Wasn’t it so much easier to connect with your kids when they were little? When you were their whole world and they looked to you to keep them safe? Many parents of students find that as their children grow older and become independent young adults, it becomes hard to find the connection in a relationship dynamic that is changing. This is especially true when you consider the emotional upheaval of adolescence and maturing into adulthood.
So what do you do? How do you stay connected to your young adult child and find that balance between being an important part of their life, and allowing them the flexibility and freedom to learn and grow?
Create ways to connect based on their interests
Young adulthood is a time when your child develops their interests and passions. Some of their interests might seem quite foreign to you (think tech stuff like Fortnite or TikTok). Others, like baking, reading or music will be more familiar – although you may be out of touch when it comes to the latest trends!
It doesn’t matter if you’re out of touch. What matters is that you show an interest and find out more about the things that they enjoy spending time doing. When you show interest, you’re sending a message to them that they matter to you and that you want to be a part of their lives.
Ask questions to find out more about their interests
- What are they reading or listening to?
- What series are they watching and why do they love it?
- How does Snapchat work?
Depending on their interests, you can:
- Try out a new restaurant together
- Visit a local craft market
- Listen to their favourite music together
- Play their favourite video game (even if you have no clue what you’re doing!)
Even if they don’t always want to include you in their activities (remember what it was like being a teenager) that’s OK. By continually showing interest, you create a thread of connection that lets them know you’re there for them when they want or need you.
Boundaries make healthy family relationships
Having healthy boundaries in your relationship with your adult child actually helps you connect better because these are linked to family structure, and they provide stability. Providing too much freedom can be disastrous and might make your child think that you don’t really care. Being too strict doesn’t allow them to grow, take risks and learn to make their own choices.
To set healthy boundaries:
- Be firm on what is ok and what is not ok behaviour
- Have consistent and clear expectations of your young adult
- Don’t let arguments turn into shouting matches
- Instead, make disagreements an opportunity for rational debate
Listen to your young adult and give them a voice, so that they know that their opinion matters and that you understand they are no longer a young teen.
Parenting a young adult is challenging because you want to provide freedom, while still instilling good values that will help them grow into mature and responsible adults. The most important thing is to communicate – talk with your son or daughter, ask questions so that you know what is happening in their lives, give them a space to communicate their feelings… and don’t feel too rejected or offended if they don’t always want to spend time with you. That freedom of choice is what growing up is all about!