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You are left standing at the front door, waving and feeling a mix of sadness, pride and relief as you watch them drive away; that moment when your child moves out.
In the first, early days of parenting, you feel like you are drinking life from a fire hose. Nothing can prepare you for the sleepless nights, hours of a fussy baby, the worries about feeding too much or too little or the way your heart explodes every time you look at that tiny, helpless infant in your arms. It is the craziest experience that you plan for, for months, only to learn that you know absolutely nothing. Those exhausting days give way to toddler years and preschool and backpacks prepared for school days. A million packed lunches, years of back to school clothes and supplies, Santa surprises, Tooth fairy prizes, play dates and goodnight kisses fill the years as you watch that helpless baby grow into their own adult form. You’ll never feel prepared enough or ready enough to let them go and yet, you know it is time.
I really believe that letting your child grow, releasing those chords of control as they make their own choices is the hardest part of parenting. There is no way to be fully prepared, but you may be standing on that doorstep thinking, “now what?”
Here are FOUR things you can do to stay connected without overpowering their lives. Too much connection and they will avoid you. Too little connection and you’ll be left at home feeling lost and forgotten. Let me help you build a bridge that allows them to spread their wings but still keep you in their sight.
Food Speaks Volumes
I’m convinced that food is the secret! Who doesn’t love to come home for mom’s cooking? I still love it and I’m forty five! There is just nothing quite like the comfort that comes from eating the meals you grew up with. So always keep your kitchen and pantry door open! This may mean spending a bit more on groceries than you had hoped, but it means you get to continue the chats around the kitchen counter that may have filled the teenage years. Want your kids to return on a regular basis? Invite them home for food! Have lots of it available and invite their friends or roommates!
This is one of the hardest things to do! After 18+ years of giving advice, offering suggestions, settings rules and boundaries and then correcting as needed, it feels so weird to let all that go! For me, it takes a very conscious effort to not advise unless asked for something specific. Keep conversations light. Talk about movies, new shows on TV, politics even, but hold back the parenting advice. It is now time to be their friend and this isn’t easy! And sometimes, it means being available late at night.
Let them talk, let them lead the conversation and just smile and nod. Even if they ask for advice, try putting it back on them that you know they’ll come to the right decision and that you have full confidence in them! This is so important for them to know as they develop their own independence. They need to know they’re doing well. Sure they’ll make mistakes. They may even make all the mistakes you made when you were their age, and its okay. Just as you learned from them and turned out okay, so will they! Don’t try to save them from the lessons by jumping in and telling them what they are doing wrong. Life experience is a tough but consistent teacher.
Don’t Sit Around and Wait
If you sit at home, waiting for them to call and waiting for them to visit, you’ll probably be disappointed. It won’t mean they’ll never stop by or call, but it will probably never meet your own standards enough and you’ll find yourself frustrated. Find ways to invite them to things. Offer to take them to lunch, just because! Take them to a movie or to buy them groceries. Find little ways that you can pamper them a bit and spend that time. It doesn’t have to be every day or even every week, but if you are missing your adult child, make up a fun activity and invite them. You’ll be surprised at how often they’ll gladly accept!
Even if your relationship has been rocky, begin to mend it by offering something fun and showing them that your nagging days are done. I promise that no matter what has happened between you and your adult child, they will always want to mend that bond. It won’t be easy and sometimes it may take a lot of work and sacrifice, but if it is important to you, it is important enough to make the effort. And it will pay off.
Use Social Media
Depending on your age, this can be a bit difficult, especially knowing how to keep up with all the different platforms out there. But I promise, this one will pay off in so many ways! I can guarantee your child is using it and posting regularly on it! So figure out their favorite platform (80% chance it will be Instagram, at least at the time of this post being published) and jump in! It is a great way to connect, know what is going on in their lives and for them to feel connected to you!
In the end, staying connected to your adult children doesn’t have to be hard, elusive or impossible. It may take money and work and sacrifice, but ultimately, it takes a lot of love! And with that love comes a healthy dose of acceptance. Bite your tongue, focus on the positive and when all else fails, just smile and nod. Your work will pay off as you create a new relationship, one that allows for their independence and freedom but still connects them to their past.