by Susan Zurcher
“No truck parts in the living room”, I chided my young adult son.
When I was growing up, there were five women my home – myself, three sisters and my mom. Dad was the sole male, except for our dog. Our home was filled discussion about the latest fashion trend, and shaped by the effects of fluctuating estrogen. Various dramas abounded.
So, when I heard myself chastising my son, I momentarily froze and thought if you would have told me twenty years ago, I’d be saying….
There are many things we are not told about motherhood. There are many surprises in life in general.
One of those is parenting young adult children.
The focus throughout the childhood years is raising them, feeding, dressing, bathing, teaching, cooking, cleaning and driving them. The ultimate goal is to help produce independent, godly, productive members of society.
As they headed toward adulthood, I think I imagined the hard part would be over. Maybe I dreamed I’d be able to kick back, relax, and coast for the rest of my life.
Parenting young adults is not the “our work is finished here” ride off into the sunset I thought it would be. Here are just a few of the unexpected surprises I’ve discovered as I’ve learned to parent young adult children.
The flexibility required at this stage rivals the toddler years – except you are twenty years older. Flexibility requires more effort than it used to. Plus, this is about the time reverse puberty sets in for mom.
On top of all the physical changes you may be experiencing, a boatload of emotional changes unfolds in parent-child relationships. The kids leave for college or another life adventure, and you cry or sigh. Then, when they return home, the rhythms of your house shift once again, but it is a new rhythm with children who are no longer little kids. They leave again, maybe for an out of state internship or to another country to study or go on a mission trip. Or they move into choices that you can’t celebrate. In every case, you pray more intensely than you ever have before.
A Different Kind of Love and Support
Our young adult children still need our love and support differently now than when they were young. We learn as they launch that they are now independent individuals with their own unique preferences. We learn in new ways to respect our child’s God-given personality.
The one thing that doesn’t change is that our children need to know we are for them. It can be a temptation to celebrate our children in conversation with others. Our kids need to hear that affirmation directly from us.
Two of our young adult children still live with us. One lives with us full-time (when we see him) and one is back and forth from college. I have learned that both of our young adults need their space and may not always appreciate our company. Through trial and error, parents and adult children alike are all learning how to communicate in this new stage of our lives.
Let Them Make Mistakes
This stage is our time to step back and allow them God’s gift of consequences to teach and guide them. If we rescue them too quickly, they’ll lose the benefit of life learning that comes from reaping what they’ve sown. Yet we walk a thin line, as we also need to lovingly nudge them away from cliff’s edge every now and then. (All the better if they feel the step back from the edge was their idea in the first place.) There’s no one-size-fits-all manual for navigating these challenges. Every child is different. But I am learning as I go to trust God’s work in their lives.
Be intentional about welcoming change
Just as we gradually adjusted to having a new baby in the family, we can recognize that we are growing into the new experiences we’re having in our relationships with our kids. They are not the only ones having growing pains. We are learning, too. Exercising grace with myself has freed me to offer grace to others in my family as we grow into young adulthood – together. That has been the most powerful surprise of all.
Susan Zurcher is a wife, mother, and Christian writer who continues to be amazed by God’s grace in her life. When not writing to edify and encourage women in their faith walk, you can find her outside enjoying “green therapy” or looking to fill in any gaps in her social calendar. To connect with her and read more visit www.susanzurcher.com, https://www.facebook.com/susanzurcherwriter/ and on Instagram at @onlybyhisgracesusan.