Tips for Parenting Adult Children

Family Matters: Married Life

It just doesn’t seem that long ago that I was a young mother, happily chasing after two very active little boys.

Now, suddenly, those two tykes are grown men, each with a wife and baby; and a third son is in college.

There are so many changes in my life these days, most happy and joyful; but, of course, these changes have naturally brought about new challenges as well.

I’ve seen a lot of families struggle during these grown-up-children years, and inspiration has hit me to take a closer look, in hopes of making these adult-child relationships as healthy as possible. For we parents are still parents when our children grow up.

Here are a few tips I have learned along the way:

1) Cultivate the art of listening. Stop and really listen when your adult child is talking. Strive to be more like a sounding board than a suggestion-dispenser.

2) Speak up when needed. Keeping dialogue going about important topics is vital.  

3) Small gestures of kindness can reap great rewards. Bring a dessert or flowers when visiting your children’s homes. Help with a chore or two, and show active interest in spouses and grandchildren: Ask questions, and, if possible, engage in homework or other projects.

4) Keep family get-togethers simple. The less complicated the event, the fewer the possibilities for tension and disagreements.

5) Humbly expect differences. Each adult child, adult child-in-law and grandchild is unique. Welcome each difference as it comes along in a considerate manner.

6) Embrace those grandchildren! They love your attention, which makes your influence on them profound. With thoughtful doses of time, patience and kindness, they will love you — gray hair, wrinkles and all.  

Traditions from the Catholic Church offer even more insights to enrich parenting adult children:

1) Pray. Remember that God has far more control than we will ever have. Even if all feels amiss, your prayers for your family will not be ignored by God. 

2) Seek the saints. St. Monica prayed years of prayers for her son, St. Joseph is the patron saint of fathers, and Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin are known for raising five spirit-filled children, including the beloved St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Ask these holy ones or other favorite saints to intercede for your adult children and their intentions.

3) Bring your troubles to church. Listen carefully to the readings and homily. There is a very good chance that you will discover a new insight that will help your family.

4) Evangelize discreetly. Once your children have reached adulthood, preaching to them will likely feel intrusive or insulting. Evangelizing by example, however, is much more effective than words. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to quietly send them a subscription to a Catholic publication or place holy cards inside birthday greetings.

5) If allowed by their parents, evangelize a little more openly with grandchildren. Reading Bible stories to them, watching movies about saints together, telling stories about windows or statues at church or sharing spiritual life experiences will stick with these little ones. Your influence on them may very well last long after you are gone.

6) Know that adult children desire and need our active interest. Our children are still our children, no matter how old they are.

Theresa Doyle-Nelson writes from Pipe Creek, Texas.