by Melodie Davis
***NOTE TO EDITORS: This is part 4 of 4**
for release September 22, 2000
Negotiation: Key To Successful Relationships With Your Young Adults
We'll wrap up this special four-week look at parenting during the teen to young adult years by focusing here specifically on the young adult years. For me, the issues change when they turn 18-19 and I have discovered that a lot of parents seem to be at sea regarding this wonderful, exciting and sometimes bewildering developmental stage in parenting. And there really aren't very many resources out there.
I've pondered why there aren't that many resources. Columns in magazines like Parents have special columns on every age from pregnancy, infant, toddler and so on up through the teenager years. Web sites with resources for parents cover the same age groups as magazines, and stop after the teenage and high school years. There are plenty of parenting classes and support groups for parents of younger children: what some of us need are support groups as we parent older kids. We need a place to test ideas and solutions, and a place to have someone hold our hand when Jane suddenly decides to move out.
In many ways, our parenting does stop around age 18 or the "age of majority" as it is sometimes called. They take themselves to the dentist. They may be paying their own rent, buying their own car. Yet, if they are living at home, parenting takes on some new aspects. Who decides curfew? Household rules? Who pays for the gas? If they now choose when they come in, how do you wean yourself away from waiting up for them if that was your habit? If they are away at college, how much do you do for them? Help them out of binds, like faxing them the reference letter they forgot to collect from a teacher or former employer? Run to college and pick them up if they want to come home for the weekend? In some ways, parenting doesn't end, it just changes. Instead of chauffeuring them 5-10 miles to school, we may be chauffeuring them 100-500 miles to school.
Perhaps there are not a lot of resources for this stage of parenting because 1) people assume you don't do any parenting after 18; or 2), we baby boomers, who tended to raise children by buying books and videos to help us at each stage, are just now reaching the age when our kids are young adults. Hence there are only a few books written on this topic.
These are the in-between years when your child is not quite a teenager anymore (technically he may still be 18 or 19, but the rules, literally, have changed), but not yet a "grown or adult" child when he or she has gotten married or moved out more or less on a permanent basis. Once we reach that stage in relationship to our parents or children-fully grown-parents have a right to expect that their grown children are now mature adults whose decisions and rights they must respect. Perhaps it is even embarrassing to think of parenting at this age-for both parties. The young adult feels, "Mom and Dad, bug off, I'm not a kid anymore," and the parent feels down deep, "Oh dear, I must have done something wrong if I still feel like I am in a parenting role."
One woman with a 19-year-old daughter living at home is in a situation where her daughter pays rent. The rent comes in very handy for the single mom in meeting expenses. Yet, the daughter feels if she pays rent, she should have the right to live how she wants to live. For instance, should her boyfriend be allowed to stay over?
This daughter may think she should have more of a say now that she pays rent because sometimes when children are teenagers we threaten them with: "You can't do that as long as I'm paying the rent (or mortgage)." So they start paying rent and they may legitimately feel they have the right for the rules to change.
However, someone still needs to be the head of the household. You should have the right to say, "These are the rules for this household." If we love and care about our children, however, we will want to allow conversation or negotiation about the issue at hand. One way to do that is to say "Well, this is what I'm fearful about." Or "This is as much as I can give in," and go from there. If you can't bend on one issue, find another area where you can negotiate some peace.
Parenting feels different when ultimately you know you can't legally insist on your rules. You may have guidelines, you may have house rules, but not ultimate legal authority.
What are your opinions and stories on parenting young adults? Write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.
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