Parenting an adult

I’m more than three months into parenting an adult now. So how does it differ from parenting a 16 or 17 year old?

Technically of course, it shouldn’t really change a lot. On a young adult’s 18th birthday, they are still only one day older than they were the day before. No wiser. No more grown up. But that number 18 is huge to them. It means so much. How do you balance that with your own life as a parent?

Of course, fundamentally, we have been training our kids to be adults for their entire lives. Potty training, weaning, school, allowing them independence – it has all been working towards adulthood. So does anything really need to change at home when they reach the magic 1-8?

Needless to say, my man-child’s expectations of adulthood and my own differ somewhat. He wants the ‘good bits’, like staying out late and drinking (although I’m pleased to say he actually does very little of that), but none of the bad bits, like cleaning up after himself and paying for more things himself. And me? I want him to clean up after himself a bit better and pay for more things himself. Because he’s an adult.

Of course now he’s 18 he could be at university or on a gap year on the other side of the world. So I can’t say to him ‘You need to be in at 10pm’. Because he’s an adult, for goodness sake! I’m not that mean.

But he is still living at home and he does need to show some consideration to the rest of the family. If he’s not going to be in at 10, that’s fine, but he has to make arrangements for himself. We might give him a lift home at 10, but we’re not going to give him a lift home at midnight or 1am.

So, as an adult, he has a choice to make – does he pay for a taxi or does he stay over with a friend? And, also as an adult, he needs to show some consideration – and let us know what his plans are. Before I go to bed and have a very unsettled night worrying about him. Because you don’t stop worrying when your kids turn 18. I doubt you stop worrying when they turn 28, 38 or 48 either.

In return for us being thoughtful and considerate and letting him stay out late, we expect some slightly higher standards from him at home. If you make food, you clear up after yourself. If you have a shower, you remove your clothes from the bathroom floor. If you’re tempted to say something nasty to your sister, just stop and don’t say it. It’s not rocket science. Showing consideration to others is a really key part of being an adult. I’ll be honest, these things are still a work in progress.

Despite being an adult, I’m pleased to say my son still wants to do a lot with his family, so we’re obviously not TOO embarrassing. He goes out for a walk with us most evenings and wanted to spend the last day with us before he started his apprenticeship. He chose not to go to Padstow with us for a long weekend and then slightly regretted it, because he realised that being home on your own isn’t cool or exciting, it’s mainly lonely and boring.

My son has started his apprenticeship now and goes out to work every day. He enjoys work and the people he works with and I think they value him too. (It’s weird when they start work, because there’s no parents’ evenings, so I don’t really know how he’s getting on.) The adult side of him is a responsible grown up in the workplace, the child side of him still expects his tea on the table when he gets in at 5.30pm and complains if it’s not ready or, God forbid, he has to make it himself.

With the exception of him going to work rather than school, parenting a young adult isn’t really any different from parenting a 17 year old. Parenting is a very long work in progress and it doesn’t just stop because of an arbitrary rule which says you are an adult when you reach 18.

The human brain isn’t fully formed until 25. My son might be an ‘official’ adult, but his behaviour can still be decidedly teenage. We’re not done with parenting him just yet.

Adult, teenager, young man, Parenting an adult

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. I am dreading my teen hitting 18. She is trying to push her luck at the moment about staying out late, with people I don’t know and places neither of us know with it being a pretty new area to us. I know when she hits 18 she will play the “I’m an adult card”. Eek!
    It sounds like your son is a sensible lad. You must be very proud of him x

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    • Thanks very much, I am! I was hoping he wouldn’t play the ‘I’m an adult’ card and I’m pleased to say that he hasn’t. He’s at the age now where he tells me what he’s doing rather than asks, and that is absolutely right that he does that. But if I think what he’s telling me isn’t sensible, I will still offer him advice. x

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  2. Parenting adults becomes very different when they get into their 20s, especially when they’re not living at home. They still rely on you for some things (especially information/advice that you sometimes don’t have), but mainly they just TELL you a lot. Sometimes you don’t even want to hear it, if only because they need to figure it out for themselves (lost driving licence again?).
    It’s a daily balancing act between being there for them and letting them sort things out for themselves.

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    • Thanks! It sounds like I’ve got a long way to go with my parenting. To be honest, it doesn’t feel too long since I was the adult child in their 20s talking to my mum about stuff. I know I would much rather my kids kept talking I me about stuff, even if they do have to figure it out on their own, than for them to feel isolated and that they can’t talk to me.

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  3. Gosh yes, I don’t think they suddenly wake up all mature and adult-like at 18! What a shame. It must be weird having an adult who is working and earning his own wage. Not many people have that with their 18 year old kids, do they? I love your honesty here as always 🙂

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    • I don’t suppose many people do have an 18 year old who is at home and working. I hadn’t actually thought about that. It feels very normal to us already.

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  4. At least with him still living at home you know where he is and can have rules. It is when they leave it gets even harder and you don’t even know if they are eating or sleeping properly.

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    • There are definitely pros and cons on both sides! I know he’s safe and well cared for at home, but I would like him to behave more like an adult in terms of helping out and being more thoughtful towards others. If he was away from home, he would be forced into doing those things. I also know he would definitely eat and probably sleep too. He goes to bed quite late, but has no interest in staying up all night like a lot of teenagers do.

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