Do you find yourself worrying about your adult children?
Do you constantly wonder if they’re safe or if they’re happy? Heck, or even if they’re eating right and sleeping enough?
But it’s also normal to want to stop worrying about them.
In this article, we discuss the science behind why parents worry about their children even when they’re all grown up and share five ways to stop worrying about your adult children.
Why Do Parents Worry So Much?
Parental worrying is normal because, evolutionarily speaking, it’s beneficial.
Worrying helped our ancestors survive by making them more alert to danger and more likely to take steps to protect their young.
But in today’s world, most parents don’t have to worry about their children being eaten by tigers or starving to death. At least we hope you don’t.
So why do you still find yourself worrying about them constantly? You might ask yourself ‘is it normal to constantly worry about your child’?
The answer is yes. It goes a bit beyond years of habit and conditioning. It turns out that parents obsessively worry about their children because they are hardwired to do so.
A recent study has revealed that it all has to do with oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone.”
Oxytocin activates the amygdala, which helps process memory and drives emotional reactions like fear, anxiety, and aggression. In other words, when parents see their children in danger, their amygdalas are more likely to kick into overdrive.
And once the amygdala is activated, it’s hard to shut off. That’s why parents tend to worry more about their children than they even do about themselves.
So next time you find yourself getting anxious about your grown child, remember that it’s just your brain doing its job. And try to take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone.
All parents worry about their children, no matter how old they are.
To hack your hardwired worry habit and stop the (unnecessary) worrying about your adult children, try our five tips today.
5 Ways to Stop Worrying About Your Adult Children
#1 Give Them Space
As your children grow up and head out into the world, it can be hard to let go. You want to protect them from making mistakes.
But the truth is mistakes are an essential part of life (and of course, that’s where the gold is for learning lessons). It might not always be easy to watch your kids stumble (at any age), yet it’s an important part of their journey.
When you hover over your adult children and try to control their every move, you rob them of the opportunity to make their own choices and learn from their mistakes. Try to give them space to grow and learn on their own.
Certainly, make suggestions and offer help with they ask for it, but try to macro- vs. micro-manage their life decisions and habits.
Mistakes can be painful, but they are often the best teachers. By giving your kids the freedom to explore and learn, you’re helping them build the skills they need to navigate the challenges of adulthood.
A growing body of research shows that experiencing failure builds resilience. And resilience is what helps us bounce back from setbacks and challenges.
So, next time you’re worrying about your adult children, take a deep breath and remind yourself that they’re capable of making their own decisions. And that includes both good and bad choices.
Trust that they’ll ultimately make the right decision for themselves, and that they’ll build lots of resilience along the way.
You’ll be giving them the best possible gift: the chance to grow into their own authentic selves.
#2 Offer Emotional & Practical Support
As a parent, it’s only natural to want to protect your children from the difficulties of life. But once they reach adulthood, your role shifts from protector (your way) to supporter (their way).
It can be tempting to try to control the situation or smother them with support, but that’s not usually helpful in the long run. And it may even cause them to lash out.
According to a new study, the amount of worry shared between parents and their adult children can have a profound effect on the relationship. If either party worries too much, it can become a burden to the relationship.
However, if they offer just the right amount of emotional and practical support, it can actually help strengthen the bond.
Listen to your kids when they need to vent, and offer advice when they ask for it. But resist the urge to jump in and fix their problems (especially financial ones). That’s their job, not yours.
Remember, you’re not responsible for their happiness – that’s up to them. But you can be a sounding board and a shoulder to cry on when they need it. By striking a healthy balance, you can help your child navigate life’s challenges while still allowing them to grow and flourish.
Even better, focus on your own happiness and see how your kids become naturally drawn to you and seek out your presence and guidance more often.
#3 Respect Their Independence
One of the most important things you can do as a parent is to respect your child’s independence. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything they do, but it does mean that you need to trust them to make their own decisions.
If you try to micromanage their life, you’ll only end up driving them away. And you might inadvertently turn them into “Peter Pan” – someone who doesn’t want to, or simply can’t, grow up due to enablement.
The “Peter Pan Syndrome” is a real thing, and it typically affects overprotected adults who haven’t developed the necessary skills to confront life’s adversities.
The gist is: Instead of trying to control your children’s lives, focus on building a strong relationship based on trust and mutual respect. This way, you can stay involved in their life without infringing on their independence.
#4 Avoid Judgement & Criticism
When you judge and criticize, you send the message that you don’t believe in them.
This can damage your relationship and make it harder for them to confide in you. And research suggests that too much criticism from parents can actually have long-term adverse impacts — even lead to child estrangement.
Plus, their neural responses to rewards and punishment become skewed. As a result, they’ll spend their lives seeking validation from others instead of from within themselves.
It can be tough to avoid passing judgement, especially if you think your child is making a mistake or if their choices totally don’t match your own. But if you’re concerned about their choices, try to have an open and honest conversation.
Just be aware of the impact your words have on their overall well-being and aim to listen without judgement or criticism.
#5 Focus on the Present Moment
Try to focus on the present moment and what you can do to make the situation better. Worrying about the things that you can’t control is a waste of energy.
If you’re worried about what could happen in the future, remind yourself that worrying doesn’t change anything.
Also, try to be realistic in your assessment of the situation. Oftentimes, your fears are much worse than the reality. Ask yourself:
- What is the worst that could happen?
- What is the likelihood of that actually happening?
- Is it really my place to worry about this?
Chances are, you’ll realize that your worries are unfounded and you can let them go. Try to practice mindfulness to ground yourself in the present moment.
Totally focusing on the present moment comes with numerous mindfulness benefits, including boosting your mood, reducing stress and anxiety, and improving your sleep, to name a few.
Basically, instead of worrying about what could happen, focus on what’s happening right now. And trust that your child has the strength and resilience to handle whatever challenges come their way.
Letting Go of Your Worries
Worrying about your adult children can be a constant source of stress.
Making it especially important to remember that they’re grownups now and they’re capable of taking care of themselves.
If you find yourself mulling over their every decision, it might be time to let go of some of your own worries. Follow these five tips to stop worrying about your grown children:
- #1 Give them space — give them the chance to learn from their mistakes
- #2 Offer emotional & practical support — strengthen your bond by offering support when it’s needed
- #3 Respect their independence — trust them to make their own decisions
- #4 Avoid judgement & criticism — if your child is struggling, don’t further burden them
- #5 Focus on the present moment — instead of worrying about the past or the future, stay in the present
Your children will be just fine. And you’ll be much happier if you take some time for yourself. You’ve done your job as a parent, now it’s time (more than ever) to focus on you.
Plus, if you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t be able to help anyone else in the long run.
By the way, this is exactly why we invite you to schedule a free breakthrough session with one of our trusted team members. During this call, we can help you identify your goals for the future and create an action plan tailored specifically for you.
With some guidance from us, you can finally start living your best life – and stop obsessively worrying about your grown child all the time.