The truth is that you can't parent your adult child.
I was 16 when I first saw those 2 blue lines appear on the white stick that my mom and grandma forced me to pee on.
I wasn't surprised, nor was I disappointed. On the contrary, the home pregnancy test had only confirmed what I knew in my heart. I was pregnant with my 1st child. I was a child myself, but I was confident and happy about the little family the love of my life and I had created.
Admittedly, when I'd found out he was a boy, I was worried. How could I be a mom to a boy?! I was a girl and a girly girl at that. But all of that stopped mattering the first moment I held him. I was only 2 months shy of 17 but when they laid him in my arms my life felt complete.
He was the baby doll I'd always wanted, he was healthy, smart from birth, beautiful, and absolutely perfect.
My son grew up with his dad and me. Our age difference made us more like siblings than parent and child, but we were good parents nonetheless.
I took my baby with me everywhere I went, and his Dad and I fought all the odds stacked up against us so that we could be a family. We didn't know much, but we knew that the baby needed 2 parents who would love him no matter what.
He grew up fast. Before I knew it I was enrolling him into pre-k, and then dropping him off at the middle school dance, and then, sending him to high school dressed for Air Force ROTC.
We weren't perfect parents, but we were committed parents. We wanted him to have all the best opportunities and all of the protection from the harsh world that we could provide.
Today he's soon to be 19 and living away from home. He video calls just about every other day, but we still miss him terribly but knew the day would come when he would be ready to venture out on his own. My son is like me in the sense that he is headstrong and knows what he wants and does what he wants. He's always been that way, and I've always kept it in check.
Now, he is an adult and on his own, making choices that I would have never allowed if he were still living at home, and going against the very path we'd raised him on. As his mother, I can see him hurting, and obviously confused about the paths he chose, but what as a mom can I do?
It's been 7 months since my son moved away, and it took a solid 6 months for me to recognize and accept that I've done my part and can no longer expect him to do things the way he was raised to do them. He is in fact his own man.
I accepted that my son has the right to do things the way he best sees fit, that I can no longer save him from perceived danger and or try to guide him on the right path. All I can do is trust that my husband and I raised him to be a decent human, trust that he will do well, celebrate him for leaving the nest with confidence and pray whenever we have doubts.
Today I am sharing with you my 10 best tips for coping with a child who's recently left the nest.
1. Practice Trust
Trust in your child that they will remember the values they were raised with and that they will do well on their own. Trust that you did a good job raising them and that you indeed raised a healthy adult child. Most importantly trust in God that He alone will fill in any gaps that you may have missed, and that he will be a guiding light and continued source of faith for your adult child.
Pray for your adult child constantly. Pray when you're worried, say prayers of gratitude for their health and well-being. Pray without ceasing. They may not be a child in your home anymore, but they are forever your baby, and for this reason, pray for them until the day your heart no longer beats.
3. Don't over support
Allow your child to practice autonomy by avoiding the maternal instinct to continuously treat them like a child. Be there for them, but don't do things for them that they can easily do on their own.
Encourage your child in the same ways you encouraged him when he was a toddler. Don't be too shy to let him/her know that you have full faith in their ability to do things. Keep up those positive affirmations you relied on as they grew up. When they're expressing doubt in themselves don't hesitate to be their biggest cheerleader and remind them that they got this!
Try your best to listen to your young adult. This was the single best thing I've learned since being a mom of an adult child. I had to learn to listen to what he wants for his life, and how he feels about things. The difference is I'm no longer listening to solve his problems as I did when he was a child, but rather listening simply as a means to allow him to vent and work things through.
6. Avoid giving unsolicited, or too much advice
I had to learn firsthand to stop giving my son unsolicited advice. I'm a mom so by nature I want to guide him in the right direction, but the truth is that he is now an adult, and the right direction is the one he chooses for himself. Stepping back on giving too much advice and direction lets my son practice being confident in his own choices, whereas too much guidance will lead him to believe he isn't capable of figuring out adulthood. However, when asked for my opinion or advice I happily let him know what I would do in his situation.
7. Give Space
No adult wants their mom and dad looming over their every move. Most people outgrow that desire for mom and dad to hold their hand somewhere in their teenage years. Learn to give your adult child the space they need to flourish. This may look like fighting the need to call and check in on them every day, or showing up to their place unannounced. For me, this meant unfollowing him on social media. It is no longer important or necessary for me to keep tabs on him through what he posts and shares or what negative influence he may be following.
8. Be Patient
Practice patience with your adult child. Of course, you have it all figured out, but you should allow ample time for your young adult to figure things out on their own. Be patient and let time heal all the gaps of uncertainty.
9. Have Hope
Keep the hope alive! Most of us start our adulthood on a rocky path, but just keep up the hope that your kid's life will work out in a way that makes sense for them. Hope is an act of love, and love conquers all things!
10. Remember your child is an individual
This is by far my most important tip! So many of us have hopes and dreams for our children even before the child makes his debut on Earth. We raise them in a way we deem suitable. We have expectations of them, and we fully expect them to live up to the standard we have established for them, and more often than not, those standards and expectations exceed what we were able to accomplish ourselves! It's vital to keep in mind that your adult child is not an extension of yourself, but rather an individual with free will. Never push your adult child to live up to your own expectations. Instead celebrate them for their unique individuality, while hoping that they will keep the lessons and values you instilled into them.
Nothing could have compared me for how quickly children grow up, but now that I've experienced it first hand I'm taking things a lot slower with the 4 that are still children. I'm holding onto all my childhood memories of my oldest and praying that his adulthood will be full of the love, joy, and blessing that I've found in my own adulthood.
I've learned to let go of my expectations of him, and instead, entrust him to God our heavenly Father. God entrusted him to me for a short time, to love him and nurture him, and now I'm trusting God to look over him in his adulthood.
I have full faith that my husband and I raised a healthy adult, full faith that my young adult has the skills needed to figure everything out, and full faith in God.
With that, I can rest assured that all will be well, and celebrate my son's adulthood rather than worry about it.
The best advice I can give to a parent who's struggling to let go is to trust in God. God entrusted you to raise this little one, and now it's time to give him back and trust God to continue to be a guiding light in your adult child's life.
Worry about nothing, pray about everything!