Tips for Struggling Adult Children

635995551842428548423414045_adultingYesterday, I posted some tips for the parents who might be struggling to parent their adult children well. Today, I want to write specifically for the adult children of those parents…

Adulting isn’t easy. You might miss your mom, the freedom of your childhood, or the dreams you determined but just can’t seem to reach. Or you might be angry that your mom isn’t who you need her to be as you grow into adulthood. She’s not available, doesn’t seem to understand, or can’t seem to accept you as an adult. What can you do?

Step through grief. Life changes. You’ve left many things behind—some that you were too young to remember. You celebrated moving on at times, but other times, it’s been difficult. That’s okay. Let yourself grieve the loss of something or someone, recognize you can’t completely go back, but you can celebrate and embrace what God has in store for the next stage of life.

Focus on what you need, not what you want. This is a hard one no matter how selfless you think you are. You’ll wrestle through assumptions and expectations. Dreams begin to rub against reality. Be as honest as you can be with yourself and others. Instead of choosing to surround yourself with people who affirm whatever you want, choose people who will support and encourage you but also challenge you to continually grow.

Refuse to think you have all the answers. With adulthood comes with responsibility to be a humble, lifelong learner. Admit you don’t know it all, and face the idea that your experiences don’t reflect all of reality. Avoid being too hard on yourself. You’ll have to learn some things the hard way.

Refrain from keeping people where they were, including your parents. Just because your parents responded to you in a certain way in a specific situation or season of your life doesn’t mean that response defines them. Just as you change and grow, so will they. That doesn’t mean they’ll become more like you want them to be, but it also doesn’t mean you understand everything about them.

Be responsible. Blame only digs a hole of insecurities and hurt feelings that are difficult to overcome. Honestly evaluate yourself often in order to learn and grow.

Give God your whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. It’s easier said than done. So many things grab at our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and while God wants us to invest in and be passionate about people, they are never to take His place. Let Him lead. You can trust Him, even through the messiness of adulting.

Growing Up with Kids

Each step our kids take as they grow up is an opportunity for us to grow up, too.

parentingWe get so busy helping them grow up that we might miss the opportunities we have to grow as well. When they face a new situation, we help them sort through it. We give them advice, tips for dealing with the newness. We listen and encourage. What about when we face a new situation as parents? Do we respond using tools that have worked in the past, or do we patiently consider the best response to the specific situation? Do we take a deep breath and face the change with the same courage we try to give our kids?

When our kids are hurting, we comfort them. But we also tell them to get back up. Try again. Be brave. Do we tell ourselves the same things? How do we respond when our kids are the ones who have hurt us? Maybe not intentionally, but they need their space. And we want them to have it. We really do. But do we respond as if we really do?

When someone has hurt, ignored, or bullied our kids, we want to pull out our mama bear claws and go after the person, but we look into our kids’ eyes and realize they need us more. We comfort them and help them heal. We help get them strong enough to face anything. We tell them not to let other people bother them, not to be jealous, not to take revenge, be the bigger person, take the high road. Do we do the same, or do we continue to steep in the anger, talk about people behind their backs, retaliate, and refuse to forgive?

We prepare our kids to leave the nest and lead responsible lives. We want them to grow up. We really do. But what happens when they leave? Do we try to emotionally pull them back? When we continue to teach them to depend on us, who is more dependent on whom…them on us, or us on them? Are we willing to leave the nest, too? Not physically, since we likely stay in the same house, but what about emotionally? Are we willing to admit that we don’t have to watch the nest so closely any more? In fact, we can enjoy long flights away from the nest?

We invite our children to change into adults. We listen to their excitement about their new experiences. We hear their struggles, too. Do we try to live life with them and share every single thing we’ve learned, giving advice when it’s unwelcome, and making their lives more about us than them…or do we let them make decisions, including some poor ones, learn through mistakes, and own the lessons they learn? Do we spend more time watching them become adults than growing as adults ourselves?

If we don’t grow, who will our kids look up to? Eventually, if we let their lives overwhelm ours, we miss out on our own lives, and they lose the influence we can give them.

We share our faith with them, but what if we only teach them the basics? What if we don’t let them know there’s something beyond what we’ve taught them, something beyond what we even know right now, that we’re still growing and struggling and searching? That God isn’t limited to what we’ve shared about Him. In fact, He’s not limited by anything or anyone. How can we encourage them to keep asking questions and searching and growing?

Are we asking questions and searching and growing?

Do you have a dynamic faith that stands firmly on the truth of God but trusts Him to constantly prune the baggage, assumptions, and legalism so that you grow into the person He wants you to be so that you not only honor Him well but you also honor the children He’s entrusted to you?

God is giving your kids steps to take as opportunities to grow. He’s giving you steps to take, too. Respond well.

The Youngest Child

I’m the youngest of three daughters. While I thought I was picked on or treated as a baby at times, I have overall enjoyed my birth order position. My mom recently sent me an old Erma Bombeck column, clipped from a 1993 newspaper. Regardless of your birth order position, or perhaps as a mother of several children, I wonder if you can relate.

A recent column I wrote on how mothers age and change priorities with each child prompted a reader from Dallas to pass on a chart called, “From Here to Maternity: Oh How We Change.” It was written by P.E. Luecke Jr., M.D., and should hang on the walls of every pediatrician’s office in the country:

Birthdays: First baby: Tuesday, Jan. 26, 1956, 7:34 a.m.. Second baby: July 28, daytime. Third baby: the year the grocery store burned down.

Named after: First baby: grandmother and paternal aunt for political reasons. Second baby: Daddy. Third baby: Daddy’s boss.

Godparents: First baby: Bernard Ryan and Joy Smith. Second baby: Martha Dunn and either Uncle Fred or Fred the barber. Third baby: relatives.

Formula: fortified prepared infant formula with 1.25 water. Second baby: heated cow’s milk poured from a carton. Third baby: cold milk, Cokes and Kool-Aid.

Bottles: First baby: boiled 10 minutes, removed with tongs and rubber gloves. Second baby: boiled five minutes, removed with beer can opener. Third baby: rinsed in cold water and dried on apron.

Handling: First baby: right hand behind head, left under knee, clutch baby close to body. Second baby: place hands under armpits and lift. Third baby: one arm around stomach.

Length and weight at one year: First baby: 15 pounds, 14 1/2 ounces, 26 1/4 inches. Second baby: 16 or 17 pounds, same height as vertical knob on TV set. Third baby: heavier than a bowling ball. Short.

Sanitation: First baby: rubber gloves, face mask, scrub floors weekly, mosquito net. Second baby: use air freshener weekly, swat all flies. Third baby: keep the dog out of the playpen.

Baby records: First baby: detailed in gold embossed book. Second baby: written on back of old envelopes. Third baby: Ask grandma.

The good doctor is right. As the challenges keep coming, mothers realize they can’t possibly keep pace or they’ll wind up comatose under the kitchen sink. I got to the point where I was feeling sorry for the dog, and when one of the kids kissed him, I washed the dog’s mouth out with soap and said, “You never know where that mouth has been.”

It’s hard to believe that I needle-pointed my first child’s name on a pillow. By the time the third one came along, I wanted to do that – but couldn’t remember it half the time.

Okay, so perhaps a few of these are a bit exaggerated, but there’s a hint of truth. What have your experiences been?