By: Charlie Conder
You parented your child for approximately 936 weeks from the day they were born until they graduated from high school. Welcome to week 937 and beyond.
It’s the beyond part for me. When high school graduation hits, you hug and high five other parents because you made it. It feels like it is the pinnacle of parenting! You successfully got your sweet child to the finish line. What they don’t tell you is that the finish line has been moved and no one really even knows where it is anymore.
Regardless of where that finish line got moved to, we are still here, still parenting. It just looks a little bit different than the last 18 years.
Emerging adult is the name used for this phase. What you might find is that while you may see your emerging adult less, that doesn’t mean they need you less. It just means your main communication may be more about Venmoing them money and more “Hey Mom, how do you?” conversations.
While this is my most favorite phase with our daughters, I do wish that someone would have shared some wisdom with me before we got to this phase. Surely other parents have seen the finish line move . . .
This is the word I find most describes parenting in the emerging adult phase. I have had to evolve in the ways I parent. I used to be quick to answer their questions and find solutions for them. Now I try to coach them to find the answers for themselves. Our children are bright, but I do think we have held them back in the problem-solving department. The days are short, so when our kids can’t figure something out, we jump in to help them. But I wish I would have coached them more when they were still living at home rather than give the answer. To care for our kids is not giving them all the answers. Leading them and mentoring them is the evolution that needs to take place in this phase.
I wish we had known to show our kids how to be responsible adults and not just responsible children and teenagers. There are so many aspects of successful adult living we generally assumed were common knowledge. The older we get, the more we have come to understand that many adults don’t understand how to be successful adults. How can we expect children to inherently possess this knowledge? We now know we should have given them more life skills to handle day-to-day. Planning and preparing meals, basic car maintenance, finances, and saving are just a few areas where we fell flat. Who knew I would be along on so many trips to the grocery store via Facetime because I did not teach my girls how to plan and buy the groceries for a meal. My daughter recently learned how much nuts were and cried. Six dollars for a small can of nuts apparently were the breaking point for her!
Dr. Tim Elmore said: “Kids’ days are full of artificial activities with artificial consequences, resulting in artificial maturity.” Don’t be afraid to allow your child to fail. It is incredibly hard to watch your child make mistakes. But the experience of failing and learning how to move forward is a lesson that will take them far in life. When a child is not used to failing, they can go into shock mode where they are unable to move on. They stall out—which can be crippling for their future. We spend a lot of time protecting kids when they are younger. But giving them space in this emerging adult space is a lesson that will carry them far in life.
I could fill volumes of books on all the things I don’t know about parenting emerging adults. I am learning every day on how best to love and support my daughters. We have all agreed to give grace to each other as we walk through this new phase together!