Ken Corr

Observations and Suggestions for Parenting Adult Children

Observations and Suggestions for Parenting Adult Children


Every stage of parenting has its unique challenges.  Parenting adult children is especially challenging because the expectations of both parent and children change.  This often leads to frustration and strained relationships.  Most parents are looking for help and guidance in parenting their adult children.

The Bible is filled with example after example of the struggles of parenting adult children (cf., David’s mistakes with his son, Absalom).  Even Mary, the mother of Jesus, made some parenting mistakes during Jesus’ adult years (cf., Mark 3:21, 31).

Here are some general observations about this life task.

First of all, when we are talking about “adult” children, we are talking about ages 25 years and older.  By the age of 25 years, it is expected that the young adult will be able to make informed decisions and better judgments.  Until then, it is expected that young adults will make some poor decisions.  So, 25 years will be the demarcation line for the term, “adult” children.

Also, there is no “good” parent.  The question with which many parents struggle is whether they are doing it “right” and whether they are being “good” as parents.  Working with attachment issues of children and their mothers, Donald Winnicott, a British Pediatrician and Psychoanalyst, suggested that what is needed is a “good enough mother.”  I think the idea could be applied to all parents.  What is needed is a “good enough parent.”  We may never do parenting “right”, but we want to provide enough stability and love for the children to become responsible and independent adults.

Finally, the main task for young adults is differentiating from the parents.  The goal is for young adults to develop their own values, beliefs, and life skills and become financially and emotionally independent from their parents.  Adult children who become co-dependent and enmeshed with their parents have a more difficult time (and so do their parents).

Some suggestions that you might find helpful with parenting adult children begins with allowing them to make mistakes, even when they are “wrong.”  Allowing adult children to make mistakes is a difficult thing, but it is a way for them to learn life’s most difficult lessons.  You can warn, encourage, remind, share your own life experiences, but in the end, let them make their own decisions.

Also, avoid advice giving, even when they ask for it.  Advice giving is seldom helpful. Rather than advice giving, find ways to lead the children to consider all the options. Remember this, if you give them advice and it doesn’t work out, they will blame you.

Finally, trust your adult children to God.  God is their “grand” parent.  God loves them even more than you.  By prayer and faith, you can know that there is One who is with them, guiding, encouraging, and protecting, in ways that you can’t.

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