I recently had to face something as a parent that was really awkward. It was difficult because I had to come to terms with some things from my own life. I parented my oldest child through something and realized that my own parents would not have handled this situation as well as I did. 

Learning From My Past

I know there are some of you out there who had abusive, neglectful parents who did a crummy job. You have to get up every day and parent your child better than you received. I salute those of you who are doing that! That is hard work. 

I parent my kids differently than my parents did me, by choice. I’ve made a ton of choices over the years to be more gentle and more patient with my kids than they were with me. But overall, I didn’t think they had done something truly wrong, until this situation. 

What was it? To be as vague as I can, my oldest child had a health issue arise and had to take a break from college to deal with it. They needed time to focus on themselves and heal. They are now working on easing back into college after putting in a whole lot of work to get where they are now. I’m proud of them. 

But that isn’t what today’s post is about. 

Hard Truths

What I realized while dealing with this crisis with my kid, is that my own parents had sent me off to college at 18 and I had no room for failure. And even a health crisis like my kid had would have been treated like a failure. The expectations put on me were intense, and there was no fallback plan. No matter how sick I was or what I was dealing with, I had to stay in college and finish my degree. 

My husband had a similar experience and I can look back now and see that perhaps he should have taken a semester off due to health issues at one point. As we were high school sweethearts and went off to the same college, we leaned on each other. We were each other’s family long before we got married. Neither of us felt we could go home if something went wrong in our lives. Thankfully, we got through it. 

Now, I don’t want you to think I was completely abandoned. For some reason, this time period of having no ability to fall back on my parents only lasted from ages 18-21 and once I had completed college, they were as supportive as I needed them to be. But, by that time, I was married. 

I’m realizing now that there are just as many parenting approaches to your child entering adulthood as there are for the baby years, but they get less attention. So, I’m putting a lot of thought into this stage of parenting that is new to me. 

Soft-ish Landings

Personally, I’m not a “push them out of the nest” type of parent. I’d rather my kids always know they can come home or keep living at home until they are ready for their own place. 

While I loved my time at college, I won’t be putting the same college pressures on my kids that I was given. College can be a great experience and lead to some great careers. However, there are other paths to consider and I want my kids to feel they can choose the path that is best for them. 

I don’t plan to ask my kids to pay rent unless I realize they need a little push to go find a job and even then it might not be rent I ask for. I could see pushing my kid that they needed to find work to support their hobbies or so they can buy a car.  I have a friend who moved back in with his parents after college and was able to save up to buy a new car and make a down payment on a house.  Living with them for a few years let him start his adult life way ahead of most of us. 

My Parenting Goals for My Adult Children

I want to make space for my kids to find their way into adulthood even if they need more time than is considered “typical.” Why do we think 18 years of life is enough to prepare you to live on your own? Research shows that the human brain isn’t even fully matured until your early 20s. And if your child has ADHD, their brain needs more time to fully mature than the average person. 

As much as possible, I want to help pay for my kids’ educations. I don’t want them to start adulthood in debt like I did. At the price of college today, that might not be a reasonable goal, but it is a goal for our family. 

I want my kids to know, they can always come home. There is nothing that can happen to them that I won’t be there for them through. Does that mean it will be easy? No. But parenting doesn’t stop at 18. 

About the Author

Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.

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