Does Parenting Ever End?
Our children do not magically pass from youth to adulthood and there is no end point where children no longer need their parents. Two vital areas of parenting adult children are about sex and relationships. Whatever the parents’ values regarding sexual behavior or forming relationships, they will want their children to have healthy and happy lives. They will want them to be able to choose a partner that will treat them well and they will want their children to be able to navigate the complex parts of living with and loving another person.
So why do many parents absent themselves from discussions about sex and relationships?
I suspect that the adolescent period where most children push back against parental authority and opinion has set up a hands off approach. This habit extends into the child’s adulthood. It could be that once a child leaves home for school or work, there is less time for conversation and connection. Adult children can also put their adult lives off limits to their parents.
The teen years might have lead to anger and fights that haven’t been resolved and some parents I know have given up, waiting for some longed for day when their adult children will realize the wisdom of their council. Yet, children in late teens and young adulthood still need our positive guidance during the crucial years of testing out relationships and sexual activity.
Even if you have had a stormy relationship with your child during adolescence, there is still time to become a positive influence and to be a parent who is trusted and sought out for help and advice. The first step is always to get your own sex education. There are many ways to learn the basics and to expand your understanding of healthy and happy sex lives and relationships.Knowledge can give some courage, but there is are more steps that will help you become that positive and sought out parent.
Every parent needs to identify and practice ways to soothe when they are talking about difficult or anxiety-provoking topics. It is okay to be nervous and to not have every answer. If previous conversations have been challenging, parents need to look at their own behavior to see if they are inviting a more adult exchange with their kids. They are adults now, even though they will always be our children. Respect for the autonomy and identity of your adult child is going to take steady practice, along with being clear about how your own experiences and values regarding sex and relationships affect what you want to share with your adult child.
As adults, our children have rights to tune us out, so we also have to honestly look at our communications skills to see if we invite conversation or if we are still expecting to deliver our words without question. In fact, being able to listen to and be curious about our adult children are probably the most important skills we can learn. When kids of any age feel that their parents are truly tuning into them and are interested in their thinking and feeling, the door to connection remains open.
In Project Parent: Preparing Yourself for Your Child’s Sex Education, I describe the steps that every parent can use to be a positive influence on their child’s life from birth and throughout adulthood. I encourage parents with children of any age to engage themselves in their own growth to be the parent they aspire to be. If your children are already teens or grown, it is never too late to learn skills that will help connect with children throughout the rest of your lives.