Children grow up and leave the nest.
It’s a natural (and bittersweet) part of life.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy for older adults to let go of their grown children, especially if they need extra help.
In fact, according to a recent study, parents are more involved in the lives of their adult children than ever before.
If you’re struggling with knowing how to let go of your grown child – and give them the freedom to make their own decisions – here are some tips that can help.
But first, let’s define the when before we get into the how.
When Should Parents Let Go of Adult Children?
Raising children is one of the most challenging – and rewarding – jobs you can take on.
As your kids grow up, it’s only natural for you to want to hold on to them, protect them from harm, and maybe even have a say in their decisions.
After all, a bit of conditioning happens with decades of being in a specific parental role.
But at some point, allowing them space to make their own big choices is inevitable. How do you know when that time has come?
Letting go of your grown child isn’t a one-time event — it’s an ongoing process.
It requires a balance of support and guidance, while still giving them the freedom to make their own decisions.
Here are some general signs it’s time to let go of your grown kid…
Signs You Should Let Go
#1 (In)Dependence Imbalance Exists
Codependent relationships tend to be unbalanced and unhealthy, with one person relying too heavily on the other for emotional support or validation. The challenge is that it’s hard to realize when you’re in a codependent relationship, according to research.
Bottom line: If you find yourself constantly worrying about your adult child or “saving them” from making mistakes, it may be time to step back and allow them to experience adult consequences on their own.
#2 Responsibility Issues Appear
If you find yourself continually intervening in your adult child’s life because they’re unable or unwilling to make necessary changes, it’s a sign that you should let go and allow them to learn from their mistakes on their own.
While supporting them in their decisions and helping them to problem solve can be beneficial, your kids need to ultimately take responsibility for how they choose to live their adult life.
#3 Resentment Arises
When it comes to parenting grown children, resentment from both sides can often be a sign that it’s time to let go. Experiencing resentment from either side is an indication that both of you need to stop and evaluate your relationship.
You may be feeling frustrated and resentful because your grown child isn’t living up to “your expectations.” On the other hand, your adult child may also regret the wave of pressure crashing over them. Either way, it’s worth allowing the space for resentment to be worked out.
After all, according to a recent NPR-IBM Watson Health poll, nearly 84% of people claim Americans are angrier today compared with a generation ago.
#4 Respect is lacking
The healthiest relationship between you and your grown child is based on trust, respect, and mutual understanding. After all, they’re adults now.
And, of course, while you may be their parent, they have the right to make decisions for themselves – with respect being a two-way street. If you’re constantly feeling disrespected by your adult child, it’s time to set boundaries and consider letting go.
These are just a few signs that it may be time for you to let go of your grown child.
So how can you do this in a positive and supportive way?
The how-to portion of letting go can be a bit tricky, so here are some tips for how to actually do it.
How to Let Go of Your Grown Child
#1 Recognize Your Child’s Independence
Your child is an adult now, and it’s important to recognize their independence. Remind yourself that they are capable of making their own decisions and living a life separate from you (which is what you originally intended, right?).
Being an overbearing parent can contribute to feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem in your child. And it can even lead to them not being able or willing to grow up — the so-called “Peter Pan” syndrome.
Ultimately, it’s worth celebrating – rather than fearing – your adult child’s independence. Acknowledge that your child is growing up and maturing, and recognize how much you’ve both accomplished already.
#2 Respect Their Autonomy
Respect their autonomy and allow them the freedom to make decisions for themselves.
Here’s where empathy comes in handy. Think back to how you felt when your parents tried to control every aspect of your life — it probably wasn’t pleasant.
Your adult child is no different. Encourage them to take risks, learn from their failures, and gain the confidence they need to become independent adults.
And don’t just take our word for it. Supporting autonomy from a young age helps bolster cognitive skills, and that extends into adulthood.
Research has found that when parents give their grown children the freedom to make their own decisions, the children become better communicators, and both the parents and children are happier.
The main takeaway? Practicing autonomy is essential for healthy parent-child relationships in the long run.
#3 Support Without Enabling
One of the most critical aspects of parenting adult children is knowing when to step in and offer support, and when to back off and let them find their own way.
It’s essential to not inadvertently enable their less-than-ideal behavior by bailing them out (financially or emotionally) every time they make a mistake or get into trouble.
Even though your instinct may be to take control of a situation or give advice on how best to proceed with something, you can provide support and guidance, while still giving them the freedom to make their own decisions.
Offer support in terms of listening with an open mind and giving advice without being too judgmental.
The gist of it is to not try to fix all their problems for them – which will only hinder their growth.
#4 Get on the Same (Co-Parent) Page
Whether you’re still with your partner or divorced, make sure that you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to your grown child.
You both need to be consistent in how you approach parenting so that your adult child doesn’t feel as if they’re being “played” or manipulated by one parent against the other.
With four different parenting styles, it’s likely you and your partner don’t agree on how to handle all situations.
And if getting on the same page as your partner or ex-partner is too much of a struggle, just be open to having honest conversations and respecting each other’s decisions.
By having this open line of communication, you’ll at least be able to better support your grown child without compromising too much of their autonomy or independence.
In a nutshell: It’s a good idea to have regular conversations about how to support your adult child, especially if your grown kid hits a bump in the road.
#5 Celebrate Growth
Last but not least, don’t forget to celebrate your grown child’s successes. Recognizing their accomplishments and successes, no matter how small, will remind them how much you appreciate them and how proud you are of their growth.
Which encourages more healthy growth.
Be enthusiastic about the opportunities they’re exploring and try to get involved with new experiences they may be having without making it too overwhelming or intrusive.
And do so even when it’s not something you’d choose for them. A study has shown that differences in values between parents and adult children are often the root cause of estrangement.
So while you may not think their choices are the best, it’s important to respect them and show your appreciation for how much they’ve grown.
In sum: showing genuine enthusiasm for your adult child’s interests and ventures can really strengthen your bond.
Release The Bond of Parental Control
Letting go of a grown child can be tricky.
As much as parents want their children to stay safe, protected, and secure under your wings forever, it’s worth recognizing when it’s time for your kids to really fly on their own.
Knowing when those moments come will help ensure that your children have the best opportunity possible to reach their greatest potential — while strengthening your bond to your adult children.
And here’s how to do it:
- #1 Recognize your child’s independence — by allowing your child to grow and become independent, you teach them to be accountable for their own choices
- #2 Respect their autonomy — free them to make their own decisions and mistakes without feeling as though you’re stepping in to protect them
- #3 Support without enabling — provide support and guidance, but don’t fix all their problems for them
- #4 Get on the same (co-parent) page — being aligned with your partner (or ex-partner) when it comes to parenting is key
- #5 Celebrate their growth — be enthusiastic about the opportunities your child is exploring, even if it isn’t what you would’ve chosen for them
With these tips for how to let go of your grown child in mind, you’ll have the tools needed to help empower your children while still keeping them safe, secure, and connected to you in a loving, healthy manner.
If you’d want more support, look into our signature program – Rewire My Retirement. It’ll help you find the clarity you need to make the most out of your golden years.
We’ll help you release the bond of parental control and create a new, more fulfilling relationship with your grown child – so you can both continue to grow and thrive. And so you can also enjoy your retirement years how it was meant to be enjoyed.