Should I still be parenting my adult child?

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

 QUESTION: 

I have a daughter who is 25 and she is pretty independent now.

She flats with two of her friends and things are generally going well. But when I see her, I can't help making suggestions about how to organise herself, or how to stay healthy. She gets very defensive and tells me not to interfere. 

Is there a specific age we have to stop telling our kids what to do? I'm afraid I can't let go. I see a lot of things that she is not doing right, or else I worry that she's out at parties and clubs and not getting enough sleep.

Obviously I am saying these things because I love her dearly. I tell her I think she's doing well, but some things need tweaking, like keeping her gardens tidy at the flat and dressing warmly as the weather gets colder. 

ANSWER: 

Your child at 25 is an adult and, even though she'll always be your daughter, she's not your mini-me.

All the strands of DNA that have gone into making her unique are what you treasure and, although you've no doubt done a great job parenting, a part of what she is today, is not due to you.

The problems you see in your daughter's life are minor – you yourself call them tweaks – and what person doesn't have weaknesses that others think need improving?

You obviously comment too frequently for your daughter's liking, so perhaps you should work on reducing your remarks. If you can't resist making a remark, then select one thing that matters to you, just one though, and your opinion will carry more weight.

Think too of how we were at 25 and how we hated being told what to do. I know it was a different generation. Our parents mostly stepped way back; they were pleased to get on with their lives again so they travelled and spent money on themselves.

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Today, many 25-year-olds are like big teenagers and parents can't stop overseeing their lives. The big teenagers are late getting married and having babies, they often have no hope of owning their own homes and they need their parents more – and for longer. Perhaps we feel this gives us permission to make statements and "tweak" their lives.

There are parents of adult children who witness criminal or dangerous behaviours and those parents can be helpless to modify or prevent the situations no matter how hard they try.

But your daughter's behaviour seems to be the normal stuff of many 25-year-olds. She's clubbing, probably drinking too much, not getting enough sleep, not dressing warmly and neglecting other tasks like her flat gardens.

She'll probably look back one day and wonder at her own behaviour, but at least she'll come to her adulthood by herself. You should give yourself, and your daughter, a pat on the back – and a break.  

* Mary-anne Scott has raised four boys and written three novels for young adults, all of which have been shortlisted for the NZ Book Awards for children and young adults. As one of seven sisters, there aren't many parenting problems she hasn't talked over.

* Please note that Mary-anne is not a trained counsellor. Her advice is not intended to replace that of professional counsellor or psychologist.

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