At this stage of our lives, Greg and I have adult children. We’ve raised three sons and the mindset of switching from a parent role to more of a partner role has not always been easy. Looking at our strapping grown sons, I still remember holding those little babies in my arms. I was telling them most everything to do, helping them walk, write their names and even interact with friends and siblings.
Now, our role has changed. Part of parenting is nourishing a child. That doesn’t change in continuing to add input into their lives, but usually when we’re asked! The definition of partnering is engaging together in the same activity, respecting their values and opinions. In respect to adult children, there are four areas we’ll cover in this episode: Emotional Support, Relational Support, Financial Support and Communication.
One: Emotional Support
When in a parenting role, a regular routine establishes stability, both emotionally and physically. Feeding schedules, naptime, bedtime schedules are all important for growing children. If you have raised a child, you understand how important this is. When they are thrown off, their mood changes and they may even be more susceptible to illness. It was not always easy to adhere to a schedule, but we found our sons were happier and more well-adjusted when we did.
Routine and schedules change as they grow and start to have their own activities with sports, music and homework. At this time, it was important for us to help them put together their own routine. If you have raised teenagers, you know all too well that they want to start making their own decisions. This is actually a good step in nurturing independence, but we were not afraid to voice our opinions!
Emotional support doesn’t end as we now have adult children. As they face their own challenges with relationships, children and life events, knowing we are here for them emotionally is important for us, as well as them. I remember Greg saying he thought our job was done when the boys started moving out. I disagreed and have been proven right! (He then agreed!) They may never ask us questions until problems surface, but the fact that we’re available is a big deal. I realize many don’t have that support and that saddens me. (See: Healthy Mindsets)
Two: Relational Support
In the elementary years, we continued to build structure and boundaries that produced security and values in our sons’ lives. As they grew into their teen years, we allowed them to participate more with decisions. Something I found to be true is that boys, at least our boys, were not very verbal. I often had one-word answers—or grunts! But driving them to and from school gave me the chance to find out what was happening, especially if they had a friend in the car.
We had the opportunity to go to Hawaii with all three sons when they were in high school and beginning college. Greg instituted hang time. He planned time every day where they’d find a basketball court or some sort of activity to do together. It freed me up as I didn’t care to compete on the court, but I realized how important physical activity was for them. As they played together, they talked, joked and competed physically.
Hang time also happens when they watch a sport event, sharing the experience. We are finding now with adult children, to keep a relationship vibrant, we find time to just hang, usually doing something they enjoy. This is not easy for me as I don’t sit still easily for long periods of time! For one of our sons, that’s hanging at a softball game where he’s playing. For another, it’s hanging while he has pool time with his daughters. And for another, it’s hanging while working out together.
Three: Financial Support
Financial support is a tricky one as we want to teach our children the importance of work in relation to money. Like many of our friends, we gave our sons an allowance, though it was small. We usually asked them to do something in return, like mow the lawn or wash cars. Although, I had a tough time getting them to clean their rooms!
When they were teens, they all had part-time jobs. Greg approached our local mechanic and offered to pay him for hiring our sons! (This didn’t happen—he did pay them for their work) As a result, they not only worked, but learned the basics of working on cars. They also learned that if they ran out of money, there were consequences.
There was the time one of our sons didn’t budget well enough to put gas in his car. So, we drove him to school, not giving him gas money. There was no scolding, just the consequences with, We all run out of money at times. He learned quickly the importance of saving. (see: Manage Finances)
At this point with adult children, we are sharing more of our personal finances. After losing both my parents in the past years, I realize how important this is. We talk to them often about savings plans, budgeting and wise investment decisions. They are all launched and self-supporting, for which we are very thankful, but they do know we are here for guidance and help if needed. (and requested!)
As I previously mentioned, our sons characteristically replied with one-word answers to many of my questions. And heaven forbid if I asked too many questions as they then called me nosy! This was especially true while they were growing up, being careful to not lecture, but inquire with a supportive attitude. Not easy when I watched them making some less-than wise decisions!
Staying connected is tricky through the teen years and it can be tricky even with adult children. Communication styles have changed. I have learned that if I want an immediate response, I text. This is especially true with our youngest son. Actual phone calls are rarer, though we’ve found a way to make this happen.
They tend to call us in the car or while traveling. Our attorney son who works out daily usually calls when he’s running errands or going back to his apartment. Our fireman son will call when he gets off work, which is usually morning after working 24-hour shifts. (Sometimes days in a row) Our youngest, who just took a job in cyber security, also travels weekends as a professional athlete. We still text more than talk, but the talking has increased since he moved across the country.
Keeping the Relationship Alive
We have personally committed to traveling to visit our kids. We do have one who lives more local to us, but for the others, we book time in our schedule to go see them. Seeing them additional times other than just major holidays as Thanksgiving and Christmas is important to us. (see: Lets-Celebrate)
The regular visits, even if just hanging together, give us time with our adult children to still provide emotional, relational and financial support, along with nurturing healthy communication. It takes commitment of time, resources and energy, but is well-worth it. Parenting is one of the most important things we have ever done and to us, our job is never over as now we are a partner in their lives.
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