Why is it hard to parent Adult Children?

“I guess I thought by now I would be finished parenting.”

“When I went off to college I was on my own. My parents never bailed me out financially or socially–why do I think I need to do that with my adult children?”

“Am I helicoptering him even though he is 21?”

“I expected to be less needed when they married–but I didn’t expect to be kicked aside!”

One of the main reasons parenting of adult children is difficult is because this journey is full of unknowns and different ways to approach situations. When we brought them home from the hospital we had options: breast or bottle feeding? cloth or disposable diapers? sleeping in bed with us or crib? Since we knew the QUESTIONS, we knew we could come up with different answers based on our preferences. Not so with parenting adults!

One mom recently told me, “I never expected to have to train my daughter in how to love her child. I thought that came naturally. Now, I am trying to teach her behaviors that are foreign to her for some reason; and these lessons are all foreign to me because I never had to learn this.”

Another parent asked me, “What do I do when my son has completely different memories of his childhood than I do? I am not calling him a liar but I cannot believe I did some of the things he is now accusing me of doing.”

In anguish a mom of a grieving son told me, “I just lost a granddaughter, but my son lost his little girl. How can I help him through that? I have never lost anyone myself before now. But, it kills me to see him suffer like this.”

These were not even ideas on our radar about living with our adult children–we couldn’t anticipate the answers because we couldn’t anticipate the questions.

At an information conference an educator told me, “We have to train our students to use technology that has not been invented for jobs that have yet to be created.”

It’s not just us…it’s the world we live in.

In order to maintain relationships with our adult children we must LEARN TO LEARN. We must work to continually communicate our respect and admiration for them. We must endeavor to maintain open lines of affection, even when we are miles and weeks apart.

New day, new challenge. But we have more information at our fingertips than our parents did. We have more ways to communicate than ever before. Often, we must communicate, “I have no idea what you are going through. I have never been through that. But I believe in you and I will walk this with you.”

Supporting someone we love in a journey we have never traveled might seem scary. It IS hard to parent adult children–but that’s why we do it. My dad always told me, “If this job was easier, someone less competent would do it.”

What are the hardest tasks in parenting your adult children right now? 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!

Balance: A Five Minute Blog

I wrote this during the holiday when Kate Motaung challenged our little writers group to write five minutes on BALANCE…

I sat listening to the speaker thinking, “If only that were really possible!” 
As with most women’s talks during Christmas, this Christmas dinner speaker admonished all the mommies in the room to, “Relax! Let the shopping and cooking go and focus on Jesus!” With five kiddos in my house that was such a joke! I wanted that peace and meditation but I knew it could NEVER happen. 



Fast forward 20 years, now the speaker at my women’s group is talking about, “Fill your days with loving activity for others.” Different group—different season—same challenge: FOCUS. Although most of my friends have grown children (this is not the same as empty nest!) they still complain of lack of time to spend in prayer and “Jesus focus.”

The problem is not our time: the problem is our focus. 


Back 20 years. I remember hearing that woman at that Christmas dinner, and seeing that, despite the fact that she had twins and lived on a farm, she found time to spend with Jesus. I didn’t know how He could answer, but I prayed that God would make it happen the next day.

Be careful what you pray for! 

The next day I only had 26 items on my “to do” list before 6 p.m. when we had to attend another Christmas party. After putting the third load of laundry in my washing machine I turned to run make the cookies to take to the party and… the door was locked. No joke. I banged on the door but… I had an OLD WASHER that sounded like a 747 was landing in the laundry room. The kids were upstairs doing their chores and … yep.

I was stuck.


My personality style would normally kick and claw my way out, but instead… I sat down on laundry piles numbered 4-10 and … laughed. REALLY. OUT LOUDLY.

God had locked me in my laundry room so I would pray. 
And I did.

This isn’t me nor what I looked like at all…but we need to give this give a laugh! Or an “amen.”

Cookies are nice. Kids need clothes. Everybody has to bathe. But JESUS is worth the time. 

Advent is over now, but in 2019 I am hoping He doesn’t have to lock me in the laundry to get my attention.


Two of my goals:

!. Focus on Jesus first thing in the morning–whether than means five minutes or 50 minutes.

2. Make my choices on what will please Him–and honor my husband and adult children.

What are some of your FOCUS goals for 2019? I would love to hear.


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!

No Pity-Parties

When we become sentimental and nostalgic, we move into a new realm of self-pity. AVOID THIS!

We can choose our attitudes, which will drive our actions. During this holiday season our attitudes can unify us and bring peace.  This series of posts work on putting more “happy” in our “happy holidays.”


Happiness begins with what we CANNOT ATTEND During the Holiday

a Pity-Party for one...


Why can’t it be the way it was?

Why did I spend so many years cooking and shopping and wrapping gifts to end up alone on Christmas?

How could they have forgotten me? 

Having spent 35 years as a parent, I have experienced a few SAD holidays. Some years the depression and sadness felt like a weighted blanket on my chest. My poor family endured  the years when my sadness turned to anger…and those I loved fell in the wake of that storm. 


Is depression real?  Absolutely.

Is sorrow engulfing? You bet. 

Can we make it through…I believe so. 

Through lots of prayers, counseling, talking, and BEING REAL I have learned I can admit when:




 Years ago when I opened up and told a friend, “I give up. I can’t do Christmas this year. I am sad and over my head with grief and now I need to fulfill the kids’ expectations. I just can’t do it.” 

My sweet friend replied, “I thought you were trying to reduce the expectations you set for every one else?  Why are are showing them they can keep setting unreal expectations from you?” She paused and added, “That isn’t very good parenting, is it?” 

That little bit of sarcastic humor reminded me that I DID NOT have to pretend to be happy, but I was not ALLOWED to throw a pity-party either.

 That year I learned three tips on surviving the holiday without lying about my emotional state or throwing a pity-party.  

1. If someone asked “how are you?”  in a manner that meant, “I am trying to be polite on my way to the buffet,” I simply said, “fine.” This was not lying because from his perspective I was just fine. (Not bleeding on the carpet or about to stab anyone = Just fine, thank you.) However, when a dear friend asked me, “Is it hard this year?” I honestly stated, “Harder than I thought it would be.” Then I HONESTLY finished with a statement like, “But the sun will come out tomorrow!” or “There are PLENTY of things for me to be happy about, though.”

     2.  When we are sad, just like in yoga, we have to”set our intention” every morning.  During that dark holiday, before I got out of bed I set my mind to focus on some previous holiday that brought out a smile.  I looked through scrapbooks and old Facebook posts to find a year with merry and bright memories and that was my “intention” for the day.

3. I prayed. This sounds like a no-brainer but at first this activity felt like an aerobic exercise wearing heavy army boots. In the beginning I was just as mad at or disappointed with God as I was anyone else. I dreaded pouring my heart out to Him since I knew He knew better than I did exactly how I felt. And then, one day it happened: instead of repelled by the idea to divulge all my sorrow and self-pity, the prayer felt like– breathing.  I couldn’t stop myself and I realized I was not nearly as sorry as I had been only days before. 

During this time, I saw a counselor who continually guided me back to a path where I left self-pity behind.  Sure, some days were abominable and lonely, but together we devised ways for me to focus on the HAPPY of the holiday and the GOOD of good wishes. 

We may not be able to cancel the pity-party on our own–but we can refuse to send out invitations to everyone we meet.

Then we find there are other parties, lots of other parties, that are more fun to throw and to attend. 

Do you have ways of coping with sadness during the holidays?  I would love for you share your suggestions below.















Rachelle sleeping with baby Tate

This is a series on how to survive the disappointments that come to our adult children. I would love your feedback and insight with ideas on how YOU have survived and helped your children survive. These are the topics in the series:

  • Disappointed by an untrustworthy friend?
  • Disappointed in a job situation?
  • Disappointed in academic possibilities?
  • Disappointed in marriage? 
  • Disappointed with infertility?
  • Disappointed with rebellion from their children?






Do you see that sweet smile on my girl’s face?  The reward for her six years of waiting is holding tightly to her hand. 

Six year of tests. Six years of supplements. Six years of pain and disappointment. Six years of tears and screams.

Infertility has MANY FORMS!

Once a dear friend of ours struggled for ten years to conceive again after the birth of her first son. When she asked for prayer because of her infertility, a misinformed friend said, “You don’t have infertility! You have a child!”

Rachelle (my daughter above), endured two miscarriages between babies two and three. Then she endured FOUR more baby deaths between Juliet (baby five) and Tatum (the baby in the picture). My heart went through the blender every time I got the call…”there’s no heartbeat,” “the baby didn’t make it,” “things aren’t right.”



I stood holding the phone with no arms or legs—I couldn’t run from the pain or take up my machete and kill the agony. There were never any answers, only lots of questions:

  • We love each other. We are married. We try to raise our kids in a godly manner. Why would God punish us by taking our baby?
  • Am I doing something wrong?
  • Is my husband at fault?
  • Why does God not want us to have any children?



When there is no answer to a question parents should not offer an answer. 

Our kids don’t need our answers, they need our shoulder and our ears. We need to allow weeping and screaming. 




Don’t be alarmed if their anger is directed at God. Don’t be alarmed if their anger is directed at you. Don’t be alarmed if you feel their anger is out-of-control.

During the angry outbursts, offer your shoulder and your prayers. If the angry outbursts persist for months suggest counseling. Offer to pay for the counselor if money is a challenge.


If instead of anger your child suffers depression follow the same procedure but insist on counseling–the consequences are MUCH more severe.

The inability to conceive a child morphs other pain. Infertility needs love and support–never condemnation or harshness.



I would love to hear how you helped your adult children through this terrible disappointment. Please leave your comments below.




Everyone who leaves a comment below will receive a download poster of scriptures for strength and healing.







This is a series on how to survive the disappointments that come to our adult children. I would love your feedback and insight with ideas on how YOU have survived and helped your children survive. These are the topics in the series:

  • Disappointed by an untrustworthy friend?
  • Disappointed in a job situation?
  • Disappointed in academic possibilities?
  • Disappointed in marriage? 
  • Disappointed with infertility?
  • Disappointed with rebellion from their children?



I never thought this would happen to me.

We were best friends. Now I am losing my husband and my best friend.

If you loved me mom, you would set up an intervention in our marriage. 


“I just don’t know what to tell you. I have never been through this.” This was my harsh statement to my daughter when she was going through a divorce.

I was terrified. I WAS HELPLESS! 

I had never experienced divorce or known anyone closely that had been through this horrific experience.


  • Did I fail her?
  • Was she failing me?
  • What could we have controlled?
  • Should I have refused to go to the wedding?
  • Was this doomed from the start? 

“This is totally illogical! He has never acted this way before! Why is he acting this way?” My response to my second daughter as she went through divorce was not much better. It never occurred to me that SUPPORTING MY GIRLS was the skill I was missing. 

I believed the only way to help was  to fix the marriage and bring the husband back home and put the happy family back together.





Some things I thought that ARE NOT TRUE:

  • I need to villainize the future ex.  (This invalidates all the character training you have given your child. We are tempted to say terrible things about another human being.)
  • I need to come up with ways to distract her from the pain. (This invalidates the need to process her pain.)
  • I need to be available 24/7. (This invalidates legitimate boundaries, always needed in an emotional situation.)



Best practices to support during marriage disappointments:

  • Recommend a therapist or counselor that you KNOW has given good advice in the past
  • Speak truth into the situation
  • Offer to watch children so the couple can get away and reconnect
  • Cry–be emotionally supportive during this heartbreaking time–be empathic
  • Encourage both parties to see their way into a better future


What are some ways you have helped your adult children recover from disappointment in marriage? I would love to hear your comments on how you supported your dear ones during this difficult times.