by pregnancy. They might choose to drink and drive and end up killing someone and spend the rest of their young adulthood in prison. They might try extreme sports and end up paralyzed from the neck down. I have friends that have faced all three of these scenarios with their kids. It’s heartbreaking, it’s tragic, and it’s life. And we parents want to spare our kids this kind of pain, but we can’t.

My own kids have made some decisions I wanted to protect them from: Choices I was scared might ruin their lives. These were their choices, not mine. And you know what – they are both okay. They have both survived their choices, learned from them, grown and become rather impressive individuals, if I say so myself. Because navigating life is what we all have to do, it’s how we grow, learn, and develop.

So how do we parent adult children? A friend recently told me a wonderful story that mutual friend and author, Alice Fryling, shares. It’s about the story in the Bible where Jesus is off praying and sees his disciples out on a boat in a storm. He walks out to the boat and calms the sea. Alice was contemplating this story and her role as a parent of adult children. “What can I learn from this?” she asked. The first and most obvious answer is to pray for our kids. Nothing, and I mean nothing, has taken my prayer life to the next level like having kids. I don’t know how people that don’t pray survive the stress and worry of parenting. It is the one thing I can do, when I can do nothing.

But Alice then realized there was something else she could do. She could sit in the boat. Just be there. Be available during the storm. She shared this insight with her adult daughter and her daughter replied, “Yes! I want you in the boat. Just don’t try to row.”

“Don’t try to row.” That is it in a nutshell, isn’t it? That is the art of parenting adults. Be in the boat and don’t pick up that oar. Don’t splash around where you’re not invited. Be present, be available. And, sometimes: They might. Even. Ask. For. Help. Or advice. Then you can give it, but only then.

That’s what I’m learning about parenting adults, how about you? Any tips from your experience as a parent of an adult? Any tips from an adult child on how to or not you’d like to be parented?

letting go

LETTING GO TAKES LOVE

To let go does not mean to stop caring, it means I can’t do it for someone else.

To let go is not to cut myself off, it’s the realization I can’t control another.

To let go is not to enable, but allow learning from natural consequences.

To let go is to admit powerlessness, which means the outcome is not in my hands.

To let go is not to try to change or blame another, it’s to make the most of myself.

To let go is not to care for, but to care about.

To let go is not to fix, but to be supportive.

To let go is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.

To let go is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes, but to allow others to affect their destinies.

To let go is not to be protective, it’s to permit another to face reality.

To let go is not to deny, but to accept.

To let go is not to nag, scold or argue, but instead to search out my own shortcomings and correct them.

To let go is not to adjust everything to my desires, but to take each day as it comes and cherish myself in it.

To let go is not to criticize or regulate anybody, but to try to become what I dream I can be.

To let go is not to regret the past, but to grow and live for the future.

To let go is to fear less and love more.

Remember: The time to love is short.

(author unknown)

1.Photo Credit boat

2. Photo Credit Letting Go

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7 Comments

  1. I love the boat analogy! And I think you do a good job 😀

    Like

  2. David Katz

    Wow . . . exactly what I needed right now. Thanks.

    Like

  3. I don’t have adult children…yet. But thinking I need to embroider “Don’t try to row” on a cushion, as a sensible reminder to myself 🙂

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  4. god works in mysterious ways thank you i was feeling so lost and alone and this gave me a new perspective and im really gonna try to let go.

    Like

    • I’m so glad it helped. It is so hard and yet, what else can you do. Let go, pray, be there if they want you. That’s it. Thanks for writing. Jacci

      Like

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