Ensuring that your young adult knows and feels loved unconditionally is necessary to create the security they need to move out in life on their own. The analogy of secure attachment of the toddler that creates comfort for them to explore their new freedoms applies to the second stage of separation—young adulthood. Such messages delivered consistently in word and deed can be the difference between life and death for a young adult. If they know they are loved no matter what—school or job failure, problems with drugs or alcohol—that can carry them through their darkest times.
Cutting off or rejecting the young adult who gets into trouble or stumbles in attempts at mature independence hurts both parents and the young adult. Attaining autonomy at the cost of positive emotional connection with parents does not bode well for the young adult’s success or for the parent’s happiness. Parents who misinterpret the concept of tough love as that of withholding love and cutting off the relationship to force young adults to stand on their own are inadvertently undermining the natural process of young adult independence.
What can a parent do?
- Consistently express in words and actions that no matter what or how bad things might get, the young adult is loved.
- When considering taking a tougher stand with a young adult ask yourself: Is this done out of love or driven by fear, anger, resentment, or anxiety?
- When considering putting an emphasis on “pushing” the young adult out of the nest, whether this the home and/or the dependence they demonstrate on the parents, ask yourself if your position and action will help them move further toward independence while maintaining a positive connection to the parent.
- You’re trying to do the best you can to facilitate their independence with emotional support, but in the end, you can’t always control their response.
- Consider other resources to help you with young adult parenting decisions. Friends or seeking professional help can be useful. Also, consider checking out the tips on the subject of unconditional love at parentslettinggo.com and the book entitled Love to Let Go.