It’s been two years since my twins moved into college dorms and began “adulting” as they describe it. These years of empty-nesting were supposed to be relaxing and stress-free. I know the pandemic has added some increased levels of anxiety. The kids are gone, the house is quiet and clean, and I am a work from home dog mom, yet I find myself worrying more than ever. Truth be told, this part of parenting is harder than I ever imagined. I sometimes think parenting with adult kids would be easier if we could train them like dogs. This feels like I took my dogs and left them in a big city to run free as I sit home hoping and praying they safely come home. This headspace is far from stress free or relaxing. My dogs are safe and fine, how can I be sure the adult kids are safe too?
Communication Rather Than Training
Since it’s obvious we can’t train adult kids like our dogs to keep them safe, my quest is to discover what other options I might have. Sometimes my 20 year old twins remind me of my dogs when they are off-leash. Sometimes they are attentive listeners, other times they have very selective hearing with their nose to the ground completely ignoring my instructions. How I communicate is often key.
Checking in and allowing my adult kids to share their experiences without judgment seems to give me some peace of mind. I’ve discovered if I don’t practice this, then when they call me, it’s usually a crisis, problem or needing money. For my own mind space, I need to hear about their life wins, good days at work, good grades on tests, so I don’t get stuck in panic worry mode.
With this in mind, I have asserted to more frequent check in’s. When they call with a problem, it doesn’t feel like there is always trouble. I notice this resulting in less mini panic attacks when the phone calls come in.
Listening Rather Than Advising
When I listen to my adult kids and ask questions instead of advising, they feel more empowered in their decision-making. Here’s an example. They were telling me how when they got their scholarship money, they were going to pay 6 months of rent in advance. In my head, I was like why? That makes zero sense to me, better to save the money in interest bearing account and take it out gradually as needed. They are resistant and resentful to my telling the how to manage their money.
When I began asking questions “What was your process in coming up with this plan? Also what will happen if you do release all your funds to landlord and the house burns down or floods? Will it be easy to secure alternate housing if your landlord holds all your money?” Those simple questions, allowed them to process and create a sensible solution. They made the decision without me advising or instructing.
Helping Instead of Enabling
Another serious burden in parenting with adult kids is the fine line between helping and being supportive and enabling. I laugh at myself constantly saying there needs to be books on parenting adult kids. The catch is that they are adults and we can’t really parent them any longer because they are adults. When they need help it’s so easy to jump in and help, but does this hinder their ability to depend on themselves to solve problems?
It’s painful sometimes to allow your babies to go without help in order for them to learn valuable lessons. With struggle comes resiliency. It’s easy to take over, much harder to get out of the way, pray for safety while trusting them to use their intuition and judgment to figure things out.
Praying Instead of Worrying
When my dogs run off, get sick or hurt, I do my best to make the right response to each situation. Worry always settles in, but with resources, professional help, prayer and meditation results occur. Kids are no different. Why is the worry so much more intense? I had to face this and my worst fears.
I’ve known mothers who have suddenly lost their adult children. It’s a dark devastating reality. It’s my worst fear and every mother deep down knows this gut-wrenching fear. Meditation, prayer, whatever spiritual mindful practice one should choose to be necessary to combat this fear and worry is a must!
A good therapist, resources like this link I found about parenting with adult children, and nonjudgmental friends help too. Sisters, take whatever you need and fill your soul! Do it together, spread love around and surround each other with support because we can all relate to this worry! It would be easier if we could train our kids like dogs so we don’t worry, but we can’t and so we are all in this together mamas.
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