Why Parenting Doesn't Stop at 18
Children may legally be considered adults at this age, but that does not mean they are have fully grown and developed.
Parenting Into Adulthood
Remember yourself at the age of 18. Did you know everything you needed to know about life? Were you entirely prepared to support yourself on your own? Did you have all the emotional support, encouragement, and discipline that you needed to make your own decisions confidently?
For most of us, the answer is probably no. The age of 18 is arbitrary. Children may legally be considered adults at this age, but that does not mean they are have fully grown and developed.
The New York Times reports that modern parenting today continues well after age 18, regardless of income levels, especially in regards to financial support for children. More than half of parents give their young adult children some form of financial assistance.
Beyond that, many parents are still reminding their children about important deadlines, making appointments for them, helping them study for classes, and much more.
The Times refers to this as an age of “relentless” parenting, or helicopter parenting, when parents feel the need to “hover” over their children and manage every aspect of their child’s life. Why do some parents do this? One speculation is economic anxiety. Which is a growing divide between the wealthy and the poor, and the likelihood that for the first time in recent history, American children will be less prosperous than their parents.
Does this mean that parenting beyond the age of 18 is bad for our children?
One researcher studied the effects of helicopter parenting on college students’ well-being. She found that “college students of over-controlling parents report feeling less satisfied with family life and have lower levels of psychological well-being.”
However, this study was specific to “over-controlling” parents.
How much parenting is too much?
A Psychology Today therapist provides this helpful tip—ask yourself these three questions to determine if you might be overdoing your parenting:
- Why are you helping your child with a task?
- Are they capable of doing it for themselves? (If so, teach them.)
- What would happen if you didn’t do this for them?
Find a Balance
The key to parenting, like anything else, is finding the right balance. Parenting is about teaching our children the skills they need, such as time management and self-discipline, so that they can eventually be responsible for themselves.
This level of responsibility is affected negatively by applying over-controlling parenting or helicopter parenting tactics. In these situations , parents work so hard to protect their children from disappointment or failure that they don’t teach them the skills they need to be self-sufficient adults.
At the same time, however, parenting is a process of supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood, and that process looks different, takes a different length of time, and includes different steps for every child.
Adulthood certainly does not magically happen at the age of 18. It's essential to adjust your parenting process as your children grow.
The love, attention, interest, and approval of their parents is something no child ever outgrows.
- Give your children more responsibility. Go back to those three questions from Psychology Today, and if your child can do something, teach them how to do it. If they refuse to learn, it might be time to take a step back. If the result of not doing something for your child doesn’t put them in physical or emotional danger; perhaps it’s time to let them make their own decisions and accept the consequences of their choices.
- Hold back on unsolicited advice and reminders. Again, it’s time to start easing your older child into accepting more responsibility.
- Treat your older children with respect. They are growing into adults and will have a hard time respecting themselves if they sense you don’t respect them.
- Love unconditionally. As children grow into adulthood, they require less physical support, but they still need emotional support. Be there to answer their questions, listen to their concerns, encourage their interests, praise their accomplishments, and provide advice if your children ask for it.