Adult kids. This topic is so close to my heart for two reasons. The first being, I am an adult kid. The second, I watch this transition from teenager to adult happen with the seniors in the youth group at church. Since my husband is a youth pastor, we get to hear about that senior year to college transition most parents experience with their child.
One second they are trying to cope with senioritis then, the next year, they are on to college or the work place. That’s such a big life transition not only for the student, but also the parent.
When talking to parents of college age kids, I find myself thinking back to when I first had conversations with my parents about what it looked like to be their adult child.
I remember graduating from college and my dad gave me some money to put towards a car. I spent hours researching the car I wanted. For some reason this decision represented freedom and adulthood. I later found out my dad had bought me a car with that money and didn’t tell me. I was so upset and he was confused. Obviously, that was such a great thing my dad did, but I wanted him to treat me like the adult I was becoming. I desired for him trust me to make a decision on my own. I wanted my dad to tell me “it’s going to be ok” or “you can handle this adult thing, Hannah“. Instead I heard “I don’t think you will be able to make it, because I don’t trust you to purchase a car”. We had a good conversation about what these decisions would look like in the future. I realized this was the beginning of a long journey of figuring out what being an adult kid looked like.
The journey of becoming an adult kid is a long one. It starts in high school with little amounts of responsibility. The next step is moving out, whether that’s a move to college or starting a first job in the work place. I think college age kids have a harder transition sometimes because the financial dependency on mom and dad can still be there. Moving back home for summers and breaks can be difficult too.
Another transition occurs when the adult kid experiences complete independence. There’s no more dependence on mom and dad. This is healthy. When an adult child starts a family the emotional dependency also switches. This can be another transition a parent and child may need to talk through… Marriage and then children… Just like a car’s steering wheel guides a car, conversation guides a parent/adult child relationship. Open and honest conversations are the BEST! Again, I am not a parent I have only lived this as an adult child.
The best most helpful conversations with my parents were the ones when they listened, I shared, and they spoke immense encouragement into my life.
I can remember a time right after a break up, I had a conversation with my Dad. I was really discouraged and pretty sad about the failed relationship. I remember my dad boldly speaking into my life saying “Hannah, you’re ready for your future spouse to come into your life”. Did he know that I would meet my husband that year? No, he had no idea, but he spoke encouragement into my life at that moment. And it was his way of saying “It’s going to be ok”. From my experience, the best way to relate to adult kids is to use messages of “it’s going to be ok”. The twenties is a wild time! You’re doing a lot of firsts. First years of college, first serious relationship, First job, first apartment, first year out of college… not to mention if your adult child gets married and has a few kids in their twenties. Wow that’s a lot.
I am not a parent, I am an adult kid. My parents are not perfect, but they are pretty great. I like what Barbara Rainy and Susan Yates from Family Life have to say about parenting adults — “You become a new parent”. Advice is cool, especially when asked for, however, encouragement is key when reaching your adult kids. The best words my parents were able to tell me was “it’s going to be ok”.