What’s the Best Advice you can Give to Other Parents to Help Them Successfully Launch their Adult Children?
The question above is from the parent survey I conducted last spring. With your responses to this question, we can tap into the community wisdom of parents who have faced the challenge of launching young adults. My preference is to list similar responses into a “parent report card.”
The report card concept is something that I have used in counseling parents for at least the last twenty years. A parent must develop a set of beliefs and actions that reflect both love and backbone. Then at the end of the day, as we look in the mirror, we grade ourselves on how we did that day following our love and backbone guidelines. We don’t hand our report cards to our young adults to grade us with their actions or attitudes. Suppose our young adults are unhappy with our actions, mainly saying “no” and setting limits. In that case, we must remind ourselves that we are not responsible for their happiness or actions. One parent said it well – “Don’t look at their decisions and behavior as a report card on your parenting.” Feel free to use this list of suggestions from parents who completed the survey as a way of evaluating your letting go parenting. You may want to use a scale of 0-5 to grade yourself. 0= not doing well at all, and 5= nailed it.
____ Love unconditionally. Invest in the relationship by showing compassion, empathy, non-judgmental listening, love, support, open communication, desire to understand, and patience. Comments by parents: “listen and discuss vs. preach and tell, be a non-biased sounding board, don’t let fear and guilt be your motivator.”
____ Acknowledge and affirm who they are. Validate them. Recognize their strengths, positive qualities, and achievements, express a belief in them, show respect, express confidence in them, accept their uniqueness, express pride in them. Comments by parents: “Be ok with who they truly are and want to become, reflect your child’s strengths back to them, refrain from personal expectations of who your child should be.”
____ Show backbone as well as love. Be consistent, let them fall and pick themselves up, provide guardrails, have expectations, and reinforce these, allow them to experience the consequences of their actions, set reasonable limits and boundaries, hold them accountable, expect them to have responsibilities as a family member, balance rules and authority with being close, let them struggle and fail so they can learn, follow through on expectations. Use mistakes and failures as teaching opportunities. Comments by parents: “Set limits and stick to them, feeling sorry for someone and giving in does not improve the situation and, in fact, often enables the problem and keeps it going. Doing stuff for them robs them of opportunity to try. Without trying, they can’t gain confidence.”
_____Let them go. Our job as parents is to let go, trust them to grow, teach them independence, be a consultant to them and let them make their own decisions, teach them the joys of being on their own, reinforce their ability to figure things out, praise hard work, determination, and perseverance and not just accomplishments. Treat them as an adult, give them as much independence as possible. Offer resources, including counseling to help them move forward. Comments by parents: “Children have to find their path, encourage them to be themselves and decide for themselves what they will do, give advice but don’t call the shots, let them breathe and give them space.”
_____Practice self-care. Develop your interests, build your own life, fortify your support system, limit time and energy spent thinking about and talking about your adult child. Find a support group. Forgive yourself for mistakes and forgive your young adult. Seek counseling for yourself – how to balance love and backbone in letting go. Let go of control. Practice self-development and self-management as a priority. Comments by parents: “Remember they don’t belong to you. You can’t take credit for their successes or failures. Your identity and value don’t come from being a parent. Find something you’re passionate about and move to focus on that. Keep yourself mentally/physically/emotionally healthy. Live your own life. Your child is a separate person. Don’t burden your child by asking them to be responsible for your happiness.”
Here are some other relevant links and resources:
- Parenting Our Young Adults with Love and Backbone
- Do’s and Don’ts of Parenting Young Adults
- Parents, have you Let Go? Take the Quiz.
- Balancing Love and Backbone
- On Backbone – “No is Not a Four Letter Word”