How do you adapt to the changing relationships with your adult children?
Midlife brings with it an empty nest and changing relationships. Our bodies have decided to go rogue, our
We’re comfortable making decisions for our offspring, it’s been the drill since they were born. We know our kids, probably better than they know themselves. Let’s face it, we do know best. (Well, we do. : ) )
But my ‘mama-sisters’, it’s time to nix this line of thinking. We have to let these young adults fall down and skin their knees. And yes, it’s sometimes painful to watch. I’m learning as I go with my own kids, making mistakes and eating my words many times.
I’m also learning (albeit slowly) that my kids will cross over to the adult
But, here are some maxims that may help you as you are also launching your birdies and figuring out this quiet empty nest.
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Pray for them. Daily.
One of the sweetest and unexpected joys of having my kiddos fly the coop is watching God work in their lives.
When I see or hear about specific things that happen in the lives of my kids that I’ve prayed for, it strengthens my own faith. I MUST trust God with these babies that he gave me. I know His will for them is to follow Him, so I pray for that end.
But, I don’t pray for all their days to be rosy and without issues. I pray for them to WANT Him in their lives.
Model for them how God works in the everyday mess.
Talk to them about what you’re praying for in your own life. Are you fearful about this new empty nest? Or scared to try a new career or make new friends? When opportunity knocks (and without droning on and on) tell about your small victories in your day.
They need to see that God can handle their own fears as they make their way in the world, just like they see you trusting Him. Watching how you handle struggles gives them fuel to manage their own. When they see you seeing problems as simply opportunities to trust God, they take notice.
Follow their lead.
The college years bring the most drastic changes in your relationship with your child. Freedom for them is both intoxicating and scary, and helping them to find their footing requires you to walk a tightrope of sorts.
You want to help them, but you want them to find their own confidence and independence. Praying for them daily is the first and most powerful step.
But after prayer, allow them to take the lead in your relationship. Does your son really need a phone call from you every day demanding details of his life? While you may be comfortable with calling him to check in, he may not be.
The opposite may also be true! Perhaps you see that they need to learn to NOT depend on you as much now, for their own good. You’re preparing them to live without you. Here is when you stealthily back off some and allow them more independence and responsibility. The byproduct of this is …….more self-confidence.
So, mamas, follow your child’s lead in what your relationship looks like. What do they want from you? And more important, what do they NEED from you.
Be their cheerleader.
Just like the endless sports games that found you on the bleachers for hours on end, your adult children need you to be their cheerleader. Always.
You couldn’t control your player then, no matter how you yelled. (Funny basketball post here.) And now you can’t control their daily decisions and choices. BUT, you can be their cheerleader on the sidelines.
As these young adults find footing on rocky ground, the bumps and bruises will be many. They will need you to point out their strengths and resilience. You can help them see the big picture when they can only see a portion of it.
I lost my mom almost 2 years ago. A school counselor, she was my biggest fan and especially during her last few years gave me insight into the changing relationships when kids enter the adult world.
I miss her.
Listen to them.
‘Adulting’ is hard. ‘Teenagering’ is hard. When you have them in front of you, listen. And don’t lecture. Believe me, there is a way to lecture in the disguise of questions.
Encourage them to tell you more…….about everything. Their troubles, dreams, friends. Everything. When there is a problem, ask questions (not demeaning ones, just ones that provide information). Questions like “How did you feel about that?” and “What can you do better tomorrow?” guide their thinking into more positive spheres.
I think this is why it’s important for them to go away from home for their college years. We don’t need to see what their rooms look like, or how they’re eating. Because we would be lecturing nonstop.
We don’t want them to NOT call! (And they won’t if they feel they will only be hounded and riddled with guilt every time they do.)
Nix the guilt, BUT hold them accountable.
There may come a day when your college kid forgets to call you on your birthday. Or perhaps not call you or take your call for weeks. Or maybe she will be so focused on herself that she does or says things that seem hurtful or uncaring.
It will happen.
Here we are at a crossroads as parents. They do need to take responsibility for their actions. But we DON’T need to
A phone call saying, “I missed talking to you yesterday on my birthday”, goes way further than a gruff text about how you are hurt because he is so self-centered.
Get over it, moms.
Treat them as the adults that they are and move on. If you need to tell them what they did was hurtful, do it matter-of-factly, and without emotion.
Forgive them. Move on.
Ask them what they learned.
This is the part that we still can teach these adult babies. Big problems will happen to your people. Life is just like that. And they will come to you with issues that seem impossible. (But they never are.)
Instead of becoming the instant ‘fixer’ to a tight spot they may find themselves in, step back and ask questions so they can navigate their own path through it.
You have the objective view of the problem and can give them a different perspective. Not a lecture.
Just last week my daughter was involved in a car accident in a snow storm. I sat waiting for a flight at the airport an hour away and my hubby was also traveling out of state. I debated whether to ditch my flight and come to the rescue. She was understandably upset and scared, but fine physically. So I walked her through the process of calling
Help them to see that every problem is only an obstacle that they must figure out how to navigate. What they learn from one issue, is a step forward for the next one.
When these humans come to the other side of the current obstacle, ask them what they learned about themselves. Maybe even more important, tell them what you see in them, their courage or resilience.
The goal in raising kids is teaching them not to need us.
Let go of their bad decisions.
This is a biggie. And it’s really hard.
It goes along with letting them skin their knees. Your kids are going to make decisions that you think aren’t optimal, or simply wrong. We have to come to the place where we must ‘let go and let God’.
I remember just before my wedding when my fiance (now husband) and I were buying a brand new truck before we left on our new Air Force career adventure. My dad was very vocal that we should be getting a family car and not a truck. He told me several times that we shouldn’t be buying that truck and how impractical it was
We saw needs that my dad didn’t, and that truck lasted through 13 years of military moves and four kids.
The moral is, sometimes your kids will know better than you. GASP! I know that’s hard to hear. : )
Or, maybe they don’t know better and then they have to deal with the consequences. Thanks ok, too.
Either way, YOU are NOT defined by your adult kids’ decisions. (And by the way, though we’re proud of them, their accomplishments aren’t ours either!!)
As we learn how to let these babies of ours fly, we are also strengthening our own wings in the process.
Be open to change.
The time has come to recognize that I must find other avenues of fulfillment to fill my time and bring me joy. The door is wide open for new adventures and hobbies and friendships.
And I get to make my cozy empty nest ready for grandbabies to visit!!!!
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