Dad and son hugging.
Always your kids.

Parenting Adult Children

When it comes to children it can be said that they are always always entering a new phase. That is what growing up is about. I didn’t realize, however, just how much of a generational thing this is. I remember Thanksgiving dinner with my mother, aunts and uncle when my wife and I were turning 50. There was conversation around the table and I remember rather distinctly, though I don’t recall the details, that my wife and I were being referred to as the kids. Now I am not one to stand on formality but I had a teenager and a grade schooler at the time. How can my wife and I be the kids? Of course, this is all part of life’s perspective. I am the youngest of all my cousins and the youngest in my family so, in a way, it makes sense that we will always be the kids to my parent’s generation.

Flash forward. That teenager I talked about is now in his twenties and the grade schooler will be finishing college soon. It’s my fault. I blinked. So what has changed? Very little. Although he is very much a young man and not a kid, every young man must face the challenges and setbacks of life. These can be exacerbated by ADD or health issues. When he was laid off from his job and could not land another after some weeks he became discouraged and depressed. I know what it is like to be laid off. I have been there myself—more than once. Having an understanding wife is an enormous asset. For my son, being single has made it much harder. The end result is the same. Your kids are still your kids no matter how grown up they are. You hear them when they say they’re fine but you still need to listen for what’s wrong. You need to forget about Tough Love and not leave them to figure it all out for themselves. But what can you do? A lot. It is not about helicoptering in with money to fix all the problems. It is about showing up and saying, “I admit, this is a pretty big mess you’re in with your health insurance but I can help you. We can do this together. You Game?”

This is part of the phase shift I mentioned. We change from being parents who tell our children what to do and become coaches to mentor our children on how to succeed through adversity. The hard part is that coaching requires preparation, too. My wife and I need to develop a teachable plan for helping my son get through the labyrinth which is today’s health care system so that he can continue to have access all the services he had when he was employed. Most of all I need to listen really carefully so that I don’t try to squeeze what I think is his problem into the fix that I have determined to be the solution. And the first step is always the same. “Come to dinner, son. We’ll work this out.”.