Doing Life Right With Your Young Adult

I have to admit, I’m just learning my way through this.

I’m getting good coaching from my wife,  my daughters and older friends who now have grand-kids! I think I am catching on to this new stage of life and changing relationships. Here are some things that I am discovering…

Not Done Yet

As I’ve written in a previous blog I’m convinced that I’m not done with this parenting role yet. It looks different but I’m still needed in many ways. This may be bad news to some of you but my friends who now have grand kids are still needed in new ways by their adult children.

Your young adult may have moved out but you still play a role and you need to maintain a warm, loving, supportive relationship, even if they don’t live up to your standards. That’s a tricky one…

(by the way if you have young adults still in the house you’re not alone

Don’t Live off of Past Memories

Recently my wife reminded me that I can’t live off of memories when my girls were young. I need to keep building memories with my emerging adult kids. They have changed and so have I. The memories are good but they are old.

Build New Memories/ Relational Capital

I am thinking about how to build new memories. We went on a family vacation this summer and built some new ones. In this stage with work schedules conflicting and priorities changing it is difficult to see when the next family vacation will be possible.

It is hard to commit to this but it looks like we are going to seize opportunities for family times.

Make time on their schedule.

If you have a young adult at home you are probably on a very different schedule than them. Work shifts, university schedules and their social calendar don’t coincide with yours.

You may be asleep when your son or daughter gets in the door. In my case this is probably the time my daughter wants to talk. Maybe that’s why some parents of young adults nap during the day. They are saving up energy for those late nigh chats. If it were not for these chats when a young adult is ready to open up or just share life some parents wouldn’t ever connect with their son or daughter.

Increase Communication

And while I’m on the subject of communication, doing life right with an adult in your house is going to require a lot more of it. In our house that involves texts. We keep each other aware of schedules, who is going to be home for dinner, and evening events via text. It is good for knowing where people are and how many to cook for. It’s not the best kind of communication but it can be frequent and instantaneous.

At this stage communication goes both ways. Parents keep their young adult children in the loop by letting them know what is going on also.

Give and Receive Respect

While we need to be much more democratic with a young adult in the house we should still receive respect. They will want to be respected also but even if they are paying rent this is not just a contractual arrangement. The relationship is based on mutual respect. This respect assumes that we will not treat them like a child and in return they will not act like one.

Uphold Community Standards

I could be wrong but rules in a house with a young adult are not based on top down parental authority. Instead the family operates as a community upholding everyone’s rights. Making noise with friends in the house isn’t wrong because “I am the parent and I say so.” It is because I would never keep you up past midnight with my friends. It is the Christian ethic of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us.

From this perspective community standards may seem stricter than when they were 12 and were having a sleep over. As a community the people who live in the house not only consider their own needs but the needs of the others. This rule applies to chores, and use of the property.

Freedom With Limits

This is an extension of the idea of living in community. Just because your son or daughter is an adult it doesn’t translate into lack of responsibility or infringing upon your rights. If they continue to live at home they need to live by the rules that you have agreed upon. If they are unable or unwilling to do so, it is probably time work out a different living arrangement.

Encourage Independence

A good parenting principle from the toddler years is don’t do for your children what they can do for themselves. This continues into adulthood where they should own their own vehicle, pay their own insurance, do their own laundry, make their own lunch, pay for their own phone, and do their own taxes.

Making them feel welcome at home can help them to save money and prepare to launch out on their own eventually. It can allow them to pay down school debt or begin to save for a place of their own. Forcing them to leave isn’t always best for their development. But in all other ways they should be independent of us if they are working full time.

You could debate the idea of having them pay rent especially if they are in debt and that is certainly your call. If you don’t create any financial responsibility you may not be preparing them well to live on their own or if they are soon to be married to be a responsible marriage partner

The Goal

In my mind the goal is helping my girls launch well into the next stage of their lives. This means helping them to become confident taking care of themselves and being in a good financial position when they move out. In the mean time I want to continue to build warm memories, help them develop domestic skills (this would be the same if I had boys) and build strong relational bonds.

Your Thoughts?

First of all if you read this far, thanks! If you work with young adults or if you had/have one or more in your house I’d love to get your thoughts. Please comment

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Ron Powell


Ron Powell is the Adviser to the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for over 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. If you would like to contact him you can email


  1. Loretta Randellsays:

    Going through the same stage and feelung the growing pains on times. Through the bumps and mess ups, I think we will fair out okay with some pretty good memories along the way! It’s definitely new territory and I agree SO much with the newd to maintain communication. My goal…always a mom and often a freind! Thanks so much for your timely article. God bless!

    • Loretta,
      Thanks so much for your comments and your encouragement! All the best to your family in this stage of life!!

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