As parents, we experience many transitions as our children grow.
For so many years you may have felt physically exhausted raising your child. When they are a baby, you think it will be easier when they start to walk. When they walked, you realised it was still hard. You think once they go to school it will be easier and soon you realise the endless work involved in after school runs and play dates, not to mention homework. You may have dreaded the teen years. How would your child cope when they took their first drink? How do you cope when if they come home drunk? What about pregnancy? What about exams? Will they get into university?
Well, you and your child have survived all of that and they are now a young adult. They have possibly moved out, but where are they living and with whom? You dread to think. What do they get up to when they are too busy to call? Or maybe they still live at home, but you never actually see them; just the delph and washing piling up. You can’t do ‘time out’ any longer or make plans with them. They are busy living their own life now. It seems that your job as mum or dad is no longer required.
This can be very hard. We wish all the time that our children will grow and develop, gain and achieve, and be successful and happy. We worry so much about them and try to fix life for them, and all of a sudden they are grown up. You were watching them but still you never noticed that they were reaching this stage. Now you’re wondering what your role is.
If your young adult has moved out then you can really feel like part of your body has been removed, a part that you looked after very carefully for so many years. Even if at times it was a part you wished was independent, really you were always so glad to have it. Now it’s gone and you wonder what to do. It can be very hard to let go of your child, to trust that they know what they are doing and that even if they don’t, they will learn as they go, just as we did. Life is for making mistakes!
At times they will call you and say they were out of credit, they will come by for Sunday lunch and be delighted when you give them a few bits and bobs for the week ahead. They know how to cope with everyday issues; they can deal with the annoying flat mate or the bossy colleague. They may spend their money foolishly – well, lucky for them as the bills will start soon enough. And they get by, happy out. They may wish at times that someone would do their washing, but amazingly enough they have even learned how to use the washing machine. The time has come when they don’t need your advice every day, because you have prepared them well for life.
Why is it that you mourn the loss of their childhood? You often wish that they were small again and close by. Letting go is really hard, but seeing your young adult free in the world, loving life and living their dreams makes it all bearable.
Once your child gets to this stage wish them well, listen to what their plans are and support them as best you can. At times you may not want to support them, or even talk with them; for example, when they make what you feel are foolish decisions or when they seem selfish, always putting themselves first. Just remember that this is what you have wanted for them. Be there for them when they do call, and don’t dwell on why they didn’t before. Share what you have with them even if you are still waiting on a birthday gift. Listen to them and hear them, try not to tell them what to do or what to think. Allow them own their own life and wish them well. Let them know you will always be there for them, for as long as you live and then move on and start to enjoy your own life.
If your young adult is still living with you, try to agree boundaries with them. Treat them with respect and ask for cooperation. You do not need to parent them as if they were a child. Trying to baby your young adult will cause you to lose them, if not physically then emotionally. Sit with them and agree what you both need from each other and agree ways forward. Enjoy them and stay calm. If they are not worried that they only had three hours sleep, then why should you be worried?
For so many years our lives are consumed with raising our children and for many parents, our own personal dreams are put aside. If you are still in the early years of parenting, try to make time for your dreams. It can be harder to know where to start and to even know who you are, if you wait until your children are all grown up. Take steps now around planning and achieving your dreams. This will also support you to parent now. When we look after our own needs and try to ensure we meet them, we will be much more positive and able to meet the needs of our children.
Active parenting is just one part of your life. When you have completed this chapter, look to the next and find new things and new relationships to fulfil your needs. Look back with fondness on the memory of bringing up your child, but don’t hold onto the past and wish for your child back.
Your child, thanks to you, has found their own life and their own way in the world. This really what you wished for, it was the plan all along. You have not only survived, but you have succeeded in your task. You have supported your baby to become a young adult.
Learn to enjoy your young adult.
If you are struggling with how to cope now that your active parenting days have come to an end, call our askonefamily helpline on 1890 66 22 12 / 01 662 9212. We may be able to support you to understand what your young adult needs from you now and also help you to explore your future.