Let’s talk about how to “move to the bleachers” parenting adult kids. The act of leaving the field of duty, and even leaving “the sidelines,” as we make our way up to the bleachers. I want to talk about this because there’s not much about this phase of life out there in the world, at least not that I’ve found!
I remember there was a time when people were so hungry for resources for raising teenagers. Well, anyone with a teenager is still probably hungry for that, right? I mean, teenagers are a whole different ballgame from little kids as we all know!
But I feel like from the beginning there were all kinds of resources to help in the raising of little kids. A whole gamete of tips on emotional regulation and discipline techniques and parenting styles, blah blah blah. But when it came to teenagers there seemed to be zilch.
Fast forward to today, there are so many wise and wonderful resources to try to figure out teenagers, and to parent them. Two of my favorites are Brooke Romney (I love her “Modern Manners for Teens” volume 1 as well as volume 2 are both fabulous as well as all the stuff she puts out on Instagram!) and Kristen Duke has so much great teen content as well. They have so many tips and tricks when it comes to loving and nurturing teenagers.
I have done a little work on teenagers myself through the years here on the blog. Here are a few posts:
- Three tips for making your teenagers like you (ha!)
- Preparing for the foreign land of teenagers
- Q & A about teenagers
(And there are so many other posts where I’ve touched on teenagers through the years!)
HOW TO “MOVE TO THE BLEACHERS”
PARENTING ADULT KIDS
So, my question today is…what about adult kids??
Suddenly almost all my kids are adults (how in Heaven’s name did that happen???). I’m surrounded by all these towering pillars of human beings who are my own. They are each walking around with my whole heart, now stretched far and wide.
How in the world do we parent these adult children of ours?
Do we “parent” them or just let them head off, like paper boats off to sea?
My theory has become this: YES you are always their parent.
People always need a mama. I sure need mine!
But gradually we work our way from the field to the sidelines, and then up to the bleachers, cheering our hearts out.
And it’s pretty fun to watch their relationships blossom together as our own relationships with them shift and change to becoming your own best friends and teachers.
THREE TIPS FOR “MOVING TO THE BLEACHERS”
Keep Mouth Shut
By the time our kids become adults, they already know what we think. They’ve been under our tutelage for years as we’ve modeled it, taught it, and worked it into every avenue of how we parent. But by the time kids are adults, it’s time to stop talking and let our kids move forward and trust them. I love what one blog reader commented in a post about this years ago, her best advice was “keep mouth shut,” (KMS) and it’s such good advice!
This doesn’t come naturally I have to say. At least for me! Gosh you just love those kids so much and you want to help them any way you can. And to be sure, those brains even in young adults are still being formed. They are not fully mature. But the only way they can really gain the self confidence they need to navigate adult life is to figure things out themselves (hopefully we’ve started to ease into the “KMS” earlier in their teen years as well because it’s pretty important there too!).
Trust their decisions
If we’re going to “KMS,” we have to trust the decisions these adult kids make. For sure when they ask for advice, we should offer it. But I think there’s nothing in the world like a parent just trusting their kids. One of my very favorite things my parents have done for me is telling me this, when I’ve asked for advice in parenting over the years: “oh, you’re doing it so much better than we ever did!” Keep in mind they are “parenting experts” in many ways, so I was most probably not actually doing it better than they were, but they were showing me that they had total trust in my “figuring it out” processing, and somehow that gave me so much confidence!
There are times, for sure, when they are NOT going to do it right. They are going to make mistakes. They are going to find themselves in black holes from time to time.
But I think there is a difference between showing up with advice and showing up with love and “holding space” for our kids. And with adult kids we need to train ourselves to choose the latter.
I believe The Beatles sure had it right with their lyrics “All You Need is Love,” are you with me? Unconditional love is so powerfully important in life, especially in parenting. Oh we don’t have to love all the decisions and crazy things our kids may do, but to know we love them with no strings attached is so incredible. One of the most basic human needs is to know that we matter. And we can be such a powerful force in helping kids believe that about themselves just through our actions.
I think the “welcoming response” is equally important for adult kids as it is for our little kids. When they come in a room, light up like there’s no tomorrow. One of my favorite things about my sister Saydi is that when we have been missing each other for a while and we reunite, her arms are always stretched out like nobody’s business to greet you and envelope you in a big hug. I love it. I hope my adult kids feel this same excitement whenever we reunite, or talk on the phone, or even text.
A PODCAST EPISODE ABOUT HAVING ADULT KIDS
Ok, so if you want to hear more thoughts about moving “to the bleachers” parenting adults, tune into our In the Arena podcast this week as we delve into the “adult kids” arena. We’d love to hear what you have to say about it over on our Instagram page too!
One more thing, having an adult kids takes on a whole new arena when you add in-law adults to your mix. We are the luckiest to have the best in-law kids so far…no pressure the rest of you kids! Ha! Love having Abby (below) in the mix, and I’m sure when little Peanut arrives it will be another new ballgame.
This parenting gig just keeps changing and morphing into new steps and phases. But it sure is fun along the way!
I am the blog reader who told you about KMS years ago. My first child that married was in 1998. KMS was the best advice I ever got. I pass it along every time I get the chance. I used to have it on tiny post-it notes at every phone (land lines!), several places in the kitchen and in my bedroom.
I obviously love it too:) Thanks so much for sharing!