Helping Our Children Leave the Nest – Parenting Adult Children

parenting adult childrenI recently read an article about Bald Eagles. The most interesting part of the article was how they raise their young and how their young become independent.

Baby eagles remain in the nest for about 12 weeks, with the parent eagles bringing them food. During this time, eaglets gain a pound every few days until they are close to the same size as the parent. When they are strong enough, they begin to flap their wings and move to the outer rims of the nest. Over time, they move out to branches and move further from the nest until they learn to fly. Finally, they learn to feed themselves and become self-sufficient and fly away, living independently until they mate. The interesting thing to me is that during this fledgling time, the parent eagles provide less food to the offspring until they learn to feed themselves and become fully independent. I think there is a lesson here for those of us parenting adult children.

When our babies are born, they are totally dependent on their caretakers. Over years, not weeks, they should learn to become independent. Eventually, we hope they are independent enough to leave our homes and live as fully independent, healthy adults and good citizens. During this time, parents turn control over to their children, intervening and guiding only when necessary. Finally we are sitting on the sidelines offering encouragement and minimal support.

Ideas to Consider when Parenting Adult Children

Learning how and when to let go and let our children be in charge of their lives and choices can be a tricky balancing act. How much parental interference is too much? Should you step in and intervene when you see them making mistakes? How about bailing them out when they get into trouble? Here are some ideas I encourage parents to consider:

  • Children learn best from experience. Facing tough challenges teaches them they can do hard things.
  • Living with the trouble a poor choice hopefully helps them learn why they don’t want to make a bad choice again and how to make a better choice. One thing I am sure of – when your child keeps falling into the same behavior traps, it is important that you stop bailing them out.
  • Having chores and responsibilities help build self esteem in children and makes it easier for adults to live on their own.
  • Parents are independent adults, too. After years of caretaking a young child, driving around a growing child, and worrying over reckless teens, it may be time for you to find new interests and activities that you enjoy and in which you find fulfillment.
  • Sometimes we need support. Talk with other parents whose children are a little bit older than yours to see how they handle the transition into independent adulthood. If you need more help, consider seeing one of our many therapists who can help you through this critical time.

Remember, after keeping them alive during their early years, letting your fledglings go may be your last and maybe most important responsibility as parents.