By Jeffrey Wolfish, LCPC
Whether your child is 5 years old or 35 years old – you are his or her parent. Parenting is often associated with young children and disciplining and or providing consequences for negative behaviors. Believe it or not, the extraordinary responsibility of guiding a child even applies to our “children” who are married with kids of their own!
Parenting an adult is not always easy and becomes even more delicate once they are raising their own family. For example, how do you handle it when you don’t agree with the way your grown child disciplines their little one? What do you do if you think your adult child is spending more time at work than at home?
Like many issues that arise in relationships and families, there are no simple answers that can be applied to everyone in the same way. That said, here are three keywords that can be useful to remember as you navigate the tricky task of helping your grown-up child through their own parenting challenges:
Listen · Validate · Accept
What does this mean? It starts by setting aside some uninterrupted time to let your child talk about their frustrations, concerns, and challenges as a parent. Listen carefully and closely, giving them the time and space they need to explain. People want to feel heard and understood without fear of being judged. Empathy goes a long way. Offer whatever support they want and need. They may simply be looking for an opportunity to vent and don’t want to hear suggestions, fixes or solutions. Finally, though it can be one of the toughest things we do as parents ourselves, it is important to accept whatever decisions your adult child makes. If you have concerns, it is okay to share them calmly and respectfully, but be careful to avoid criticizing or arguing. Remember, ultimately it is their life, their family, and their responsibility. Even if you don’t fully agree, being supportive of their right to discover their own parenting style will preserve the relationship you have and allow them to feel that you are a safe source of comfort and guidance through each stage of their parenting journey.
Even as we settle into the role of grandparent, we never stop being a mother or father to our own kids. It may even give us a better understanding and appreciation of what our own parents went through!
Jeffrey Wolfish, LCPC is a therapist at Jewish Community Services.
Because children don’t come with an instruction manual, Jewish Community Services offers a variety of programs, services, and supports for parents and families with children of all ages. Learn more at jcsbalt.org or call 410-466-9200.