When You Still Have to Parent Adult Children

This is a guest post from Melissa Corkum. Melissa is a parent and wellness coach helping parents move from chaos to calm and confidence. She is an adult adoptee and married to Patrick. They live in Maryland and are parents to 6 kids by birth and adoption and soon-to-be grandparents. She writes at thecorkboardonline.com and is the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a resource site and podcast for adoptive and foster families.

It’s a reality that many of us on the adoption journey will face. We will be actively involved in hands on parenting with our adult children in ways most parents will not. How do you face this with hope and a plan?

There’s nothing magical about the age 18. Sure, there are some legal ramifications, but it doesn’t get us off the hook as parents.
Research shows that brains aren’t even fully developed until 25 or 30. For our kids who experienced trauma early in life, this may take even a few more years. I can feel you starting to hyperventilate. You’re probably imagining your child at 30, on your basement sofa, surrounded by Doritos bags, eyes glazed over from 20 straight hours of video games.

Take a few deep breaths.

As with all other parenting, the sweet spot for parenting adult children needs high structure along with high nurture. There needs to be healthy boundaries in place, but also compassion that kids from trauma may need extra support and time to launch into a more independent life.

Too much structure will break down the connection, while too much nurture is enabling.

Through the years, we’ve welcomed both of my adult siblings as well as one of our adult children back into our home.

There are a couple keys that made these successful situations:

Radical Acceptance
You’ll find peace when you reflect on exactly what the situation is and accept it, no matter what. Counterintuitively, when we accept our current situations and where our kids are, that’s when forward movement blossoms on its own. After all, we can’t control our kids. Without radical acceptance, we turn grumpy and resentful.

Reframe Expectations
I used to think the goal was to raise independent children. The more we pushed our kids to be independent, the more they pulled away from any relationship at all. But, in reality, none of us does life independently, nor should we. We are meant to be in relationship. Now, we aim for healthy interdependence. While culture tells us having boomerang children is unhealthy, I’d rather have my children interdependent on us than on drugs or other illegal ventures.

Roles and Responsibilities
As our kids transition to adulthood, our roles and responsibilities change. Tempting as it may be, it’s not our job to run their lives, dole out unsolicited advice, or protect them from themselves. Encourage them to try out their sea legs, explore, and, sometimes fail, knowing you’ll be their safe base, free of clucking tongues and “I told you so’s.” Be their biggest cheerleader and help them discover their unique set of strengths.

Remember, that having adult children in your house is just a season even though it may feel never-ending. Focus on the positives and celebrate each win, no matter how small.

Just a few notes before I wrap up:

1. Safety is always the top priority. If an adult child is participating in anything illegal or is unsafe to be in the home, it’s okay to set boundaries where you only meet up in public spaces or support from a distance.

2. For our kids with significant developmental delays and special needs, we may need to seek legal guardianship so we can have a bigger role in their life. They may also stick around in our homes for longer than a season.

Here’s to a lifelong relationship with our children–whether they are at home or away. You’re a great parent, doing great work.

Question: Are you in this season of life, or have realized it’s very likely for you? How do you feel about that? What questions do you have? Share with us in the comment section below this post. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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