I’ve always said that parenting young children is physically demanding, and parenting older kids is mentally challenging. On this continuously changing journey as we parent post high school, the dynamics of our role as parents goes through significant changes.
One crucial aspect that pops up often during this phase is the delicate balance between
offering guidance and allowing independence, in other words, sharing your opinion.
When they were young you were the main decision-maker, now you are a partner. Their growing independence and the transition to an advisor role means the goal shifts from making decisions for them (or telling them what to do) to empowering them to make their own choices. It’s a responsibility shift to nurture their decision-making skills which is important for their burgeoning personal and professional development. Offering unsolicited opinions can strain the partner relationship you are building with your emerging adult.
At this point our kids are seeking independence and will interpret our consistent advice as a lack of trust or an attempt to control their lives. Constantly providing opinions can accidentally and inadvertently weaken an emerging adult’s sense of independence. They may feel incapable of making decisions without parental input, hindering their self-confidence. Unasked-for opinions can lead to conflict and resistance too. You son or daughter may rebel against what they perceive as interference, increasing tensions and hurting open communication.
Withholding an opinion can allow young adults to develop their independence. It sends a powerful message that says you trust their judgment and believe in their ability to navigate their own lives. When parents refrain from offering unsolicited opinions, it creates a space for open communication. Emerging adults are more likely to share their thoughts and seek advice when they feel it is genuinely desired. Allowing young adults to make decisions independently can help them learn the connection between choices and consequences which will help in building their confidence. Experiencing the consequences of their choices, both positive and negative, is an important part of personal growth.
Instead of jumping in with advice, make it a habit to ask if your emerging adult would like your
input. This simple act of seeking permission shows respect for their independence. Encourage them to share their thoughts, and when they do, listen actively without immediately providing solutions.
When your young adult seeks guidance, offer your opinion in a constructive manner. Focus on asking questions that lead them to think critically rather than providing a ready-made solution. (for example, saying something like: “Since you’ve asked for my thoughts, here they are, now what do you think?”
Parenting emerging adults is a delicate dance of providing guidance while respecting
their growing independence. It’s a tightrope walk you can expect will lead to falls on occasion. By embracing this approach, parents contribute to the development of resilient, independent, and self-assured adults, setting the stage for a healthy and enduring parent-child relationship long-term.
In the journey of parenting 18-29-year-olds, sometimes, the most powerful guidance comes from knowing when to offer advice and when to simply stand by and support.