Love stokes the furnace of dreams. Parents dream of turning out wonderful children who are excited about life, and who become super successful and happy adults.
Most parents are well intentioned, but how many have ever actually defined what sort of life they would like for their young adults? Having the ‘end in mind’ or a picture of how your kids will turn out helps to focus your parenting.
For some parents, seeing their kids gain a university education is a top priority. For others, it’s important that their child marries the right person and has a happy family. For some, it is seeing their children developing their talents and excelling, and for others it is that their children will continue and develop their religious faith.
Whatever is important to you, remember that the dreams and wishes you have for your children are not goals to be achieved, because you are not in control of your children’s decisions – nor should we be. We are, however, responsible to influence them and to equip them with the right skills and mindsets for adulthood.
Parents face an interesting dichotomy. Having realistic expectations for our kids means separating the ideal from the real while holding on to your dreams for them. Below are some ideas for a realistic wish list for your yadult. This one is fairly generic. I encourage you to make your own list – what is important to you? Score each item on a scale of one (least important) to ten (most important) to show which are your highest priorities.
Ideas for your realistic wish list!
They like themselves and enjoy their own company.
They are comfortable in their own skin, not wishing to be someone else. They like spending time alone too, because if they can’t accept themselves, they will find it hard to accept others.
To find what they are good at and enjoy so they are fulfilled in their career choice. To earn enough money to live without worry.
By trial and error, and through some research, your yadult will find out what he or she enjoys the most and is naturally good at. This will guide them in choosing and establishing their career path. Bringing their best contribution to the world has rewards on multiple levels, including a good financial return, job satisfaction, personal fulfilment and opportunities to advance.
It is frustrating to go down a career path that ends up being a dead end. Too many people get trapped in a job or an industry that pays the bills but never really brings any joy to their lives. Conversely, many pursue a career they love but which doesn’t pay the bills. This can cause them to eventually resent the career they once loved.
They become responsible upstanding citizens (good men and women), bringing more to life than they take from it.
Whilst all of us have a conscience embedded in our DNA, it requires stimulating to keep it sharp.
Good parents instill values such as honesty, work ethic and contribution – ensuring that their yadults bring value wherever they are.
They develop great relationships that support them through their adult lives.
Having people around them from a number of social circles, and of a wide age range, ensures that our young adults maintain a positive and balanced perspective on life. It’s not ideal to stick with one small group.
Maintain or regain intimacy between you and your yadult.
Your relationship with your young adult can be a roller coaster ride. If you are currently in a bit of an emotional trough, I encourage you that ‘this too shall pass’. Hold onto the hope and vision that you will all come out the other side as better individuals and that your relationship will regain the intimacy that may be missing at the moment. If we have parented properly, by the time our kids become adults, we can enjoy great friendships with them.
See them as adults – not your little boy or girl.
This is a process, but at some stage you have to drop the ‘child’ image of your yadult. There are numerous ways we can keep our yadults as children. It may be your expectations of them or the things you still do for them. Things may need to change, and this shouldn’t be seen as a loss of affection, but rather as a way to give both parties a chance to redefine the identity of the yadult.
They take responsibility for their decisions.
Look forward to your yadult making well thought out decisions. This doesn’t mean you always agree, but you are willing to allow them to be responsible for their decisions and you won’t bail them out if they make a wrong call.
Allow them to believe differently to you.
This is a big ask if your yadult believes differently to you after you have spent 20 or so years instilling your values and beliefs into them. I have been challenged on this one – it was confusing and it hurt. But, I also know that we all go through seasons of beliefs. What we hold fast to today may not be what defines us in the future. Releasing your yadult into his or her own beliefs is part of loving unconditionally.
To let them see you as you really are.
When our children were young, I tended to present myself as a rather pristine model of super ‘intactness’. Talking with other parents and professional counsellors has confirmed to me that this is a natural and common tendency – our desire is to give our children a sense of security so that they can believe that they are ‘in the right hands’.
But as our girls matured, they were able to handle more of the real me. You have to be careful not to disclose information that your kids may find overwhelming, but certainly by the time they reach adulthood, the relationship should be much more transparent. It’s important that they know you for your hopes and dreams as well as your fears. They already know your quirks and foibles!
To release them and to reallocate energy into a new life for you.
Starting with the end in mind means that one day you will release your yadult into his or her future and you will pursue the second half of your life. By the time the last child is making it on their own, you should be ready to rock-n-roll with projects and pursuits that don’t involve your kids.