Suddenly you realize you are one of those Parents of Adult Children…

T Day2020 kids tinified

I get into a LOT of discussions on Facebook. Many are just shallow, meaningless things…but occasionally they go deeper.

Today a mom on one of the groups I am a member of asked this question:

Moms with adult children living at home.
What (if any) rules or expectations do you have for them?

I have a 20yr old and a 15yr old. Living in my home. So I thought…Oh. Hey…Ummmm…That’s me……..Weird.

I responded that “they still have chores.”

This basically means she is still required to help out around the house as she always did. Our family saying: “We all live here, therefore, we all pitch in” still applies. Mine hasn’t actually left yet so there’s been no actual change.

It’s a busy thread with lots of input…but it turns out the mom seemed mostly concerned about letting her 21yr old come home again because she still has a younger child at home and her adult child likes to sleep over at her boyfriend’s house, which she doesn’t feel comfortable allowing.

To which my response was:

She’s an adult. It’s not your choice anymore…Her living under your roof doesn’t mean she goes back to child status.

Which of course started all the “her house, her rules” comments…which I don’t necessarily disagree with, per se…But I don’t agree with us as parents acting like we have a say in our adult children’s lives just because their place of residence has changed to being back under our roof again.

I agree this is a complicated situation…but adults are still adults. If this were a renter would you feel you have the right to have a say in how they lived their personal lives?

So this got me thinking about parenting adults and also how *I* was parented as a young adult, as well as how it went in my family with my younger brother, who had more experience with my parents in adulthood as far as living under their roof.

A little background…I moved out of my parents’ home (well, sorta…I mean, my whole family had all moved cross-country from NJ to CA so we ALL moved at the same time…but technically I was moving out)…the summer before I turned 20, (November birthday). I moved into the dorms at the college I was starting, my junior year of college. I never moved back in with my parents after that.

My (2yrs) younger brother continued to live with them for some more years…I can’t remember how many…but he had just graduated high school and I know he didn’t start college until much later. Eventually, he did move out and into college dorms and didn’t move back until many years later, after years of living on his own including living abroad in many different countries for many years, plus a lot more international travel and work. Through all his travels he racked up a lot of debt. My parents allowed him to come home to live and work on paying off his debt while working on his masters’ degree.

For those wondering…my brother did eventually accomplish both! Though not at the same time. He received his master’s while living with my parents. His debt took awhile longer to get rid of. He did take care of a lot of it while living with my folks…the rest he and his (later) wife worked on together. But it’s gone! And I’m sure that couldn’t have been possible without the help of my parents letting him live with him those years.

After thinking about my own family history and how it shaped my beliefs, I wrote the following in response to some of the comments on the thread:

You CAN have a say in things that are actually affecting your house…such as helping with cleaning, or cooking. Or having people over that you don’t want over. For sure. But you don’t get to control how she lives her life.

Deciding where she goes, what she does when she is out of your house…that’s crossing a line. If she is coming home drunk, behaving inappropriately when home, bringing home drugs, friends you don’t want under your roof, acting inappropriately…that’s totally your house, your rules…but you don’t get to rule her entire life.
She’s an ADULT. Time to let go

And yes, you don’t need to let her move back at all.

(In regards to the younger sibling still being raised in the home): Kids have different rules than adults. Your 21yr old is an adult. Different rules. But it’s still totally reasonable to not allow her to bring anything inappropriate home to expose to the 14yr old.

The younger kids can absolutely learn from this as well. It can be a learning experience for all. This isn’t a bad thing.

…knowing that adults sometimes sleep at each other’s houses isn’t going to destroy a 14yr old. In fact, I’m sure she’s already quite aware of this. Kids know a lot more than we give them credit for.

This is the time to be loosening up your reigns and trusting that you taught them well and that they will make good decisions. They are adults now, give them the chance to make their own decisions, good or bad, and deal with the ramifications…they will learn from them. Every one of them. And cracking down hard now can cause harm in relationships between adult children and parents. Keep your connection strong by trusting and keep an open communication with them.

The most important thing is to KEEP YOUR CONNECTION WITH HER STRONG. That will ensure that you are her soft place to fall and she will remember all you taught her and use it wisely (eventually) instead of rebel against it.

My brother moved back home in his mid-20s and my parents always said there was always a home for us if we needed it. Rent-free. They never asked anything of us. I never needed to move back…my brother came back after traveling the world and massing a huge amount of debt (he lived off credit cards when he traveled the world)…wanted to work off his debt and get his master’s degree in an affordable way, so they allowed him to live with them to enable that for him. He did work at least one job, as I recall, during that time and managed to pay off a lot of his debt.

There were no expectations because they raised us to be grateful for all that is ever given to us and never expect hand-outs…it’s just how we were raised. And we were always trusted to do the right thing, even as teens. Given a fair amount of freedom and responsibility and trust from a young age and we learned what it meant to be trusted and respected from a young age. It really molded who we were as adults. And built a strong relationship with our parents.

He decided on his own to pitch in towards groceries. I imagine he also probably did other things to help out because he’s that kind of person. They already had a maid service that came once a month to do deep cleaning (they’re not rich, but they could afford Molly Maids). And my brother always did his own laundry since we were like preteens and my mom put us all in charge of our own laundry.

I try to raise my kids the same way. Always teaching them to do the right thing, be self-reliant, and do things because it’s the right thing to do not because there are rules and regulations to follow. And keeping a very close connection with them means that they (just like myself and my own parents) WANT to do the things that are right because they trust that what I taught them was true, not because they worried about getting in trouble. And to make their parents proud. And to make THEMSELVES feel proud of their OWN actions.

Because that’s what it’s all about really…to raise self-confident, self-reliant adults. My children are 15 and 20. And both are still living at home.

I will add that my parents, while they raised us to never EXPECT hand-outs, have always raised us that “family helps family”…and that still holds very true today…now that I am 50 and still in need from time to time from my parents (financially)…and I plan to do the same for my kids. That it’s never wrong to ask for help, and it’s always a given that however they are able to, they will help. Whether that is financially or otherwise…family always helps family. No strings attached. Always.

That’s how my family has always worked. And it means that they have always been there for us when we needed them through all our youth trials and tribulations…and my dad dropped everything and drove over an hour to come to pick me up when I was 21 and heartbroken over a breakup and needed to cry all weekend at my parents’ house….and they welcomed my brother back home when he needed financial help for a couple of years…no strings attached. And they pitched in to help us buy our first house and gave my brother and his wife one of their cars when they needed it…And now that they are elderly and my dad has brain damage from a car accident and Parkinson’s and dementia and my mom so many health issues, I have spent countless hours with them caring for them and helping them find Assisted Living when that was clearly what was needed to help my mom care for my dad…and days and days working on getting their extra stuff packed up and taken to Salvation Army and meeting all the people that needed to do things in their condo because they had to be in quarantine in their new living situation because of COVID…because “family helps family”…

No resentment, no regrets. Just love.

It all comes around in the end…and the way we connect with our kids plays out long term. We need to teach them life lessons for the long haul. It doesn’t help them to hold on for too long, and it doesn’t help to coddle them either….but there is a happy medium somewhere in there. It’s HARD, but it’s so worth it and I’m SO VERY GRATEFUL that my parents led by an excellent example that has enabled me to be able to pass this legacy on to my own children!

Now, I did find out later in that Facebook thread that there were more extenuating circumstances in the OP (original poster)’s story…and this particular 21yr old does sound pretty immature and possibly not someone that should be enabled…but when I was musing, I was thinking of my own kids and family.

I do realize everyone is different. Every family has different situations and every kid/young adult is different…some personalities need more pushing to get them started in life than others even. I have kept that in the back of my mind in case I end up with one of my kids needing me to be a little pushier with them to help them get started on their road…

Our situation also throws some pretty tricky mental health issues into the mix as well…things my parents didn’t have to deal with with my brother and I (or didn’t know about at the time, so didn’t have to deal with)…so there’s always individual stories to take into account. No one answer will work for everyone.

But you can’t go wrong with CONNECTION. Seriously. Keep the communication going and keep on connecting! And showing love!

That is the thing that was never lacking in my own family growing up and I am so very grateful for it. That and my dad and mom constantly expressing to me how very proud of me they were. They still do! Constantly!!

I never really realized how empowering it was until I started to realize how it has very much helped to shape me as an adult. At 50yrs old, I’m still figuring out how every loving and positive thing my parents did for me helped build so much in me. And I see HOW important these things are to pass on to my own kids!

I swear my mom and I were going to kill each other if I hadn’t moved out when I did, back at 19…but then once I moved out we got very close! My dad and I were also at odds constantly until I moved out. I was NOT an easy teen or young adult! But they managed to still love me and find ways to be proud of me!

If you are having a rough time, just keep loving them and keep connecting!!

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