Are we trying to raise our adult children?
It’s a common theme these days: parents of adult children worrying about how their “kids” will fare in the world. At a time when we should be focusing our attention on our own lives, we often divert that energy to our progeny way past the age that our predecessors did.
Long gone are the days when our children moved out into the world to establish their own lives, and we had to let go, knowing that updates on their well-being would be rare and intermittent. Before the information age, news travelled slowly, so you simply had to get on with your own life and hope for the best.
Today, we are plugged into each other in a constant stream of status updates, blogs, and tweets, with many young folks using an evening out as a photo op for immediate posting. We KNOW where are children are, and that may not always be a good thing.
So, here are my suggestions for retrieving your sanity in a world of linked and synced adult children:
1. It’s your turn now. As parents, we give a great deal of our time and energy to seeing delicate babies into sturdy adulthood. We generally do this work when we are young adults and have the fortitude to apply ourselves to the task. As we age, we are meant to let go of our children and use our energy for our own experiences. If our children are grown, and they are still our primary focus, it would be wise to ask ourselves what change we’re avoiding making in our own lives that we prefer to distract ourselves with theirs.
2. Believe in yourself. If you are worrying about how your offspring are coping in the world, what does this say about your faith in yourself as a parent? Trust that you did the best job you possibly could. Forgive yourself for any mistakes you made along the way. Children don’t come with a training manual, and we all learn through trial and error. Now, it’s their turn to go out into the world and learn the same way we did. If we aren’t making any mistakes in our lives, we’re not taking enough risks.
3. Believe in them. Trust that the wise soul inside your son’s or daughter’s body chose their path, including all the trials and tribulations that come with walking on the earth. They will fail. They will also succeed. The more you worry about them – and project your fears on them – the more you are sending the message that you have no confidence in your children. Trust that they will fall and get back up again. They’ve been doing that since they were two years old.
4. The world has changed. It is more conscious now. People talk about ways of parenting. They consider how they were raised and think of ways to improve on the family model. They consult experts and each other. Your children may do a better job of raising their kids than you did. Their kids will improve on the model as well.
5. There is help. With the wealth of information available to us today, and with our visibility to each other in this networked world, there’s a much better chance that your adult child will find the help they need. It only takes a Facebook status update from an overtasked individual to receive support and helpful suggestions from friends. There are a plethora of online groups that share information and tips on every possible subject. It may hurt that they aren’t coming to you for advice, but they simply may not need to do so. The choices your children make are educated ones – and, right or wrong, they are theirs to make, coming to their own conclusions on their terms.
6. Let go. When our kids leave home, they are adults. They have chosen to be on their own to stand or fall just as we did when it was our turn. They make their own choices and live with the consequences. If you project a positive, confident belief in their skills, with the understanding that you are available should they wish to chat or ask for advice, they’ll call – because they want to do so, not because they feel obligated. It’s far better to get the rare phone call or Skype from a son or daughter who is happy to share their news than to get a regular interaction founded on duty or based on the fear that there will be a negative reaction if they don’t call.
You raised your children in a free world. Honour their freedom. Let them go, and let them know you believe in them. It’s the greatest parting gift they’ll ever receive. Now, go live your life – doing all the things you couldn’t do while you were raising your kids. It’s YOUR time now.