When my daughters, Adara and Kayla, were in high school, they approached my husband and me. Adara, after discussing it with her sister, admitted she was emotionally suffering. They had learned how to put a label on how they felt, repressions, and fears which traumatized them. At that point, I realized that our children were transitioning to adulthood.
My husband and I were raised by strict parents. My mother was always giving me instructions and oftentimes chided me when she assumed I did something wrong. I had many restrictions growing up and even my friends were aware that my mom would call them to know my whereabouts (even if I always told her where I went). My husband felt the same way growing up with a strict father whom he often feared. Mentioning our strict upbringing doesn’t diminish the love and dedication our parents put into raising us. However, excessive strictness made a mark on our personalities, and without realizing it, my husband and I were acting like our parents to some degree as well. When our daughters talked to us about Adara’s emotional distress, it became all the more apparent.
My husband and I were grateful because we all learned from that experience back when the girls were younger. It broke our hearts then, to think that we failed our children. All we could do is to acknowledge their feelings and they also had to acknowledge where we were coming from for all of us to start healing as a family.
Adara is 25 and married now and Kayla is 22. Our family members have become more considerate of each other’s feelings, we remind each other kindly when we forget to be nice to each other, and we pray as a family as often as we could. A parent-and-child relationship, like any human relationship, needs communication, understanding, love, and respect. And when we employ these factors, we can stay connected even if we are physically away from each other.
Establishing healthy parent-child boundaries
According to an article from Psychology Today, parents of adult children need to make adjustments in regard to tolerance, reversal, and demotion.
Tolerance stems from striking a balance between how I deal with my parents and my children. And that is brought about by recognizing my role as a child of my parents and how I honor them and being a parent of adults and how I respect my children as well.
Reversal is understanding that as a parent I may not know everything and that my children may now have a thing or two to teach me. This means also accepting that my influence may not be as strong compared to their spouse, for example. In old age, the roles also reverse because children take care of their parents.
Demotion may sound painful and sad but we as parents must be able to let go and accept the fact that our children have to carve their own lives in this world and another person may become their priority. Considering our children as adults takes a lot of effort. It doesn’t happen overnight and the action must come from both sides.
Here are three things I’ve learned to prepare my children for adulthood:
3 things I did to prepare my children for adulthood
1. The first is to love and trust God
Love and depend on God; He has everything they can ever need. This is always true for all of us, no matter our age. A strong faith foundation will set them up for success in every aspect. As members of the Church Of Christ, God’s words are our tools for growing and thriving in this world.
2. The second is to be responsible
Since Kayla is still living at home we are able to give her independence while teaching her to have responsibilities, such as: having her own workspace, being in charge of family responsibilities like vehicle maintenance, household chores, caring for pets, and cooking family meals.
3. The third is to be a role model to our children
As parents, we must model responsibility and healthy relationships so our children have an example to follow. Love and respect each other and be each other’s allies. This means being the first to try to resolve issues, listening with an open mind, keeping communication lines open, and treating each other well. Model self-love and how not to conform to fads.
While we’re still learning to navigate this transition to adulthood, these three tips are continuing to help me along the way:
3 tips on how to stay connected as children’s relationship with parents change
- Make an effort to talk to each other and take interest in what other members of the family are doing or care about, whether it’s a new project, an outing with friends, or a Church activity we are involved in. A way to do this is to schedule a weekly phone or video call to catch up.
- Respect them as adults. As parents of older children, it might still feel natural to speak, scold, or advise them as if they were still young, but allowing them to make decisions, make mistakes, and learn from them will help in their adulthood. Let them know that you’ll always be there for them.
- Pray for each other, whether together as a family or if you are apart, having a set time for family devotional prayer.
As much as I miss the days of my girls being young, I’m enjoying our new relationship. It’s a new stage in all of our lives and it’s one I’m enjoying in a different way from caring for young children. We have mature conversations, can hang out as friends, and enjoy growth together as they discover their footing in life.
3 blessings of being a parent of adult children
- Our children respect us and their grandparents. That no matter how busy they are in their personal lives, they make time for us.
- Our children are able to open up to us and value our advice.
- And as parents, we consider it a blessing to be able to learn from and lean on our children as well. It’s not easy to get to this point and as time goes on we continue to grow in many ways, but basing that growth on what is constant–God’s words, we can only look forward to a promising future.
Just because our children get older, doesn’t mean we stop being a parent. Our parenting style may change over the years, but one thing stays constant. I keep this verse I heard in worship service close to my heart as a parent, and I have confidence that as long as we’re obedient servants of God, our children will use us as an example:
Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first of the Ten Commandments that ends with a promise. And this is the promise: If you honor your father and mother, “you will live a long life, full of blessing.”
Ephesians 6:1-3 New Living Translation
Theda Pilar-Pineda was born and raised in the Philippines. At the age of 14, her family was introduced to the Church of Christ. She’s a part-time staff writer for incmedia.org.
She currently lives in Hawaii with her husband and her daughter, Kayla. Her other daughter, Adara, is married and lives on the east coast of the United States.
Jeffrey de Guia has been an ordained minister in the Church Of Christ (Iglesia Ni Cristo) since 2015.