From Guardians to Guides: Parenting Young Adults

Navigating the transition and embracing a new role

I hugged my youngest daughter as I said goodbye.

“I love you, kid. See you at Thanksgiving.”

Her first family weekend at college was ending. As we drove away, a bittersweet mix of pride and nostalgia washed over me. 

I missed her already.

She’d adapted so well to college life. She was thriving. We’d achieved another badge in our ever-evolving role as parents.

It was the most recent of many milestones. In the last two years, we experienced a college graduation, two high school graduations, a wedding, and our youngest moved away to college.

As parents, we’d spent years serving as the guardians, the protectors, and the decision makers for our children. That all changed. We faced a realization that’s as challenging as it is inevitable.

Our kids now needed guides, not guardians. 

Our new mission wasn’t to shield them from adversity but to help them develop the knowledge, skills, and wisdom to navigate life’s challenges.

It was like stepping off the edge of a cliff blindfolded.

Giving up control is a struggle. It’s letting go of the bike for the first time. We worry that they might get hurt, but we understand the importance of being independent. It’s nerve-wracking but essential for growth.

Communication is crucial during this shift. It becomes a partnership requiring open and honest dialogues that help us understand their needs, aspirations, and concerns. The one-way street of parental dominance is closed. Welcome to the new bustling intersection of young adulthood, where ideas, thoughts, and emotions flow freely in many directions.

As newly minted guides, we redefine boundaries and expectations that align with our young adults’ newfound independence. It provides structure and security but allows them to explore their autonomy.

When we discussed college majors and career plans, I assured them a 40-year plan wasn’t necessary. Especially at 18 years old! I told them to find a starting point and follow their curiosity.

Adjusting how we offer support is vital. We’re a source of encouragement. The voice reminding them of their strength and resilience in facing whatever life throws their way.

But we also give honest and objective feedback. This balanced approach empowers young adults. It enables them to make informed decisions and tackle life’s challenges with confidence and self-awareness.

Patience might be our greatest asset, forged in the fires of their childhood. Our youths in transition will make mistakes as they construct their paths. It will be messy. It will be frustrating. But our patience will be the light that helps them find their way.

It’s a pivotal juncture on the winding road of parenthood. A transition as inevitable as a sunrise. The wild ride requires relinquishing control, setting new boundaries, and adjusting communication styles. 

Patience and a willingness to learn from the souls we’ve nurtured are the compass and map.

It’s the evolution from guardian to guide.