Giving Your Adult Child Space
Most parents with an adult child have faced the temptation to become critical of their child’s decisions. The transition from age 15 to 20 can be hard on both of you. You’re learning to give him or her space and they’re trying to make adult decisions on their own.
You’ve given them direction and instruction for so long, it’s difficult to make the switch to a supportive role, offering advice when they ask you for it instead of when you think they need it. Honestly, you should not tell a 23-year-old how you think they should live.
As a parent of an adult child, you have to move away from, “What I want for you,” and “What I expect from you.” Most adult children refuse this approach and interpret it as critical or unsupportive of their life goals and dreams. Instead, say to your son or daughter, “I am observing something. Would you give me permission to share what I’ve observed?” It’s really hard, but if they say no, then bite your tongue and back off.
Now there are a lot of young adults still living at home. You have every right to set very clear expectations and boundaries with a 23 year old still living in your home. Be careful not to position your conversation in a way that says, “This is what I want for you,” but instead set boundaries within the home with words like “Your mom and I are willing to do this…, and we’d like for you to do that while you are living with us.” Discuss money. Maybe you want to help with your child’s tuition, car payments, gas. Will they pay rent, help with groceries? Discuss relationships. Are their friends welcome to come over? How late are friends of the opposite sex allowed to stay? Do you expect your adult child to let you know when they’re going to be late getting home or not coming home at all?
Your child has to make his or her own decisions. But it’s important to define the things up front that you will and will not tolerate in your home. Treat him or her like an adult and expect the same in return. Remember, it’s your home—you set the boundaries.
Parenting continues, but looks very different as your child enters into adulthood. Your job description changes as you release them into God’s hands to accomplish what He intends for them. This is an important phase for you to handle prayerfully and intentionally.