As the mother of both adults and teenagers, I’m learning that parenting adults is much different than parenting my teenagers.
To be honest, I have the same overall concern for both my teenagers and adults.
I don’t want my children to make the same mistakes I did.
I’m sure that most parents can relate.
But when they’re teenagers, you can gently (and sometimes not so gently) guide them away from those mistakes.
When you’re parenting adults, however, this is no longer the case.
As parents of adults, we’re still there to gently persuade and direct them, but we’re no longer the motivating force in their lives. We have to be willing to let them go and make their own choices independent of what we want for them.
That’s the hard part.
One of my daughters recently started dating someone.
It’s not that she hasn’t been out on dates before, but dating is different than going out on a date.
I’ve always wondered how I would react and how I would feel when I reached this part of my journey.
It’s one of those things where you always want better for your kids.
When she told me she was dating someone and that she really liked him, instantly, all these questions popped into my head.
Who is he?
Where’s he from?
What’s his family like?
But in parenting adults, I had to take a step back and check myself.
There are things that are important to me. And my daughter knows what those things are.
I want her to be happy.
I want her to feel loved and supported.
I want him to be kind and caring to her.
And the most important thing to me is that he respects her.
This is important to me because of my own mistakes in dating.
I want something better for my daughter.
This experience reminds me of my own parents.
When I was young, my parents told me that they were there to stop me from making the same mistakes as they did.
Now that I am a mother to my own young adults, I don’t think that’s a reasonable thing for parents to do.
I know that my parents wanted what was best for me, and they were just trying to protect me. But I’m learning that allowing my children to make their own mistakes is an important part of successfully parenting adults.
Making mistakes is an important part of adulthood.
Allowing my adult children to make mistakes without swooping in and rescuing them and without judging them is vital. It’s an important part of their ability to make their own decisions and claim their own place in the world.
Making mistakes is a part of their learning and growing and becoming the remarkable people they were meant to be.
It’s also a part of them experiencing different bumps in their own road and journey.
My hope as a parent is that after discussing my own mistakes and the bumps I had in my road, my kids see it as an opportunity to do better than I did.
But it still has to be their choice, and we have to let them make those choices, regardless of how we feel about where those choices may take them.
This makes parenting adults hard!
You want your kids to have a great group of friends.
You want them to have an amazing boyfriend or girlfriend who respects them and treats them well.
You want them to live a happy and fulfilled life.
And so far, I think my kids are doing a great job with all of those things.
But what if that changes somewhere down the road?
As parents, we need to take a step back and realize our kids’ lives are theirs.
In other words, parenting adults means that their lives are not ours to manage.
Yes, we want them to be successful. But what is success? The definition of success will be different for each of us.
It’s in the eye of the person creating their own life what success looks like for them.
In the end, it’s not for us to define what success is for our adult children.
We have to trust that we’ve taught our kids how to live their best life and then allow them to go out there and live it.
For me, the ultimate thing I want for my kids is for them to be happy.
I want them to be surrounded by people who care about them and people who respect them.
As a mom whose daughter is flying across the country to date a guy she really likes, I honestly think she’s doing a great job.
She’s not changing who she is to be with someone else.
She’s dating someone who likes her for exactly who she is.
And best of all, she is dating someone who respects her for who she is—bumps in the road and all.
For me, as a parent, there is no better thing to see.
In hindsight, all those conversations we had about the mistakes I made, the times I messed up, and the things I struggled with were important.
Sharing those things wasn’t to tell them that they couldn’t do those things but to show them that they can do better—and they are doing better.
The best thing we can do for our adult children is to step back as parents and take more of a supporting role in their lives.
Learning to let go isn’t easy, but if we do, our adult children will learn to spread their wings and fly.