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How Much Parenting of Adult Children Is Too Much?

By Debra Englander September 08, 2020 Family

“How’s everything?” I innocently asked someone whom I hadn’t seen in a long time. She immediately said everything was fine. She added that one child was entering high school and the other starting his senior year in high school so things were stressful.

I responded that my 28-year-old daughter is job-hunting, and I’m more stressed than she is.

Then, a friend mentioned that her married niece (about age 30 with two kids) is on her father’s cellphone plan, which is probably common given the complexity and cost of phone service these days.

Is It Time to Let Your Adult Children Grow Up?

These conversations got me thinking about parenting and why it seems more difficult today to “let go.” Obviously, the bond between parents and children exists forever. But, prior generations seemed to become “adults” without as much handholding and pushing than today’s younger generations.

My daughter is a solid citizen – she’s polite, helpful to others, and lives with a roommate whom she found. Yet no matter how much instruction we provide, she is clueless about financial matters. Somehow, she hasn’t absorbed the concept of not spending every paycheck or saving for emergencies.

Are You a Helicopter Parent?

I absolutely recognize that I may be to blame. While I wasn’t a full-blown helicopter parent, I certainly have stepped in over the years to do more than my share of suggestions for school projects, networking for her job-searches, or handling errands. Am I at fault or is there something else going on?

When I went away to college, I had to navigate everything on my own – from finding a campus job to paying bills for the first time, in addition to everything else that goes along with campus life.

Phone calls home were a luxury and reserved for emergencies. Compare that to today’s texting and social media where you can communicate everything earth-shattering and mundane with a few words, emojis, or other symbols.

Helping Our Children to Be More Responsible

When I hear that rain is forecast for the evening, I will text my daughter and remind her to take an umbrella. Why? I know she doesn’t pay attention to the weather forecast.

She will look outside and see that it isn’t raining right when she is leaving for work. Maybe I’m being overly protective. I’ve stopped alerting her to subway delays because she has the NYMTA app which provides notice of delays and cancellations!

I may well be an annoying parent who does too much. But I also know other parents who will drive eight hours or so round-trip when their adult children want to come home for a weekend.

And certainly, here in New York, countless parents allow their kids to “store” their possessions in their old rooms because they live in small apartments without enough college space for all their stuff.

Do you think that parenting stops when our kids become adults? Are we at fault by doing too much for them so they become accustomed to letting us manage their responsibilities? Should I go cold-turkey and let my daughter sink or swim on her own? Are there any half-way measures that work? Please share your thoughts and experiences below!

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The Author

Debra W. Englander is a writer, editor and book coach based in New York. She has written for numerous publications and managed a business book program for John Wiley. She writes “The Savvy Self-Publisher” column for Poets & Writers. Follower her on Twitter @DebraEnglander.

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