Your job as a parent doesn’t end when your child turns 18. We often have this magical finish line drawn in our imagination. “I just have to teach them everything by the time they turn 18.” or “I’m running out of time to help them grow, they are almost 18.” In the U.S. 18 is the magical age when our children cease to be minors. They can vote, enlist in the military and be charged with an adult crime. They can get married, apply for a credit card and sign their own medical forms.
We want to prepare our children for every experience they will face as adults but childhood holds a limited amount of time. As our children barrel toward the magical age 18, parents can feel like we are on the losing end of a race that we can’t possibly win. As foster and adoptive parents, we came into the role of parenting late. We missed the months pre-birth, the toddler years or in our case, we missed some of the vital pre-teen and teenage years.
Building strong, secure attachments with our children will lay the foundation for the relationships that they will experience as they grow. We may develop a healthy relationship when they are very small, or it may take longer. You may have seasons of life when you feel that you will never connect in a healthy way. Remember that there is no end to parenting. You are in a marathon, not a sprint. Build your relationship slowly and carefully.
When you lose the connection, try again. When you mess up as a parent, try again. When your child pushes you away, don’t lose hope. Model appropriate and healthy relationships in front of your child. Talk openly with your child as they get older and cultivate a space where they can speak freely. Our children may be dealing with feelings of abandonment and loss that cause them to put a wall up in front of those who love them, don’t take this personally. Sometimes our children firmly believe we are going to leave them or we don’t want them. Remember to leave no room for thoughts like these to grow. Be confident in your role, patient in your responses, and generous with grace. Sometimes trust takes a lifetime to build, it’s a good thing our job as a parent doesn’t end at 18.
Yes, you can have a healthy relationship with your child.
- Connect with your child intentionally.
- Invite your child into connection.
- Remember, your child doesn’t owe you anything in return.
- Keep the door open.
- Model healthy relationships in your own life.
- Lead the way to healthy relationships through example.
As children grow our role will shift but we can still be an important part of their lives and a soft place to land.