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The Mother’s Guide to Growing Up with Your Adult Children

By Michal Spiegelman

Overprotecting my young children was my default.

Bringing home two tiny, precious babies, knowing it was my job to keep them healthy and safe, was a formula for overprotection. So was living with the very real fear that I could have lost them during my high-risk pregnancies, as I had with six others.

As my children grew up, I had to use self-awareness and the very tools that I teach to catch myself whenever I became a helicopter mom. Hovering over my children was never my intention, but it was definitely my style—until I became aware and brave enough to change it.

My relationships with my adult son and daughter are two of the most rewarding relationships I have and a primary source of joy for me. But building thriving relationships with adult children takes intention, attention, and work. It doesn’t happen by itself.

When your children transition from adolescence to adulthood, it is normal for them to pull away in order to create their own identities. As parents, we know this change is healthy, don’t we? And yet, our impulse is to make sure they remember that we are and always will be their mother. Owning this role that we love makes us want to fix, rescue, and change things for our kids so they don’t experience pain, and we don’t experience discomfort.

Our son lives close to us, but our daughter lives 6000 miles away. Like many of you, because of the pandemic, we did not get together as a family (except on Zoom!) for 18 months. Spending a few weeks together recently was a joy. It was also the first time that we spent together with our adult children and their partners. All six of us.

My husband and I noticed that the dynamic was different than before. The pandemic influenced each of us in different ways. Our children have grown up. They are more mature. The have started to create their own family units.

We have welcomed their partners into our family, and, naturally, our interactions have changed. Learning this new dance of the parent-child relationship made it clear that I needed to adjust my behaviors and tweak some of the ways I showed up as a mother.

It wasn’t easy for me to let go of old roles and step into new ones.

I used my Reiki and meditation practice to help me get clear on my path. Did you know that giving yourself Reiki and meditating daily is the most beautiful way to receive higher guidance and connect with your inner wisdom?

I felt waves of sadness and grief as I asked for clarity and guidance to navigate my connection with my adult children. But accepting my emotions with compassion helped me to release them. Once I made space in my body and heart, I felt lighter, and inspiration started to flow in. I used journaling to help me process my insights and brought a lot of curiosity to the practice of understanding my new role. Creating “I want to do less” and “I want to do more” lists helped.

If you also want to get clarity on changing your role as the mother of adult children, be kind to yourself through the process:

  1. Invoke higher guidance as you sit in Reiki and meditate daily. (It would be my honor to be your guide. Learn Reiki and meditation with me).
  2. Connect with your heart and make space for the real emotions to come up. This guided visualization can help you.
  3. Journal and create your “I want to do less” and “I want to do more” lists to remind you of tangible ways to adjust your role.

My own lists are below, but please keep in mind that our tendencies and the baggage you and I each carry from the past will differ. Not every item in my list will be relevant for you.

Less

  • Taking responsibility for their feelings
  • Lecturing or telling them what to do
  • Wanting to overprotect them
  • Trying to fix things for them
  • Trying to rescue them
  • Trying hard to be a perfect mom
  • Investing too much emotion
  • Over-involving myself in their lives
  • Giving advice
  • Overgiving
  • Taking care of them
  • Taking things personally

More

  • feeling, learning, and growing.
  • Asking questions with curiosity and listening
  • Letting them find their way
  • Trusting their wisdom and abilities
  • Allowing them to learn and cheering for them
  • Enjoying the privilege of being a mom
  • Setting emotional boundaries
  • Living and letting live
  • Being present and giving advice when asked
  • Balancing giving with receiving
  • Taking care of me
  • Accepting their growth and independence   

As we mothers move from the front seat to the back seat in our children’s lives, we can learn to honor their growth and be kind to ourselves at the same time. We can accept the process of separation with an open heart, and enjoy the privilege of not needing to take care of our babies anymore or having to be taken care by them. Embracing the present moment with appreciation and gratitude will help us to navigate the relationship and create a renewed way of sharing closeness and connection.

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1 Comment

  1. cat griffith

    Michal,
    I’m enjoying this happy picture of your family, so I went on to read about empaths, how motherhood evolves,
    and the things you want to do less of and more of. I study the Enneagram, where I come in as driven to
    succeed, produce, be successful in the world (#3 with #4 wing). I cringed at the thought of motherhood feeling convinced in
    my 20’s that I still felt like a child and in my 30’s that I would resent, even hate, my children if I had them, as I felt I’d
    experienced with my mother. I didn’t feel I had had enough nurturing to
    offer it to children. Thank goodness there are empaths like you to nurture. And I’ve expanded myself during
    years and years of help and looking at myself, I’ve broadened and deepened to be happier with my own balance of
    pros and cons. Three words that I’m drawing on from Kay’s “Brain Rehab” 8 days ago: “Sane, organized, and productive.”
    The more I can be that, the more wonderful I feel. Feeling loving and loved is also great. I have that in a very nice relationship
    with John. And I enjoy emanating love out to many around me. Some I hold back on. i want to improve on that.
    I enjoyed writing to you tonight Michel. love, Cat

    being a daughter.

    Reply

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