A parent’s guide to adulting young adults
Mother and her teenage son

There’s something magical about the lifelong journey that is parenting. You watch these small, innocent reflections of you grow over the years, and your role as a parent or guardian changes with them. That said, there are plenty of unique challenges when it comes to parenting adult children. No matter how prepared you think you are as a parent, it can be tough trying to catch up to the stage your kids are in as young adults. Even if you yourself are struggling to get adulting done right, there’s a few areas to focus on when it comes to adulting young adults in your care – here’s where to start.

Communication is key

You may not have all the answers as the adult in the household - and your 18+ year old has certainly made you aware of that - so how do you manage successful communication? Email may work for your professional world, but at home, the word ‘direct’ likely takes on a whole new meaning. While communication is the cornerstone of any healthy relationship, this is particularly true when it comes to parenting children, both young and not so young anymore.

Listening is a skill we all have, and it can be important to utilize as maturing young adults are eager to have their voices heard. Actively listening (and keeping your own thoughts to yourself without interrupting) shows that you trust them to lead the conversation. In addition to putting on the very ‘adult’ listening cap, try to avoid overstepping boundaries. As children age, they will want more responsibility and can likely make their own decisions – rightly or wrongly. While your adult advice may be valuable, it’s not offering to fix things for them. They are becoming their own adults who need to know what it feels like to decide and live with the consequences.

Change is challenging

Change is something a lot of people fear - whether it’s moving out of your home, having your first kids, or even switching your auto insurance policy. Watching these changes with your own kids will be just as difficult, but also exciting. How do you handle letting these junior adults make full-grown adult decisions? Embrace their independence, for one – there’s no need to micromanage their every interaction. Instead, allow them to make calls that directly impact their own lives and future without helicoptering above them. 

Respecting their choices will also be an adulting moment that causes stress for most parents; your kids may go left when you think they should go right, but once they bridge the gap from teen to adult(ish) they will want the freedom to decide for themselves. Adulting at all stages is hard and full of errors in judgement, but those are the moments in which we learn the most – both for parents and for young adults.

Dynamics will be different

Whether your adult children live with you at home or elsewhere, there will be new dynamics involved, and it’ll take some getting used to. Your children’s privacy will be of the utmost importance to them, and your role as their parent is to allow them to share what they want to, when they want to. Prying will only cause friction; instead, try some gentle advice as they deal with finances, insurance, and finding a path forward with their education.

Family time will also no longer look the same. Holidays, traditions, and events your kids were once thrilled to be a part of may take a backseat to other options. Maybe there’s a new significant other, maybe they have moved away for school, or maybe they want a bit of a break. Demonstrate good adulting skills and give them the option to decide.

Lastly, we all ‘adult’ differently and so do our children as young adults. Some may require more space and more autonomy while others will want more hands-on leadership. Consider how you felt when you turned 18 and what role your own parents played. Be open to new adventures, because while they are adults now, you’re still their parent!