Tips for Parenting Adult {Or “Emerging Adult”} Children

britta marie

This post is inspired by Shot@Life, an initiative of the United Nations Foundation that educates, connects and empowers the championing of vaccines as one of the most cost effective ways to save the lives of children in the world’s hardest to reach places. 

Every comment on this post means a life-saving vaccination will be donated to a child in need!


This has been a BIG year for my 21-year-old! My Britta Marie graduated from college, went on a 3 week trip to Europe, and just 4 days ago got married to her best friend Neil! That’s a whole lot of life packed into one summer! But Britta handled it all with confidence and only a few tears. You see, even though she is officially an “adult” now, at 21 she is still teetering on the edge of youth and full-fledged adulthood. Neuroscientists have determined through brain scans that the brain is not fully finished developing until about age 25.

Psychologists call this life stage “emerging adulthood.”


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As a mother, all this scientific data means one thing…my “baby girl” still has at least a few more years of growing up to do and although she is technically a married “woman” now, I hope I can still “mother” her through the last phases of her development. And if she’ll continue to let me “mother” her from a respectful distance beyond that, that will be icing on the cake!


Of course now that she is married, I anticipate any “mothering” will be trickier than before. So what’s the parent of an “emerging adult” to do? How do you strike a balance between being a friend and a mentor to your child? How do you give advice without coming off like a nag?

Here are a few ideas I am trying in order to maintain healthy relationship with my adult kids.


10 Tips for Parenting Adult {Or Almost Adult} Children


  • Listen.  Learn to listen with an open mind and a non-judgmental attitude. Adult children may not want your advice, they may just want a listening ear.
  • Be patient.  Let them come to you for advice and counsel. If you leave yourself open to receive them, they will know it and they will come in search of your wisdom and loving support.
  • Be honest.  Admit when you are wrong. Admitting our mistakes emphasizes that it is OK to make mistakes and that apologizing for them is the right thing to do.
  • Be sensitive to what is meaningful in their lives. Among the great joys of parenting adult children is learning from them. Learn to appreciate them for who they have grown up to be.
  • Be positive.  Focus on what you love about your child and his or her life. No one likes to be criticized.
  • Say “Thank You.”  When we thank our children, we model the behavior we want and we have the pleasure of letting our children know we are grateful to them.
  • Recognize and appreciate their individuality. Every child, young and old is unique. Whether you chose to accept it earlier, or not, when your child is an adult it is crucial that they have your support and encouragement to be themselves.
  • Nurture the relationship.  Friends do stuff together. They talk on the phone, send texts and spend time together exploring shared interests. They respect each other’s busy schedules, but find ways to stay connected.
  • Offer advice with a disclaimer.  Remind your children that it’s only advice and they don’t need to follow it.
  • Be realistic. Remember that a good relationship is not synonymous with a smooth one and that parenting adult children is a work in progress.


Keep in mind that even though your child has achieved young adulthood, there will still be plenty of opportunities for you to do some good mothering. You may even find that this is the age when you do some of your best work.


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The fact that Britta is now 21, the legal drinking age, does not escape me. As an alcoholic in recovery it is one of my biggest fears that I might somehow pass that awful predisposition down to my children. But I try to look at the positives of the situation rather than waste my time worrying about what hopefully will never happen. On the positive side: Britta has had an up-close and all too personal experience with the devastating effects of addiction to serve as a cautionary tale to her and the rest of my children. She also has been educated in how addiction is “no respecter of persons” and has shown great understanding and compassion for those affected by this destructive disease. I believe her decision to major in Psychology in college was in part influenced by the things she experienced as a teenager watching her mother battle addiction. While she could easily have played the role of “victim”, she instead chose to channel what she learned into a positive path…one where she hopes to help others who are going through the same or similar experiences. I know she will be a formidable force for good in the lives of many, many people throughout her life.


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Being given the opportunity to write about my 21-year-old for Blogust ’13 could not have come at a more perfect time. As I stated earlier, this has been a summer full of major life passages for Britta. Watching my daughter sail through them all with grace and confidence has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my mothering career. I am grateful beyond words that the trials that she has gone through thus far in her life have made her strong and compassionate and know that both of those qualities will serve her well as she faces a bright and beautiful future.


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I am also grateful that throughout her life she has been afforded the privilege of proper medical care. Unlike so many other children in the world, Britta has always had the necessary vaccines available to her that have allowed her to sail through her first 21 years free from disease.

Every child deserves a shot at a healthy life, no matter where they live and yet many children in developing countries lack access to vaccines — often because they live in hard-to-reach communities. With your help, global vaccination programs can stop the 1.5 million unnecessary deaths that still happen every year from diseases like pneumonia, diarrhea, measles and polio, and ensure that all children, no matter where they live, have a shot at a healthy life.

During Shot@Life’s Blogust, 31 bloggers, one each day in August, are writing about moments that matter. For every comment on this post and the 30 other posts, Walgreens will donate a vaccine (up to 50,000 vaccines).

Sign up here for a daily email so you can quickly and easily comment and share every day during Blogust! Stay connected with Shot@Life at, join the campaign on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. And be sure to check out Chloe Jeffrey’s post tomorrow.


Thanks in advance for your comments!



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  1. Addy Rae says

    This is a stage I’ve only recently grown out of, and there was a huge shift and settling when I was 25/26/27. I noticed it, and everyone around me noticed it, especially since there was less focus on ‘me’ and more consideration for people around me and their needs and feelings. There’s a huge difference between me at 23 and me at 29! Thank you for this post.

  2. Sue says

    Thank you for this blog. I, too, am the parent of emerging adults. It’s an incredible time in all of our lives.

  3. Sue Scripture says

    Watching children grow up and leave home is bittersweet isn’t it? You do the best you can, they fledge and life goes on. Best of luck to Britta and Neil and thanks for all your blogging, Jillee. (You can see that Britta is your daughter – same mouth!)

  4. Jan says

    I’m going to print this off as a gentle reminder, all so true. The photographs are beautiful, you must be very proud.

  5. Heather M says

    I love that this post has so much meaning…for your family and for one on the other side of the world.

  6. Melody says

    It is so hard for me to remember this with my 2 adult children, especially since I am still mothering my younger children. Thank you for putting it in writing… All I know but forget.

  7. Margaret says

    A beautiful bride. I hope that this comment can also help some other child to receive a vaccination.

    • says

      Thank you son!! You’re pretty terrific yourself! And since you are 24…I still get to “mother” you another year! ;-) xoxo