An Open Letter to Our Dear Parents

Dear Parents, 

There comes a time when you are no longer the be-all, end-all authority figure in your kid’s life. That time usually starts when they turn 18. There might be exceptions to the rule like if your kid still lives with you or you are paying for their college, but you need to take a step back even then. Controlling your adult kid is only going to push them away. Do you know what’s best for them? Maybe, but it’s up to them to figure out life. 

As a parent, your job is to love and care for your kid as they grow into adults. When we are ten years old, we don’t know up from down, and we barely know right from wrong, so you step in to teach, guide, correct, and discipline when needed. But when we finally become adults, those lessons should already be taught. 

You no longer have the authority to say what we should and shouldn’t do in our day-to-day lives or for our future. You might give advice and counsel, but only if we ask for it. (This does not include holding your kid accountable for questionable behavior. And no, not every decision we make is questionable, so you don’t overdo it. It makes it feel like you are judging every little thing we do, and we can’t live up to some unachievable standard you have for us.) 

Excuse me while I brag about how amazing my mom is.

I love my mom. We have a great relationship. I have the kind of mom that all of my friends wish that she would adopt them. (I wish this was some joke or exaggeration, but it isn’t. They want it.) And I see the difference in how my mom treats me now that I’m an adult versus how my friend’s parents treat them. 

My mom always said, “I’m raising adults, not kids.” And as a kid, that made no sense because I was a kid, not an adult. But now as an adult, I look back on it and thank her for it. What she meant was that she was equipping me with the tools, skills, and temperament I would need when I finally became an adult. It’s part of why she loved me when I failed as a kid. (This could be a whole other article and isn’t as harsh or mean as it sounds.) 

But I think the thing I appreciate the most about my relationship with my mom and why my friends love her as much as they do is because she is the type of person you can talk to and seek advice from without it being controlling or overbearing. A few days ago, my best friend called my mom for career advice. He is considering looking for a new job and is overthinking if a company is the right fit. My mom told him what she thought and why she thought it and then left him to decide on his own. She did the same with me now as an adult and even as a kid. 

Things to keep in mind when talking to your adult kids.

I could write a whole book about how my mom did so many things right raising me, but I’ll spare you the read now. But here are some things you should keep in mind and practice when talking to your adult kids. 

  • Advice Not Control – Give your kid advice and let them make the decision. It’s their life. All you can give is counsel and be there for them when they make mistakes. You are talking with your kid, not at them. 
  • Privacy – You are not entitled to know everything about your kid. They have a right to privacy. They are adults. You do not need to know who they are hanging out with or where they are going at all times. They don’t need to share their location with you either. Respect their boundaries.
  • Trust – You raised them, so now it’s time to trust them. And if you can’t trust them, then that’s on you. Almost every friend I have that lied to their parents growing up was because their parents were overcontrolling and strict. Learn to trust your kid, and you might be surprised that they start to trust you back. 
  • Communicate Expectations – This is specifically for those parents who have their kids living with them still or paying for their kid’s college tuition. You should communicate clear expectations and don’t lord the money over their head in a way to control and dictate what they do. To be blunt, it’s toxic behavior.
  • Say the Five Words – There are four words every kid wants to hear from their parents. We already know you love us; otherwise, you would have dropped us off in front of a fire station when we were two. And it doesn’t have to be said all of the time. (It will lose its power.) All you have to say is, “I am proud of you.” 

Adulting is hard. Please help!

Who am I to tell you how you should and shouldn’t parent? I’m only 25, and the closest thing to a kid of my own is my ten-pound wiener dog, Molly. But maybe this 25-year-old has some things you might want to consider. All I want for you is to have the best possible relationship with your adult kid, and these are some of the things that we feel we need as we become our person. Becoming an adult is already hard enough, but feeling as though the people who should be in our corner are against us makes it feel even harder.

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