Early in motherhood someone reminded me that I will spend more of my life as a mother to adults than to the young children that are in my care. In the land of parenthood, time really does fly!
The question then, is what do we do as parents with all those adult years? Does our influence go out the door once we become empty nesters?
The struggle with accepting this new stage of life can be summed up in this quote:
“A mother’s job is to teach her children not to need her anymore. The hardest part of that job is accepting success.” Isn’t that so true?
I know in my experience the influence of my parents, particularly my mom, has only grown as I myself am now navigating adulthood. We never stop needing our parents.
But if there does not exist a complete step-by-step handbook to parenting young kids, there certainly does not exist one on parenting adult children. The waters get murkier as you both learn to traverse a hopefully close-but-somehow-independent relationship. Although your children no longer need you to make decisions for them, your support and guidance is still very much needed.
What are some ways parents still act as encouragements and rally behind adult children? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
1. Let Them Go
To “let go” may sound counter-intuitive when the goal is to still be involved, but somehow, it’s just the way it works. Most young adult/late teenager needs to feel like they have the space to make their own way in the world.
If you hover over their every choice, giving unsolicited advice it’s very likely they will distance themselves from you. In Genesis 2:24 God lets us know that there will be a time that every grown up has to leave their home and set out on their own.
In my own life, my mother and father did this particularly well. I decided to attend college far from home and get married during my THIRD year as a college student at twenty years old.
Somehow, they dropped me off at a campus 11 hours away from their home and smiled and hugged me. They offered their unwavering support for my decision to finish college quickly and marry my high school sweetheart. Truly, we would have had to get married at the Courthouse in borrowed clothes without them. They gifted us a beautiful, love-filled wedding.
Their willingness to “let me go” and support me when my dreams took me far from home showed me that I could wholeheartedly trust that they were on my side as a budding adult.
Many years have passed since then and while we haven’t always agreed, I’ve never not had a close relationship with my parents. Thankfully now they live 10 minutes down the road but when they said goodbye to me as a freshman in a state far from home, they had no guarantees that our homes would be close again.
It took trust, love, and a whole lot of faith to be supportive during those early years.
2. Pray without Ceasing for Your Children
The call to pray for your kids does not stop once they leave the home! If anything, the day they move out may be the day you amp up those prayers more than ever before. Adulting is HARD. No matter what age your children are, they need the guidance and support of the Holy Spirit in their life. Your prayers invite that power to be alive and active in their daily life, whether they know it or not.
If you aren’t sure what to pray or how to pray for them, start by praying scripture over them. Pray Philippians 4:7 over them that God’s amazing peace will guard their hearts and minds. Psalm 5:12 asks God to surround them with his shield of love. Psalm 27:13 invites God to show them His goodness in the land of the living.
Anytime you come across a verse that encourages your heart, convert it to a prayer for your children.
3. Speak the Truth to Them with Love
One great thing about being a parent is that you know your children better than anyone else! You know how their personality works, their history, about past hang-ups, and even about the dreams they hold dearest to their hearts. You have the power to see right into their heads when life gets more challenging.
Don’t shy away from speaking truth to them when they need someone who truly knows them to remind them of it.
Approach them with tenderness and let them know that you see them. Even if they don’t respond positively in the moment, the reality is we all want to be seen, no matter how old we get! This is not a moment to press or fuss, but just to remind them of what you know to be true for them. Communicate that you know them, you see their struggles, and are 100% behind them.
4. Be Available to Spend Time Together
Life never gets easy. We think that in each new phase of life brings, we suddenly will get a whole new lease on available free time. That’s just not true! It’s just as easy to fill up your calendar as an empty-nester as a young Mom. Prioritizing family time looks different once everyone is out on their own but it’s still essential. Carve out time for family dinners or sneak a trip to give your kids a surprise visit, just to be with them.
Now that I am an adult the best gift my parents give me is their presence. I am just thankful to be with them. I love getting to learn about who they are as adults, hear their take on life, and to get to make memories in this stage of life. Encouragement can be as simple as an unexpected free lunch from Mom and Dad or as exciting as a weekend together doing something out of the norm. Your time and devotion is the best gift you can give your kids.
5. Let Them Know You Are Proud of Them
Words of affirmation are vital in being an encouraging force in the lives of others. You remember when your kids were little and the praise flowed freely? Every tiny accomplishment is accompanied by praise. It’s not necessary to take it that far but tap into the cheerleader you once were and speak life into your adult children's lives.
Let them know you still see their efforts, talents, skills, and believe in them. No matter their stage of life, go out of your way to show them the ways you see them thriving. This will mean so much to lift their spirits if they are in a season where they feel lost. Even if they are doing well for most of us a huge measure of our success in life is knowing that our parents are proud of us.
6. When You Have the Chance, Invest in Them
We all have different resources at our disposal. Some of us have access to money, others have connections, some us come with special skills, and no matter what everyone has something we can offer our children. If nothing else our kids at every age need our love.
When you have the chance, use what you have, to invest in your adult children.
Life doesn’t come with many lucky breaks but having an invested parent in your life may beat out all the luck this world has to offer in giving you a leg up. When a door is open for you child to learn, grow, or succeed give them your blessing to go boldly forward. When we life feels risky, the support of your tribe can be all the encouragement you need to take that next scary step.
7. Be Honest and Open about the Lessons You Have Learned in Life
Age equals experience. Your kids can benefit from access to the wisdom you have acquired over your lifetime. Be open about the lessons you have learned both by avoiding trouble through right choices and maybe the things you have learned the “hard way” too.
This transparency allows your kids to feel like you are an accessible resource they can go to when they need direction and encouragement. If you keep an open conversation with your kids about your choices and lifestyle, they won’t feel awkward approaching you when they have questions.
They may not always do what you say but it’s encouraging just knowing you are open to those deeper conversations when we face life’s harder decisions.
8. Remember Your Kids Aren’t You
It’s the age old story where the parents have one idea about the life their children should live, then their kids hit adulthood, and decide to take a different path. I mean this is the plot of so many movies. It begs the question, why does our culture keep telling this story? We tell it because rings true for so many of us!
We grow up and decide to take our own paths and follow our unique passions.
Rather than being the parent in the story that “has to come around” keep your place as encourager intact and let go of a dream that was never meant to come true. From the birth of our kids they are not our own. Their stories are not ours to control. God chooses us as stewards to care for his creation. When it’s time for them to be grown ups; it’s our time to hand them, their choices, and their story back to God.
Titus 2:4 encourages us to love our children. The best way to continue to encourage your adult children is to continue to show them love at every turn. Speak loving truth into their lives, pray God’s truth over them, be their cheerleader when they need it, and be present when the opportunity to spend time together comes around.
Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes about all things motherhood for Richmond Macaroni Kid, creates devotions for the Daily Bible Devotions App, she has work published with Her View from Home, is contributing to a couples devotional for Crosswalk, and is a regular contributor for the marriage/family/homeschool/parenting channels on Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Amanda at rvahouseofjoy.com or follow her on Instagram at rvahouseofjoy.
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