Point #10 in my Top 10 List for Parenting Adult Children is "Make the Transition."
By this I mean that both the becoming-an-adult child and the becoming-the-parent-of-an-adult-child parent must gradually, slowly, in fits and starts, make the transition from the stage of overt parenting to the stage where the parent plays more of a consultant role.
This transition is hard for all kinds of reasons.
For parents, we have spent 18 years or so being on-the-job, teaching, training, advising, coaching, disciplining, modeling, telling, explaining, etc. It is a formidable task to make the transition to a more "hands off" approach. Especially as our little birds fly from the nest and want to try out their own wings without us flapping around making sure they remain in the air.
And yet it is mandatory for our little birds' successful flight experience to flap and flutter on their own. To try things and fail. To experiment a bit. To test their wings. They won't do this well if we don't express trust in them and trust in the process.
At the same time, we don't need to completely step out of the picture. I often hear parents say, "Well, once my child turns 18, that's it. He's on his own." I bite my tongue, but often want to say, "Seriously? You think your fresh-faced 18 year old doesn't need your wisdom? Your occasional advice? Your gentle coaching and encouragement? Good luck with that."
The gradual transition from parenting children to parenting adults is unique to each parent-child relationship, and is often an uneven, awkward and imperfect transition.
Usually starting around the time our teenagers can drive, parents need to practice giving new responsibilities to our fledgling adults. The more they demonstrate maturity and wisdom, the more responsibility we give. If they show us they are not yet ready for more responsibility, we don't berate them for this fact. We simply (and I know this is not simple!) slow down the process and continue to provide them encouraging shelter until their wings are strong enough to keep them afloat.
The danger comes when the person on either side of this equation refuses to start to make the transition. Parents try to over-parent. Young people act like complete fools. Moms won't release their child to live out their own dreams. Dads demand their sons play football like they did, or that their daughters follow in their career path. Danger. Always danger. (More on this tomorrow)
Where are you in this transition?
How is your child navigating it?
Are you letting go too quickly allowing your child to flap, fail and fall?
Or are you hanging on well past the point of overt parenting and cutting short the necessary process of independent wing-flapping that eventually leads to strong, powerful, independent flight?
Great questions to ask ourselves as your kids move from the teenage years off to college and beyond...
(Yea, Alice, great questions... but you know what? This is really, really hard. This is incredibly confusing and rife with potential conflict. Emotions are hot. Feelings get really hurt. Bad things happen. Words get said that can't be forgotten.)
Please don't hear me say this is easy. I know it is not. I have battle scars, too. Let's keep talking, praying, trying things out, cheering each other on, picking each other up. One step at a time...