February 25, 2019

Parenting Doesn't Stop at 18

The age of 18 to 25 is considered a new developmental period called emerging adulthood. Here are 7 tips on how to relate to your young adult children.

I was one of those parents who was anxious for my children to turn 18. There is a relief when you are no longer legally responsible for a child. There are societal expectations that put a lot of pressure on parents to properly raise a child. That doesn't mean your 18-year-old is ready to function as a fully independent adult, although some can be and may have to be. Even if you have a mature 18-year-old, that doesn't mean he won't benefit from parental guidance and wisdom. Parenting gets trickier at this point because of the reduced legal power of parents, and young adult children are often resistant to what they perceive as parental pressure or disapproval.


The age of 18 to 25 is considered a new developmental period called emerging adulthood. Emerging adulthood is characterized by identity exploration, instability, self-focus, and not quite feeling like a teen or an adult.[1] Due to the increased requirement of college education and graduate school, delayed marriage and delayed parenting, higher housing expenses and difficulties entering the job market, young adults are delaying many responsibilities considered to be a part of adulthood. Parents are having to financially support their young adult children for more extended periods than previous generations.


This situation leaves parents of young adults in a predicament. Today’s young adult children want to be treated like adults, but they often can't or won't function as traditional adults until closer to or beyond the age of 30. Here are some tips on how best to relate to your young adult children:


  • Treat her with respect. She may not treat you with respect if she thinks you don't respect her.
  • Love unconditionally. You may not approve of your son's lifestyle choices, but you can always love him.
  • Avoid unsolicited advice. It makes him feel you don't think he is capable.
  • Be ready to provide emotional support. Your daughter will let you know when she needs you.
  • Provide financial assistance, if needed. College is expensive and early career jobs can be low-paying and unstable. You will need to decide ahead of time what type and how much financial assistance you are willing and able to provide. Avoid enabling your child to continue his economic dependence on you, if he can support himself.
  • Set house rules if they still live with you. You also should negotiate a move-out date as soon as possible.
  • Continue to pray. You have less control over your children's daily lives, but you have a connection to the Ultimate Power through prayer.


This is an exciting time for you and your child. The daily grind of parenting comes to an end when your child is ready to launch out into the world after years of preparation, but may have some struggles doing so, which is perfectly reasonable. Pray that you navigate this transition in a way that will be good for you and will benefit child.


Alina M. Baltazar, Ph.D., LMSW, CFLE, is the Masters in Social Work program director, Department of Social Work, Andrews University; director of Prevention Education at the Institute for the Prevention of Addictions; a psychotherapist at Life Coach Psychology; and a certified family life educator. She also is the parent of two young adults and one teenager.


[1] Arnett, J.J. (2000). “Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties.” American Psychologist, 55(5), 469-480. dos: 10.1037//0003-066X.55.5.469