Dear Jill,

Our adult child has been out of the house for just a few short months. I’ve tried to offer all my wisdom and give advice so they are well-prepared to handle the world on their own. I’m so afraid that they will make a mistake or not be able to find a good group of friends as they strike out on their own. My mama heart is so full of fear, worry, and grief for them.

Should I bring this up to my child? Sometimes it feels like they don’t even want to listen to the advice I’m offering and instead, it feels like they do the exact opposite. How do I get them to accept my help when I see them doing something wrong?

– Concerned Mama

Dear Concerned Mama,

I hear you! Launching children into adulthood can often feel like a forced resignation with no celebration.

I’ve been in your shoes, and know adjusting to having adult children and eventually adjusting to a fully-empty nest is quite the journey for both parents and children. When my son called me to say he was moving to Australia, you can bet my mama heart was overwhelmed with all sorts of feelings and worries!

When our children become adults, our relationship with them changes. What we have control over and input on shifts. It can be hard to learn how to flip the script in our minds from actively parenting them to being their cheerleader.

Here are a few principles I think could help you as you navigate your new relationship with your adult child and the expectations you have for them:

Pray, Don’t Say

Use the principle of “Pray, Don’t Say.” This phrase helps us slow down our reactions, be thoughtful about our responses, and seek God’s leadership in our relationships. We started using this phrase about the transition into the empty nest life, making the shift from sharing our opinions about our adult child’s life to holding back our thoughts unless we’re asked for them. Mark and I talk all about this principle in this podcast episode.

Be Curious, Not Critical

It’s also important during this stage of your child’s life to be curious and not critical. We have a tendency to notice and point out all the things our kids are doing “wrong.” We can easily jump to being too critical, but rarely can we be too positive. As parents, we want our children to be all they can be and too often we think the way to do that is to point out their deficits—the places they need to grow. But in reality, we need to get curious about our children. That means asking questions and showing a genuine interest in their lives while holding back most of the criticisms we may have.

Let Go of Expectations

My final piece of advice is to let go of expectations. Being part of our kids’ lives for nearly twenty years paves the way for certain expectations. We’re accustomed to knowing specific things about their life and even chiming in on some of those things. However, when our kiddos leave the nest, those expectations have to change. We will create peace when we specifically let go of these expectations: to know things, for their priorities to align with ours, for them to communicate the frequency and way we want, and to change them.

This is all easier said than done, isn’t it? After all, we sign a million permission forms, help them study for just as many tests, watch a plethora of sporting events, and sit through more music recitals and choir concerts than we can count. On top of that, we feed them, clothe them, and now it’s just time to watch them grow up and leave home?!

But remember, our job was always to work ourselves out of a job. As we adjust our expectations to better match reality in this new season, we’ll find that our love will expand and our relationship with our children will be strengthened.

I know it is scary to let your child navigate the world on their own when you have been in the role of their protector for so long. Let me remind you, friend, that you did well! You weren’t perfect (none of us were), but you did your best. Now give them wings and watch them fly. You’ve done well and there’s so much joy to be found in the next season!

If you are looking for even more encouragement and help on your journey to launch your adult children, check out my Empty Nest, Full Life book, consider attending the Empty Nest, Full Life Retreat this Fall, or join my private Facebook group of other moms who are all in the launching children and empty nest stage of life.

I hope this has been helpful for you and I pray that God will help you adjust to your new relationship with your child as you continue to show them your love and support in new ways.




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