When Does Postparenthood Start?

Post-Parenthood starts when your kids are old enough to vote and lasts as long as you do.  It’s the final evolution of your role as a parent, and it requires what may be the most difficult task of all: acknowledging that they are adults, with the right to lead their own lives, make their own choices, and pursue their own dreams, regardless of whether or not you approve.

That sounds easy, but it isn’t.

You raised them to be strong, independent, and think for themselves, so why are you worried while they’re doing it? You want to have an authentic, intimate, and loving relationship with them, but why are they always too busy, distant, or disinterested?

Does it seem like they’re taking so much longer to grow up than you did that you wonder if they ever will?

Are you trying to cope with fallout from their troubled past? Reeling from current difficulties in their lives, like addiction, depression, dependence, mental or physical illness, legal or financial problems? Are you still trying to solve those problems for them or taking responsibility for their actions? Concern over grown kids who are failing to thrive is a major cause stress in midlife parents!

Or maybe they’re doing just fine –  it’s you that’s having the problem.  Letting go of the role that defined you for over two decades is difficult if it also feels like letting go of them, especially when you’re not only unsure of what you can do for them but also confused about what you should do for them. Conflicts about how, when and why to help grown kids is a major cause of stress in midlife marriages!

But…when you and they make a successful transition to a relationship that’s  based on mutuality,  friendship and respect  for each other as adults instead of the imbalance of power that reigned when they were small and you were big, when you had all the control (or thought you did) and they had none,   wonderful things begin to happen!

You can concentrate on your happiness, not theirs.  You can let go of the burden of their problems and free them of responsibility for your expectations.  And even when time and distance tug at the ties that bind, you’ll become what you always wanted to be – people your kids would choose as friends even if they weren’t related to you!

By janeellen

Jane Adams PHD Social Psychologist