The Goal with Adult Children: Culture of Unity

“So what is the point of what you are doing now? What are you going for?”

This conversations was started by a dear friend of mine who has helped me complete lots of projects. She is well aware I “don’t do anything for nothing.” Therefore, this was a very natural question when she learned I had turned my writing and speaking efforts toward the subject of parents to adult children.

The return of lots of my efforts is not monetary but emotional, spiritual, academic, or as in this case: culture changing.

I explained to Julie, and lots of other folks since that day, that I am blogging, filming, writing, speaking, to build a CULTURE OF UNITY.

Our world needs to be a kinder, gentler, more unified place. Change happens slowly, but it does happen. When I reconcile with my adult children, when I build bridges to them, our relationship becomes stronger. When other parents of adult children see how we relate to each other, those folks are encouraged. Hopelessness turns to hope as others see adults and their parents interacting, getting along, and enjoying each other’s company.

I long for the day that the “mother-in-law” jokes cease to be funny because nobody can relate to a bad relationship with in-laws.

You know how gals at the office start the first of November dreading going home for the holidays because of the snooty relatives? Don’t we want that to be ancient history?

Let’s anticipate the time when men and women mark the days off with big red X till they can be with their adult siblings and aging parents again?

The day when the term “prodigal child” means only a TEMPORARY time of growth in a young adult and not a permanent state may happen in my lifetime.

Yes, I may seem overly optimistic about the impact this unifying work will have on moms and dads with their grown children. But like all culture changers: I believe even I can make a difference.

How are you making a difference by building a better relationship with your adult children? I would love to hear from you! Drop a comment below.

How I rock being a Parent to Adult Children…

That title…really? As if…

I am the seeker. I am the researcher. I am the one constantly trying to figure out this life called, “the parent of adult children.”

There is no way around it– I am the mom to EIGHT adult children. Even if I don’t count the sons-in-love and daughters-in-love that bless my life I have EIGHT adults who can go to a therapist and say, “It must be mother issues.” Yep. Guilty as charged.

Our last two kids have done the college and marriage gig two and four years ago. We have had time to settle into our empty nest and make it feel like…home. Really, no kids. No loud music. No one asking for the car. Nobody needed us to pay tuition or buy books. No knocks on the door close to midnight, and this is OUR home.

Ted and I did the typical soul-searching that sounded like

Do we really need this big house?

Where should we move now that the kids are gone?

What is our next career?

Since we can afford a pay cut, what do we REALLY want to do for work?

Which of the kids should we live near? 

Turns out, we really like our life. We like working for our faith-based non-profit organization. Ted likes working at a local church. I like writing, researching, speaking, volunteering, and even sweeping WAY too much floor for two people.

And we like our kids.

Don’t get me wrong: we have always loved them. We are parents. We had to love them even when they lied or came home after curfew. We had to love them even on the 100th time the girls wrecked the car. We had to love them in every country the boys tried to bring in some pocket knife, handcuffs, or toy gun and we got stopped by the airport security.  We had to love them through stitches and surgeries. But we were NEVER required to LIKE them. That was our choice. It is still our choice–and it is SO MUCH easier to choose liking them today.

They are eight wonderful, quirky, imperfect humans. They have chosen eight delightful, funny, imperfect life partners. They have (currently) given us 20 PERFECT grandchildren, to whom all blessings flow.

On my bad days, I learn from and repent to my adult kids. They are smarter and holier than I am. On my good days, I do the same.

What would my current self go back and say to my younger self? I would say, “Wait for the end of the story. You are going to LOVE IT! There are several plots twists you never saw coming. There are some tears you don’t wanna cry, but it is alright because it makes the ending better. Oh, and don’t forget to breathe. It really isn’t all about you–they outnumber, outsmart, and outproduce you. Enjoy them as often as you can.”

I hope my younger self would be smart enough to listen.

Setting Boundaries: Spouses

I just need to vent! I am not going to leave him!

You told me not to marry him! Why are you mad that now I want a divorce?

We have just grown apart. I think we will both be happier away from each other.

If you have ever heard any of these lines you know that there is a line you can never cross with your adult children: berating their spouses.

Will your adult children marry partners that are less than perfect? No doubt about it.

Will your adult kids become angry, frustrated, even down-right-mad at their life partner? Probably.

Will you be tempted to get angry, frustrated, even down-right mad at your adult child’s life partner. Undeniably.

Remember: you are ALWAYS the parent! You are ALWAYS the adult. You ALWAYS live by your VALUES and not your emotions.

Don’t allow the emotion of your adult child to drag you into a conversation you don’t need or want to have. Practice protection against speaking ill of your child’s spouse. Look in the mirror and repeat phrases such as, “Sweetheart, I care about you. I hate that you are hurting. I wish there was something I could do. But this is between the two of you. I will always listen and be here for you. Remember, you are going to forgive her and forget this incident. If I fall into speaking ill of your wife, you will remember my words even when you forgive her. I don’t want that to be part of our relationship. I am going to pray for you guys to work this out quickly.”

What if their relationship continues to spiral downward? What if they end up in separation or divorce. Even then I work hard at not trashing my former son or daughter-in-law. One of my kids has been through some pretty rough times with an ex. He can vent to me but I try to keep all my comments inside my head. He married her once upon a time. He had feelings for her. For me to say horrible comments against her is to degrade his judgement.

As I often told my teenaged daughters: you can never be held accountable for what you never said.

Am I wrong about this? Are there situations where we should speak badly against our kid’s spouse? Please leave me a comment. I am all ears and open to learn.

Setting Boundaries: Time

What is a reasonable time for me to allow them to live at home?

How much time should I devote to my adult children each week?

Since I paid for college and was always attentive to them in their formative years, do I get to dictate when I NEED THEIR TIME NOW?

They always spend more time with the spouse’s family than with us…I am not ok with that.

I miss my Adult Child. How can I ask for more time?

My Adult Child still barges in on his dad and me like he still lives here. We need more space/time without him. How can we loving tell him? We love him. We just need a break. Is that OK?

It is often harder to set boundaries on your time than on your money.

We often fail to realize that just like money, our time is finite.

We only have so many hours to spend on relationships. Just like our finances, we need to guard our time: invest it so it brings the largest return.

Is it better to attend every soccer game with your son’s daughter’s team or is it a better investment of your time to go to a birthday party for grandson’s first birthday?

Do you connect better with your adult children from an occasional dinner or a weekly kid event?

When our Adult Children ask us for time it is usually time that they need our help fulfilling a project or completing a task. I remember going on a three hour drive to help one of my children complete a project she needed to graduate from college. We stayed up all night and worked on her boards and color schemes and…she passed! It was a great memory!

Currently I am staying at the home of an adult daughter watching her six kids while she and her husband take a seven day cruise. I am loving it! It brings back all the memories of the snuggles and book readings and car pools. I would be so nostalgic as to be depressed that the “good old days” are gone except…it is exhausting! I remember now the feeling of ALWAYS needing a nap!

We are GLAD to help out with some time gifts within boundaries.

What a robbery of my own enjoyment if a bitter heart inhabited me while I am with these grandchildren. What a waste. What a sadness.

Set the boundaries for WHEN and HOW OFTEN you will gift your Adult Children with your time and then… ENJOY!

What are your boundaries with your Adult Children concerning time? I would love to hear from you!

Setting Boundaries: Money

When is it right to give my Adult Children money?

Is it ALWAYS wrong to pay their rent?

Should I pay for a divorce to help get them out of a bad situation?

When will I know I have given too much to my Adult Children?

What if giving gifts is their love language? Then shouldn’t I give money to my Adult Children?

 Why would you give money to your Adult Children? 


Everybody needs help from time to time. I remember when we were adopting two of our children. The attorney’s fees and expenses were adding up. As my stress level increased the bank balance decreased. One day my dad came to visit and left a “welcome to the family” gift for my kids. I was in my mid-30s and had been married for more than a decade. I wasn’t reckless with cash and my husband had a good job–but what a nice surprise.

Life happens. Sometimes our adult children have a life or health challenge. They can’t work and need help with rent, groceries, necessities. How would you feel about helping out?

Or maybe they need help with a new project or venture. Several of our adult children own their own businesses and getting off the ground can be expensive. That seems more of an investment than a hand out, right?

What are some of the limits you have on giving your adult children money? Never? Only for education or business ventures? Would you help with the down payment on a house? Or do you do it like a “dividend pay out: If we have extra we give it to the kids?

Many of our Adult Children have a great education. They also experienced more opportunity than has ever been possible for young adults before in America. Most of us, as parents, made sure that they were smothered in possibilities we never had.

The result: too often our AC now believe that they cannot move forward unless they have ALL the opportunities, education, possibilities to take on a new venture.  They refuse to take risks out of fear of failure or perfectionism.  Their lack of initiative might put them in a financial bind and they end up needing us to bail them out–with cash! 

We have said YES! to some of the requests for financial help with our kids. As I think of those times I am so glad we said yes. The benefits far out weigh the cash expense.

And there have been those times we did not hesitate to say “no, not this time.” I have no regrets about those times either. If we had given the requested help I believe that we would have resented it and felt used.

It takes lots of wisdom and discernment to know where to set the boundary in giving money to our adult children.

There don’t seem to be any hard and fast rules about when to say “yes” and when to say “no!” to our kids about money. But communication rules do dictate that every family needs to have rules and guidelines about loaning, giving, forwarding money to our adult children.

What are your family’s house rules concerning money? I would love to hear from you!

Setting Boundaries: The Principle

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Why do we need to set boundaries with our Adult Children?

We barely ever see them, shouldn’t we just be HAPPY to have them around?

What if they need me and I am not there?

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As young children, our kids knew boundaries kept them safe. They ventured as far as the fence in the backyard, or the neighbor’s house, or the next door woods. As long as they knew where the boundary lay, they felt safe to go RIGHT UP to the line. 

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Time, such as bedtime, threw up a boundary.  Teeth brushing, story reading, prayer saying all happened BEFORE the appointed hour.

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When they became adults, some of our kids lost sight of the boundaries. Staying up all night at college or wandering far from home blurred the lines that once stood as fences around their time and space. Re-enter the life of Mom and Dad.

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When adult children return to the nest, clear guidelines make for happy home life. When a young adult is free to roam with no limits on her freedom she begins to feel insignificant to the home life. Often, parents of adult children believe that their adult children want NO BOUNDARIES to the time they can come and go, money they can spend, or space in the home they can take up. However, if a child was raised with legitimate boundaries in the home and no boundaries remain the person experiences diffidence.  A once boustrous, fun-loving human now becomes sullen and depressed. 

PEOPLE DEPEND ON BOUNDARIES TO FEEL SAFE AND FAMILIAR. WHEN THE FAMILIAR IS REMOVED, THE HUMANS WITHOUT BOUNDARIES ARE LEFT LOST AND CONFUSED.

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 Remember when your teenager would ask you if she could spend the night with a friend or go to a party only to cup her hand over the phone so the friend couldn’t hear and whisper to you, “Say no! I don’t really want to go?”  The same is true now: your adult child returning home might SCREAM “I wanna be free!” And you must hear, “I wanna be free inside the graceful boundaries you set for me.”

What boundaries do you set for your adult children? In the next few weeks we want to talk about boundaries of our time, our money, our space and how all this relates to our Adult Children. I would love to hear some success stories (and even a nightmare or two) of the boundaries you have set with your Adult Children.  

Setting Relationship Goals with your Adult Children

Do you set New Year’s goals?

Gonna lose weight?

Gonna earn more money?

Set a goal to improve your relationship with your adult children. Here are four simple tips: 

  • Setting relationship goals with our adult children is not a one size fits all proposition. The way I treat my eldest son is very different from the way I treat my youngest daughter. However, I can improve both relationships. I need to set goals to connect with both of them in 2019. Thinking of their love languages helps me connect uniquely with that adult child. 
    • We often speak our own love language to our adult children and can’t figure out why don’t feel loved. Be curious in knowing their love language. (See my previous blog posts on that topic explaining each love language and how to speak it to your adult child!)
    • As parents to adult children we leave the past in the past. Regardless of how rebellious they were as teens or the crazy antics they performed as adolescents–we approach them as adults now.
  • Time ALONE with our adult children pays big dividends in terms of insight and info. Although as teens they may have run from us, while pursuing other relationships, as they mature they want more time with us. And what do we do with the time? We listen–more curiosity needed. We remove the judgmental filters that cause us to think, “Well, that’s dumb. Why do you think that?” I often told my teen daughters, “You are not held accountable for what you DO NOT SAY!” I take my own advice often now.
  • Can you be interested in what they are interested in? Can you listen to them talking about what they are engaged with now? One of our daughters is in school so Ted and I are back in school. One son loves to talk about cars–so we listen about cars.  Building a relationship means building interest in their interest.
    • We tune in to their intellectual and emotional wavelength. We engage them in THEIR LIFE not ours. We must get to know THEM.  Recently someone gave me the great compliment, “You are a student of your kids.” Yep, I work at knowing them. 
  • Noah St. John suggests, we ask to improve the relationship with two questions, “On the scale of one to ten where do you see our relationship?” When the person answers anything less than 10 your next question is, “What can I do to make our relationship a 10?” Then LISTEN and take action on what your adult child suggests.

We CAN improve our relationship with our adult children. Like ALL goals this one will take a PLAN and WORK! But what is more important? As we all know, the most important things in life are not things at all. 

Happy New Year.

What are some goals you have for your relationship with your adult children this year? I would love to hear them! Drop them in the comments below!