Too Big to Be Told: Parenting Young Adults

parenting young adults

Even when they were small, I was nervous that time would march relentlessly on and I would find myself where I am today: my kids ready to fly the coop and me, unready.

This April, a tall, sincere, young man asked for my daughter’s hand. My social media went frenzied, and everyone asked how I felt. My standard response was that I had no idea because I had never felt this way before. (The young man would say I made him jump through a few hoops!)

The terrain of parenting changes dramatically as the young-uns stop being so young. The things that worked, the dreams we hold dear, and even our doubts shape-shift.

A constant, nagging doubt from which parents suffer is whether they have done enough. When the once-kids grow into full-fledged, and often-taller-than-momma adults, the response to this doubt shifts from “I can do more still” to “I can perhaps do more, if they let me?”

My parenting style at this point is summed up as: Deeply Grateful, Sometimes Nervous, Ever Learning.

So many things can go awry along the journey called life. To have two healthy young adults who enjoy the home, are competent in their field of training, and seek to support their parents is a sheer blessing. We have honest conversations, prioritize our family times of prayer, and despite the genetic variance in personality and disposition, we are in each other’s corner.

But one can never be fully sure. The world our grown children live in differs so greatly from ours. No matter how many times I have prayed and settled myself into the wide promises of God, I still wonder how my son will navigate adult life and my daughter her own family. I mean, they provide adequate evidence to cause anxiety! 

For instance, they do not plan far ahead the way we Gen Xers are wont to do, squirrel away money for savings, or seem eager to learn life skills, thanks to the notion that they can get by with YouTube tutorials. More recently, I need to contend with ChatGPT: is it a friend or a foe, or a little of both?

So while my parents’ generations used to sigh with satisfaction when a child was grown, I find myself having to paddle along furiously learning about our world and what may await my children.

The biggest change is how to relate to them, a shift that began when they hit their tumultuous teen years. They no longer liked to be told but preferred to be consulted, even if they had not properly formed an opinion on the subject. 

Yesterday I was at the hospital for a medical investigation. I got to chatting with the slender Indian nurse who revealed she had two children, the younger one just turned one. As we waited for the doctor for a part of the procedure, she said that she could not wait for them to grow up. My immediate response was to urge her to embrace and enjoy this precious season of parenting young, receptive lives — a phase I often miss, especially when old photos of these adorable little beings appear on my computer screen or Facebook memories.

The one thing that makes all the difference is to be intentional about every season. Every season of parenting calls forth something from us. I no longer must lose sleep or make soft food, check on school activities, or wipe tears from friendship fights. But I get to answer deep-faith questions, discuss personality profiles, toss about some basic philosophy, and host other young adults who are variedly broken and blossoming.

Even though this season of parenting young adults is a vast and new territory, I realized two things: it builds on the season prior, and the foundation remains the same. 

Some have said that childhood is about giving them roots, while young adulthood is about giving them wings. In the first, we help them see the garden of delights that life is, a gift to explore and enjoy. In the second, we allow them to stand at the edge of new horizons and offer them the gifts of prayer, a listening ear that has allowed our hearts to remain connected, and a vision of life that makes the adventure worthwhile.

Both depend on the same Grace of God, given to us each day, for us to get intentional about creating a home and relating to our children in ways that build them whole and holy. Grace laps gently and persistently at the shorelines of our lives and each time the waves sweep back, we are cleaner and sometimes we find wondrous deposits.

Alas in our world of loud, fast, and sensational; it is easy to operate apart from Grace and find ourselves in haste instead. But adult children cannot be told and cannot be rushed – not anymore.

Yet God’s loving Grace comes, every day. My biggest parenting task is to look out for it and lean in.

This gift of creating, sharing, and passing on life is a great mystery and a sacred trust. We get to treasure and steward it each day, without knowing how many days are given to us.

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Jenni Ho-Huan is a city pastor leading small communities towards bountiful faith-filled living. Her favourite job of all time is being mom to her two children and one cat. She has written six books included When God Shapes a w.i.f.e and Simple Tips for Happy Kids. You can find her at

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