Parenting Adult Children and Loosening the Reins



By now, 2016, I have one daughter who completed 5 yrs university, graduating with a BSc Biology. She has worked fulltime 1.5 yrs already. She live on her own those 6 years. My son is entering 4th year university. He lives in student housing during the school year.

So I've walked the waters of nest-emptying. I know my journey is somewhat similar to many, but also vastly different.

The Cost of Independence 

One thing that should be similar is experiencing a sense of loss of control once our children become adults. The adult process starts at 18 and moves forward to 21 where major independence is exercised by most. And that is a good thing. Step by step we should step back. 

My weaning process started much earlier in some ways. At age 10, I taught my kids to do their own laundry and I taught my son how to make simple meals. From then on they've continued to do their own laundry and know how to feed themselves.

Loosening the reins on our adult children is both freeing and frustrating. There are many things we'd like to lecture them on. There are things we'd like to do for them. We might be tempted to arrange things behind the scenes for them. We might try to pick out clothes. We might print out articles for them to read. But much of that will backfire.

When our adult children make decisions we disagree with or fail to take action when we think they should we realize we no longer have control.

Lack of Control and Anxiety

I read recently that anxiety is a response when individuals sense a lack of control. If anxiety is left to fester, it can turn into depression.

No wonder midlife women fight depression so often.

As moms of young children we had a lot of control. We controlled their activity choices, their payments to events, their clothing choices, their bedroom organization, on and on. Most of us found it fun.

But now as moms of adult children those decisions aren't ours to make. We're off the job!

When they go away to school, we have no control over their schedule, breakfast choices, friends, church attendance, and so on.

Where do You Stand?

Are you still trying to dominate your adult child's life? Have you learned how to let go?

Do you feel a little frustrated or anxious over a loss of control? Do you worry about whether to step in or not? Have you had trouble letting go?

This area of releasing our children and its affects on us is an issue most of us need to address.

What to Do

Perhaps the best way to overcome anxiety is to focus on what is within our control. Sometimes that's as basic as cleaning the dust off our shelves and controlling our own schedule.

Of course, praying is within our control too. But be careful not to use prayer like one might cast a magic spell.  That is, it's not up to us to try to manipulate God into making things go the way we want them to. It's better to give God the choice of what should happen.

Some of our children may go through difficulties as consequences of their choices. God may allow them to make mistakes in the same way he allowed Job to be afflicted or some to become lame before he healed them.

Though we want to spare our children difficulty, keep them pleasing to God, and have happy outcomes, we can't force it to happen our way. Our resolve is to pray that should there be consequences of their choices, that God will draw them to himself and use their difficulties for his purposes.

It can also be helpful to tell yourself, "This isn't the end of the story."

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