My oldest son graduated high school last year and decided not to go to college. Instead, he is working full time in the plumbing trade and is living at home. Since he’s not in school any longer and he is a young adult who is adulting appropriately I realized I had to make some adjustments in how I was parenting him.
I want him to flourish and to learn how to be a responsible adult and l want him to know that I am always here to support him but our relationship has changed a bit and I often feel conflicted on the right way to do things.
At my son’s age, I lived far from home and my parents’ watchful eye
At his age, I was a college student living far away from home without a lot of rules. I could stay out all night if I wanted to. My parents didn’t expect me to check in with them every day since cell phones were non-existent which meant that I had room to make mistakes and bounce back from them without my parents hovering over me.
I know it won’t be long before my son moves out — he’s independent and wants that for himself sooner than later. I want that for him as well. But I’m sure I’m not the only parent with a young adult child living at home — especially a teen — who’s finding it hard to get the right balance when it comes to their kid living under their roof.
Here are 5 things that have been working for us
1. I try to remember what it was like when I was his age
I didn’t want constant advice, my parents didn’t know a lot about what I did when I wasn’t with them, and I wanted freedom. My son wants those same things. I’ve found pushing him to tell me something doesn’t work. He’s private about his social life and doesn’t come to me very often for advice.
That doesn’t mean I’m not there for him or I don’t ask him questions. I still do those things (and always will) regardless of how much he tells me. I can give him room to spread his wings, and still let him know he can count on me if he needs help in any way.
2. I’m heavier on communication than I am on the rules
My son likes to be with his friends and there are nights he doesn’t come home. He has also been known to hit the gym at 10pm when I’m already in bed. This is all fine with me.
He doesn’t have a curfew and he doesn’t have to come home. However, I do tell him (and he respects it) I just want to know where he is. If I’m sleeping and he wants to go out, he has to wake me up and tell me. If he’s with a friend and decides to stay for the night, or go somewhere else he has to tell me.
If it’s snowing, I ask him to text when he arrives at his destination. He also knows that if he does something he shouldn’t be doing and gets caught, or someone gets hurt, he has to take responsibility. I remind him of this often and it drives him bonkers but oh well. He still lives with me.
3. He still has chores
He’s not here a lot but he does have things he has to do while he’s living with me. He mows the lawn, takes care of snow removal, and helps with the trash. I don’t want him to start taking the fact that he’s living here with very few rules for granted, and having him continue to help out in all the ways he did when he was in school and has helped.
4. He is on his own in a lot of ways
He pays for everything when it comes to his vehicle. That includes any repairs it might need. He pays for his gym membership, his clothes, dinners out with his friends, or when he gets a haircut. He’s not quite ready to be on his own, but making sure he’s learning the importance of money and how to manage it is the biggest reason our arrangement is working so well.
5. I don’t punish him
I guess I could try and ground my adult son but I’m not sure how well that would go over. After all, he has a truck that he pays for and can leave whenever he wants. He knows I’m not going to punish him or take anything away because he pays for everything himself.
Honestly, I’ve never had to come close to thinking about this. I believe the communication we have, and the fact that he sees how well things go when he simply lets me know where he is and is respectful are the real reasons that our arrangement is working.
It wasn’t that long ago I was able to threaten him with taking his phone away if he didn’t finish school work. Well, school and mom paying for his phone are things of the past.
Every relationship is different but this is what works for us
Every child is different and they all need different parenting. This is what works for me and my high school graduate who is still living at home. Our success has been about compromise, understanding, and respect.
He doesn’t want to have to text me and let me know where he is all the time but he does because he knows it keeps me calm. It makes me feel like I can help if something happens and that’s the key to our getting along.
I wish he let me in on his life a bit more but it’s not in his nature right now and I have to respect that if I want things to keep going as smoothly as they have been.