If you have older teens, or young adults living at home then you want to listen in today as I talk about a key parenting strategy that will help your young adult child move into adulthood well, but it will also help you make the transitions you need to as a parent.  If your young adult is living at home you need to have what I call a Rites of Passage conversation.  Listen in as I explain it and give you the words to say.

When your young adult child is still living at home there is a fine balance between living as the parent and yet giving your older teen the respect as a responsible adult. There is a shift that happens and the healther relationships and family dynamics come about when we are intentional about that shift.  

 The best way to be intentional about the change in family dynamics is to have an intentional conversation – like I said, I call this a Rites of Passage conversation.  It needs to happen in recognition that your child has become an adult, and it gets everyone on the same page

 You see, when a child turns an adult they become responsible for their life.  But not only is there a change in the teen to adult – there has to be a change in how we (as the parents) engage with them as well.

 In most cases there would have been a gradual change over their teen years where we give them more responsibility, where we step back and coach instead of direct – but when they turn 18 it is kind of like crunch time.  There’s some give and take, depending on the child and depending on your relationship but around the time they are 18 they expect to be an adult and they expect you to treat them as such  – but they don’t always know what that means and they don’t always think you know what that means!

 Which is why we need to have this intentional, Rites of Passage conversation.

Navigating Changes in Parent-Teen Dynamics

This conversation tells them the shift in your role – you are now no longer a directive parent – you don’t have any authority over them, but you are still their parent, so there still needs to be respect.  But respect goes both ways – so you can affirm your desire to treat them with respect and your expectation to be treated with respect.

 You can affirm your availability to help them, to talk over anything they are struggling with or are processing, but they need to know that the final decisions will be up to them.  That is a part of them taking responsibility for their life.  

 In fact there are six areas where they need to take responsibility – spiritual, moral, emotional, social, intellectual, and physical.  Being responsible in all of those aspects of your life is called adulting!  It is hard.  It is tough.

Which is why you want to be there for them – to support them and help them in any way you can that encourages and supports their taking responsibility for themselves.  Our young adults need to know that we are there for them – just like we always have been.  I found it helpful to define myself as a coach or guide (in my own head) because it reminded me that I was no longer the directive parent, but my kids just wanted to see me as mum who was always there for them.

 In this Rites of Passage conversation you want to be able to say that the foundation for our relationship to keep healthy, and keep growing, is for us to be honest with ourselves and with each other.  So if you ever feel that you are not being respected as an adult we want you to come and talk to us.  But it goes both ways – if we feel that you are not respecting us as older people in your life, as the home owner, as the people who are financially supporting you (insert whatever roles you play in their life) then we will come and talk to you about it.  We expect those conversations – regardless of who raises an issue – will happen with respect and honesty.  We both need to commit to wanting our relationship to be healthy and strong.  This is a challenge that you can put out for your adult child to think about – is this what they want?  Are they prepared to do the work for a adult relationship with their parents?

 I hope that gives you an idea of the things to say in a Rites of Passage conversation.  You want to 

  • Confirm that you know that they are adults
  • Clarify what it means to be an adult
  • Affirm how you are going to support them
  • Set the expectation of respect
  • Remind them that boundaries and responsibilities still exist in the adult world

 

Mutual Respect in Parenting (with Young Adult kids)

It would be tempting to move straight into clarifying some of those expectations and boundaries.  But I think the best idea would be to talk about the transition and then make another time to start talking about some of the outworking of that (details of boundaries, responsibilities and expectations).  

 Most parents find that they need to talk about these practical types of things at sometime after a Rites of Passage conversation:

  • Expectations on family time
  • Standards for their bedroom
  • Family chores (not including personal responsibility of their own stuff)
  • Coming and going
  • Borrowing the car
  • Paying board
  • Using the kitchen and preparing snacks
  • Having friends over
  • Wifi and mobile phones

 The details of each of these things will differ family to family, and maybe even child to child. But keep in mind you are setting your child up so that they can adult well.

 

Does your young adult know what it means to Adult well?

 

Having a special “Rites of Passage” talk is really important for both parents and their grown-up kids. It’s an acknowledgment of how things are changing between parents and their young adults. It is like a bridge between what we already know and what’s new and different. It is a way of showing respect to each other and it sets the stage for future problems to be talked about with respect.  When parents take the initiative to have this kind of conversation with their young adult it acknowledges their growing up and at the same time makes sure everyone understands what being an adult means and how to do it well.

 It’s important to understand that though there is a cut off date – your child is 18 – the changes that happen with how parents and young adult kids relate is a journey – it takes time, and mistakes will happen. Unforeseen circumstances will happen, how your child expresses themselves might change, how you express yourself might change, understanding of needs might change – we have to be committed to the relationship not the boundaries or rules.  Which means this ‘rites of passage’ conversation is only the beginning – there will be other conversations that consolidate, clarify or maybe even adjust how you want to live together, and how they need to step up into being an responsible adult.  

 So simply put what you are saying in this talk is:  You are an adult and have to be responsible for your life, your time, possessions and choices.  I am also an adult and have to be responsible for my life, my time, possessions and choices.  As a family we will find a way to live together. 

.

Heart-focused Action Step

A heart-focused parent looks at what is believed, valued and felt. So before you rush in to sit your young adult, or older teen down, take a few days to ponder this idea and observe what is going on in your family.

Observe what is going on in your attitudes and actions (and reactions).

And

Observe what is going on in your older child’s attitudes and actions (and reactions).

 

Though I fully believe what is in the heart comes out in our actions – that is what we believe, value and feel – that shape how we act and react.  

But sometimes we get caught up in habits and those habits don’t really reflect what we believe or value.  When there is this disconnect that is where we have to acknowledge change is needed.  


And this is what often happens as our kids grow older – and we are slow to make a transition, or our kid doesn’t know we have made a transition and is still functioning assuming we aren’t letting them take responsibility for their life.

This is when things get messy.  So take time to understand the dynamics of what is happening in your home, and then ask your young adult if they have time to sit down and have a talk together about how you are going to live together in healthy ways now that they are an adult.  Actually this will be your first step in recognising that they are an adult – responsible for their time – ask them for a time that suits them.  

Just a final idea that you want to be able to communicate with your adult child and that is – that adulting is about the balance between freedoms, or rights and responsibilities.  And that the next season of their life will be about growing in both of those aspects – freedoms and responsibilities and that you will be there beside them, walking with them all the way.

 

Heart Booster Sign up today

Before you go, I want to invite you to join my Heart Booster Email newsletter. Each week, I send a short note packed with encouragement, insights, and practical tips to help you stay intentional, relational, and heart-focused in your parenting journey. I really do try and keep it as if it is a note from my heart to yours and I often get emails back from parents saying that my email was a timely encouragement to them, something that spoke to them right where they were that week.  Which of course always encourages me!!  Anyways – sign up today, the link is in the podcast details.  Let’s stay connected beyond the podcast!

 

Parenting takes heart-work - sign up today

Further Reading:

Supporting your Teen and Young Adult Children as a Mentor:   Parenting changes and becomes more like mentoring as our children grow older and become teens and young adults. Are you making the shift?

Do you Allow your Teenager to Express an Opinion when it Differs from Yours?  Listening to our teenagers different opinions is challenging but it helps them clarify their beliefs and strengthens your relationship.

Intentional Heart Conversations Touches what your Child Believes and Values:   When we are intentional about creating heart conversations parents have the opportunity to shape their children’s beliefs and values.

Building a Relationship with your Child will Lead to Friendship Later:  It is important not to get relationship and friendship mixed up as we parent our children. We start with a relationship and enjoy friendship as they get older.

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