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Parenting Adult Children • • • •

Launching Adult Children

Young adults photoWhat is an adult? The official age defined by society is 18. The legal drinking age is 21 in many states. But the reality is that adults are people who can responsibly handle themselves independently and manage relationships with some degree of maturity. Adults not only take care of themselves, but they also know how to work with and help others. Few young people are ready for adulthood by 18 years of age. Parenting enters a new dimension requiring you to look for ways to launch your child.

Launching adult children seems more difficult than it used to be. In fact, the age at which children begin to live independently seems to be getting older and older. Adulthood requires a number of skills. Sometimes too much freedom can be counterproductive and releasing kids too early into adult life before they’re ready slows them down. The period we call adolescence is getting longer on both ends. Many children are entering adolescence earlier, and staying later. Many young people are not independent and on their own until their mid-twenties.

How can you prepare young people for adulthood? Here are some thoughts that may help you along the path.

1) Turning 18 is an important milestone but has little to do with independence. Just because a person is 18 years old doesn’t make him or her mature. Before they reach that age and certainly around that time it’s important to talk about how freedom and maturity are linked together and debunk the “I’m 18 and therefore an adult” myth. Some kids want freedom without being responsible leading to all kinds of temptation and problems.

2) Relationship is very important. You will likely have to put some pressure on your young person during these years so keeping relationship open is essential for reaching the heart. The book Parenting is Heart Work gives some practical suggestions for connecting on a heart level. You may want to read that book as you’re trying to help launch your young adult.

3) You, as a parent, will want to require certain signs of responsibility in order for your young person to enjoy new privileges of getting older. Typically responsibility is demonstrated by checking in on time, having a job, showing respect for parents and other authorities, helping out around the house, maintaining a positive relationship with siblings, and attending church.

4) The young person who goes to college and takes advantage of the freedom to violate family values is in serious danger. Although college is a tremendous privilege allowing a young person to have greater opportunity in the job market, character strength is most important. Investing in a child who lacks character is often a waste of money. Some young adults need to take the hard road, learn some of the realities of working hard and being serious about life before they go back to school and appreciate the privilege.

5) What do you do if they don’t comply with your family values and ground rules? Before you start removing privileges, use the pressure of relationship, continual reminders, checking up on them, and an appeal to their conscience. Warn them about the danger they’re in and look for ways to teach them about life. If you aren’t seeing the necessary progress, then you’ll have to start applying clear consequences.

6) Gradually transfer financial responsibilities to the young person. Adult children should be paying for their own cell phone, car insurance, gas, car repairs, entertainment, clothing, and specialty toiletries. This transfer should begin during the teenage years when children start earning money. It may also helpful to charge them rent or for household expenses. Many times young adults have too much discretionary income. This can give them an unrealistic view of finances and how to budget. That uncommitted money often provides freedom to indulge in temptations.

7) Teach your young person to handle money. Your young adult should have a checking account, but be careful of credit cards. A debit card or ATM card may be a better option. We wish young adults would learn from their mistakes quickly but the lessons learned through credit card debt are often slow to come and painful when they arrive. Teach about budgeting money. Allow young people to make mistakes and learn from experience but if they’re stuck and not learning, then you may have to step in and take more control of their finances or move them to a “cash only” system for a while. Paying cash for everything is a great way to learn how quickly money disappears.

8) Don’t tolerate violence. If a young person hits, pushes, or grabs you, then take action immediately by calling the police. In the same way, don’t instigate physical violence by entering their space in an intimidating way. Having a physical altercation isn’t helpful and sets the family up for some serious danger. Young people need to know that force is never the right way to solve a problem.

9) The bottom line is that living in your home is a privilege. Your willingness to pay for college, provide meals, and a place to live is part of being in your family. But it can’t be taken for granted. In many cases unmotivated or rebellious young adults must lose some of those privileges in order to develop the internal character necessary to handle the basics of life. So you may have to require that your young person leave the house if he or she is unwilling to demonstrate responsibility.

10) Pray for your young person every day. Ask God to give you relational connecting points as well as heart moments where you can help that young person realize some of the key principles of life. Pray that God will change your child’s heart and help him or her see the value of a life committed to Christ. You may want to read the book Family Heart Moments. Although the stories are about younger children, you’ll gain some ideas about ways to foster heart moments in your own family.

Use the time of launching your young adult as a time to grow spiritually yourself. Trust is one of those things that needs to be developed in new situations. God wants to grow you in some important ways and may use you to help others in the process. Take a look at 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 for some encouragement along these lines.

May God richly bless you as you do the important work of parenting. The job never ends.

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