Connecting with Your Kids When They are Adulting

One Friday evening, many years ago, hubby Jerry was home, which was unusual for him. He asked where all the kids were. I gave him the rundown. Some were working, some at friends, others at practices. It rocked his world. I had many, many Fridays to get used to the idea that the kids were adulting-ish. It had slipped under his radar. He assumed the kids would always be home waiting for him.

Jerry and I have had many conversations over the years which led to us recording a podcast on the subject of kids adulting. We can’t be the only parents who have experienced the complex road of learning how to navigate this season. If you’d like to listen to the podcast, click here or just keep reading.

The Benefit of Teens Making Mistakes

When your kids are young adults, you must be patient enough to let them make mistakes and let them experience the consequences.

You have to let them fail. It’s better to let them fail under your roof where it is safe. Let them fall on their faces while you’re there rather than go out into the world and fall on their faces repeatedly. The truth is, we learn best from our mistakes. If your teen wants a part-time job and you know it’s not right for him and he insists. Let him. Let him experience failing while you’re there beside him.

Go to them.

It takes energy and time to invest in your children even when they are adulting.  You continue to invest but it is well worth it. We don’t have value in this world without our relationship with God and our relationship with others. If we are spending all of our time investing in something else then we’re going to have an empty bank account at the end of our lives. No one says on their deathbed he wishes he had spent more time at work. It’s important that you don’t sit on your couch and wait for adult children to come back home. You’re going to have to be super proactive, especially if your kids get married and they start having kids. Say, “Hey let’s go get coffee.” Meet and buy their snacks and coffee and just sit there and talk. Go to them and remember, there’s a learning curve for them when they begin adulting.

It’s a learning curve for them and it’s a learning curve for us but since we are the older and more mature adults, we should have more wisdom. We need to be proactive about our parenting and offer time to them. We should never be finished with our relationships with our children. We parents should always be pursuing better relationships with our kiddos no matter what their age.

Find their interests.

When children are younger you have them in activities – whether it’s a musical instrument,  a sporting type of activity, theatre, or something along that line, but you also need activities that are things that you do together. If you don’t have things you do together, your relationship won’t be as strong.   Few kids get a college scholarship in one of their sporting activities. Ask yourself, is this activity going to do him any real good when they get older? The connections that they develop will not be around you and your family – it’ll be around the team and with the team did and unless you’re coaching it.  Sporting connections will minimize the impact of the influence you can have on your children. Replacing some sporting or other activities with family connections will have an impact on what you are able to do with them as they get older. When you choose to find the things your kids are interested in and you participate in those,  your ability to influence is greater. If you don’t, your ability to connect and spend time is going to diminish. 

When They begin adulting-ish

When your kids are little, it takes more physical energy, when kids are adulting, it takes more emotional energy and your patience has to increase.

When our kiddos become adults we’re so used to parenting. We tell them to put their shoes away, put their dishes in the dishwasher, when to go to bed and when to get up. These parenting practices must change a bit when kiddos hit their older teens. Teens need to make some decisions on their own. This is the time to develop some coping mechanisms and learn how to manage their emotions. We sometimes have to take the parental hat off and come alongside them. We move into a new sphere of parenting that is more like a counselor, advocate, and sounding board. We’ve moved from telling them what to do all the time and to be their guide.

When the teens move on to adulthood, parents are someone they can come to for advice. Our adult kids can take it or they can not take it. I see so many parental relationships ruined or sidelined because parents will not give an inch if their adult children do not take their advice. This is not the place that you want to be your relationship with your children whether your children are teens or adults your relationship doesn’t need to be based on “my way or the highway.” It just does not work.

Sometimes you’re adulting child is not looking for your opinion or advice. Sometimes they just want someone to really listen to their heart or their struggle. Many times our kids just want to tell us what’s going on in their life. Simply listening and saying “Yeah, that’s great good job” or saying “That’s a really tough situation. I understand why you’re struggling.” Adult kiddos are not always coming to you because they want to know what you would do. They may just need a sounding board. If they ask that great question at the end -“What would you do?” – then that’s your opportunity. If you’re always cutting them off, you shut the conversation down. Jerry had this happen with our oldest. He decided to shut up and wouldn’t say anything for a season because Jerry was always trying to Dad him.

When your kids are adulting you’re trying to connect and you have to drop off the correction. It’s not your job to keep correcting. If we are Christians it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict of sin. It is not our job.

I remember when we are going through ETC training, we were supposed to ask for kids what parts of our parenting were great and which weren’t. I asked the question with fear and trepidation. I felt like I did everything wrong. One of them said you didn’t do anything wrong and another one said she pointed out a couple of things. I survived. It’s okay to ask even if those answers are devastating. Maybe you’ll get – you were always correcting me. Guess what? When they are parenting, they can think about those things and say mom did it this way and I love that part of what she did but that part of what she did, I’m not going to do. If you can’t let that go then your pride is being the boss of you. Yes, it is painful. Yes, it is emotional. I will cry about those things but in the long run, it’s a good thing.

If you didn’t have a great family

If your family has all kinds of dysfunction – maybe they’re struggling with addictions or alcoholism or you grew up in an abusive situation. Maybe your family of origin is not the safest place for you to connect. Find another family to connect with. Find somebody else that you can be in relationship with and connect with. They’re out there. Other people are in the same situation that you are in. You’re not alone.

Want to hear more about this topic? Listen to Jerry and Kathleen share on: 

Want to hear more about this topic? Listen to Jerry and Kathleen share on:

How do you start the school year when your child leaves the nest?

This time of year is stressful enough. Kids are starting back to school. Families resume their homeschooling schedule. But how do you handle the beginning of the school year when your kid is out adulting?

Maybe you graduated your child and he is off to college or starting a new job. Whatever the case, when a child is leaving the nest, it is stressful. We are proud of our kiddos, but that doesn’t mean we can’t grieve. After my eldest went off to college, I had a reprieve of four years before I graduated five in a row!

So here are my tips on handling your kids adulting. I don’t know it all, and you may have some great tips too!

When your child is adulting.png
  1. It’s okay to cry. Better to do this alone, though. We don’t want our kids to get entangled in our feelings. It’s better if they see us rejoicing with them over this next stage.
  2. Make sure you have something meaningful to do. We moms put our kids first. Often, we are so consumed with raising them that we forget to be a person. Invest time in other pursuits now, even if it’s only a few minutes a day. When your kids grow up, you can expand your purpose. Maybe you start writing a few paragraphs a day or dabbling in photography or [you fill in the blank].
  3. Invest in other women. When your kiddos are mostly grown, you have some time to follow the Biblical instruction for the older women:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

Titus 2:3-5

 We don’t like to use the word “old” or “older.”  How about “more mature” and “with more life experience?” Whatever you want to call yourself, now is your chance to say, “I get it. Me too!” to those younger moms.

4. Invest in others, period. I remember the days when I walked around in a stupor. I changed one diaper after another. I read stories, made meals, and cleaned up afterwards. Then one evening, I sat on the couch and realized that all my kids were off doing other things, from part-time jobs to extracurricular activities. I could breathe. I could think. This also began the season of being able to invest in others. My niche is the foster/adoptive world. Yours may be different. Find out what your outreach is and invest in it.

5. Go to your child. Don’t expect them to come to you. When your child is out in the world adulting, whether they’re in college or married with kiddos, this is the time to go to them. Don’t sit on your couch wondering where everyone has gone. Instead, take them out for lunch or coffee. Drive to their home. Make an effort to keep the connection. It’s difficult enough for them to manage this new life. Make it a bit easier by going to them instead of waiting for them to come to you.

6. Expect your relationship to change. We spend so many years disciplining our children. We give them advice. We make sure they do their chores. We keep them on track. As they grow into adults, we will be tempted to keep telling our kids what to do and when to do it. We have the best intentions, but it’s not going to work. It’s okay to give advice when they ask for it, but otherwise, take a step back. Your child will move into a new role: friend and, sometimes, advisor. It’s a great new phase of life!

7. Pray. Place your child’s name in these scriptures and pray them aloud:

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Ephesians 1:15-21

8. Don’t give up on them. Even if they wound you emotionally over and over again, be on their side. Forgive and move on. Go back to #7 and pray!

9. Be ready to go to battle spiritually for them. Who else is going to do this for them? This is our job no matter how old they are! See #7.

10. Keep living and enjoying your life. If your kids are wounding you emotionally on a regular basis, this is a toughie, but hang in there. It’ll be well worth it. Jesus came so we could have an abundant life. It’s important to Him, so it should be important to us!

Want more tips and encouragement for navigating this season of life? At The Gathering on September 7th, I’ll  be presenting a workshop titled “Transitioning Into the Teen Years and Beyond.” Grab your ticket here.

Dear Adult Child

Dear Adult child ready to embark on this new chapter in life,

How excited are you?!?!  You may be heading to college, or maybe working, or maybe you are in a serious relationship with plans to marry soon, but the possibilities are endless.  All the choices in your life are completely and totally up to you now…you’re the adult!  Us more seasoned adults remember this time.  We remember the excitement for the future.  We remember the fear that we’d mess it all up.  We remember the pride in choices made all on our own.  We even remember that we thought our parents couldn’t possibly understand since they were raised in a different time.   Trust me, we remember, and we understand more than you think.  As you begin to pull away from your family and start to form your own life apart from us (as we all do eventually), I want to offer some insight from our side.

Dear Adult Child

Your father is so incredibly proud of you.  He might not say it or show it well, but he is.  He talks to your mother about you after everyone is gone or has gone to sleep.  He talks about you with so much love and pride.   Please don’t take his lack of external emotion as indifference.  He isn’t  usually the weepy emotional type (that’s the mom’s job).   He will talk about you to his friends and family and he will beam because of his pride.  You are his pride.

Your mother, on the other hand, is extremely emotional.  Especially if you happen to be the oldest.  The thing you need to realize about mothers is, we tend to be the nurturers of the family.  So she has spent the last 18 years of her life caring for you.  She’s fed you your favorite foods, watch the lamest shows because you like them, read you your favorite book so many times that she probably could have done it with her eyes closed…and she did it all willingly because of her love for you.  I’m quite certain she’d do it all over again too (I know I would).  She’s tended to your needs lovingly.  She cried when you scraped your knee, or when someone broke your heart.  She cried at night while she prayed for your safety.  She worried that she messed up.  You have been her mission for the last 18 years.  And she loves you more than you can fathom right now.

So, as you go off to start a new life apart from us, maybe try to understand.  It’s hard to let go of someone that needed you for so long.  I promise that we are trying.  Try to resist the urge to roll your eyes and brush off the hugs and tears.  Let us take pictures and show the world.  Let us be proud and sad and excited all at the same time.  Glean a little wisdom from us sometimes, we have been there…it wasn’t as long ago as you think.  We know that you are going to do amazing things in your life.  Never doubt that.  We are your biggest cheering section in life.  Also….shoot your mom a text to let her know you’re alive every once in awhile 😉

When Your Child Leaves the Nest…

I cried myself to sleep every night after my oldest daughter graduated and went to college. Then I had  a brief respite of four years before five kids graduated in a row.

My friend Lori is going through her eldest graduating this year and it has been an emotional roller coaster for her as well.

“Why didn’t you tell me it was like this?” she asked me.

I told her I hadn’t recovered from the trauma of it myself.

No one ever tells you that part. We go through seasons of just wishing this part was over when the sleepless nights drag on and on. We Moms wish the kiddos would get to the next stage, whether that is walking, talking or just plain growing up.

And then it happens. Senior year rolls around. It flies by. The independence has already heightened by this point. Part time jobs. Volunteering at the soup kitchen, babysitting, being a camp counselor. We’re so proud. We pat them on the back and say, “Great job!” So many accolades the last few years of school. Then senior pictures roll around and we Moms feel as if we have been sucker punched in the gut.

It’s almost as if we want to call it back, “I didn’t mean it! I didn’t really want you to grow up!”

But it’s too late. They are looking ahead to the future with stars in their eyes and we are looking back with tears in ours.

There are all these spiritual mantras about shooting your arrows into the world. When you train a child up in the way he should you, you shouldn’t be afraid to let them go. All of these are true. But, let’s talk about our emotions. Those are real. They don’t just disappear when someone preaches some platitudes.

Three things I want Moms to remember about your kids growing up:

 

  1. We worked all these years to attach. Detachment is a hard job. We have to detach in a healthy- go make some decisions kind of way without being a helicopter parent. That’s hard. Like REALLY hard. And even if our child seems as if he isn’t making the decision we want him to, we need to let him decide (I’m talking about selecting majors or getting jobs, not illegal stuff).
  2. It’s okay to mourn. When our kids leave home, we go through a grieving process. We need to. If you don’t cry, you can’t move on to the joy that comes in the morning. Lori-It’s as if sadness and crying is looked at as a weakness or a problem to fix. If you’re not a crier, find another way to grieve. There’s a time to mourn and a time to cry…that’s where I am.  I know there will be a time to dance. But you have to let all those times happen….not squash them.

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Don’t skip the crying because it’s hard…work through it and realize it’s only a season.  Then the dance will be so much sweeter

  1. Find friends who have gone through what you are going through. Cling to them. Ask them questions. Don’t try to bear the burden alone. There is wisdom in many counselors. Find some people you consider wise and pick their brains.

When it’s time for your kids to start adulting, prepare for the emotional roller coaster. You’ll be happy and sad at the same time. As Lori said on the podcast this week, when she realized that she was graduating her son, “I did it!!!! OH, WAIT, I did it.”

We Moms spend years attaching, teaching life skills, helping our kids learn how to read, how to fill out an application for a part time job, keeping them safe and the list goes on. We teach them to be independent. Suddenly, they are. They want to make choices without us. We rejoice over this, but with it comes a feeling of being left behind. It’s okay. Perfectly normal. Grieve. It’s okay. It’s just a stage in the journey. That same son/daughter who doesn’t want your opinion on a major will be calling you next week to ask you how to make mashed potatoes. True story. Hang in there Moms. it gets easier. It gets different, but easier. Before you know it, your son or daughter will be coming to you as a friend, a companion. There is a season for everything. This is just one of those seasons.

 

 

 

 

Adopted Children Adulting

My eldest son had come over for a few hours and helped me hang some outdoor lights for a party.

“I want to move back home and go to college.”

This wasn’t the first time he had brought this up. He had been renting a house with roommate and working in a respectable job and being diligent. He just felt stuck. I had been praying for this moment for years. Not that I think everyone needs a college degree to be successful in life, just the fact that he wanted to better himself. To move forward in his adult life, so he was prepared for marriage and a family.

Adopted children often get a lot of flack for not entering the world of adulthood at what society thinks is the proper time or missing it altogether. I think there is a great deal of misunderstanding when it comes to what adopted children can or cannot do. They can become independent barring, any severe neurological or physical challenges. The misunderstanding or flawed expectations come when raising a child from a difficult beginning, understanding that the child is half his chronological age emotionally and then blatantly expecting that child to magically adult at eighteen, nineteen or even twenty.

Children from hard places find it difficult to push through physical or emotional pain to success. This is often because pain before (emotional, physical or mental) has only yielded more pain or more negative circumstances. Like a young girl I knew who cleaned her family’s whole house regularly and meticiously , but was not allowed to sit at the dinner table with the rest of the family because her step-father said she was not his ‘real kid’. Do you think she had a positive picture of sowing and reaping at home?

Or the child who was beat up in the middle of the night in the orphanage. He may overreact to someone grabbling his elbow or a sweat bee sting. I’m not talking about sensory issues, I am referring to the ability to push through minor pains for major victories. It may be the pain of sore muscles for awhile when a kid joins a sport team. Children from hard places may view the pain as a message in their brain that reads, “I can’t do this! I shouldn’t do this!” or may assume because they can’t do things perfectly the first time that they are a failure.

 

Here’s another example of my teen son with a power washer. He had the machine set up and ready to go. I had done all of the power washing of the patio around our pool and asked him to do a small section. I thought he would enjoy it because he is meticulous when it comes to detail. He struggled with a few issues, the hose fell in the pool, the electrical cord was headed in the same direction. The machine shuttered because it hadn’t had time to build up pressure.

“That’s why I don’t do this! I shouldn’t do this!”

I explained that I had the same issues with the power washer. Kids who struggle with pushing through because of the foundation of their past don’t need talk therapy, they need affirmation therapy. Don’t ignore your child’s fear of pushing through. Acknowledge it. Talk about it. Recognize it and put it it’s place. Help them move from flight, fight or freeze in the downstairs brain to the upstairs where sense and reason reside.

Help them with time and patience come to conclusions such as:

  • Nobody can do things perfectly the first time.
  • My muscles hurt from swimming laps, I’m not dying.
  • It’s okay to make mistakes, it is how we learn.

It is through reaffirming that the child is feeling pain or stress (yes, I’m sure your arms do hurt, you swam for a long time) to a reasonable and logical understanding (your arms hurt, but you aren’t dying, you will get stronger). These concepts move a child into his upstairs brain and need to be reinforced in the early stages of adulating which begins at home. Yes, your part time job is hard. You have to sweep floors and that takes time and energy, but you did it. You can keep doing it. Or that online class is giving you a lot of work to do, but let’s not quit. Let’s break it down and decide what to do first. This translates into college or moving out of the house years when you say, yeah, you have to pay the bills first and then you can go out to eat. These sound so simplistic and so easy to grasp, but for a child from a traumatic beginning, they are not. The concept of cause and effect is muddled by early experiences. The ability to push through to victory must be coached and affirmed in the same baby steps that would have occurred had they been with you from the very beginning. You are going back and filling in the gaps and redefining the world with your child. Be prepared to continue to assist for years to come. Don’t stress or compare. Enjoy the journey and celebrate victories!  Adulting is difficult for all of us and a child from traumatic beginnings need encouragement and understanding. He may need help longer than other adult children.

Linking up with Kristin Hill Taylor! Join us!

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