We never stop being a dad, no matter how old our children are. Your children still need you, but in different ways…obviously. It is important that you adjust to this role in order to be the most effective dad possible. The adjustments need to be done by you, not your kids. They will naturally evolve into their new world. It is us, the creatures of habit, that need to learn new things. We have been used to doing things a particular way for at least 18 years. Most of us don’t like change.
What is it that we need to do for our children, once they leave the nest? You will hear ideas about letting them go. Let me assure you that this is a poor choice of words. Yes, we let go…but we NEVER let go. Our desire to help, fix, and do for them is still strong. The real plan of attack is to address how this is done at this point in life.
For me, I had learned that the most important thing I could do was to be a listener. This is hard because I am so opinionated. I KNOW how I would fix all their problems. Most of my ideas may actually be correct. What I have to remember is that you don’t give an adult a baby bottle. You need to teach them how to if you have not already. You can give them suggestions. However, for their growth and confidence, they must achieve due to their own efforts, attitudes, and decisions. You need to be a source for their success, but not the sole reason. If you don’t let them own their own victories and failures, they will never grow and will be dependently disabled.
Notice that I included their failures. I don’t know about you you, but I have learned so much from my failures. No lesson stands out so much as one that you own 100%. The overcoming and self-confidence that a person can attain by correcting mistakes and conquering failure are invaluable. This gives your child a clearer picture of their own identity and what they are capable of. Bailing kids out of a jam just reinforces the idea that they can’t do it without you. I do recognize that situations may arise in which you are the only source for assistance, but this needs to be extremely rare and not commonly sought as a cure-all.
I have several friends that have grown children. Those that try to do everything or will do everything for their kids are hindering their growth and making them weaker adults. If they have an unhealthy lifestyle, your assistance can make us enablers. Dads need to be very careful in offering assistance. The other and many times more difficult discipline has to do with advice. We have been telling our kids what we think all their lives. This needs to be monitored and reigned back when they are older.
My father is a doer, fixer, and unwarranted advice giver. Let me assure you that his heart is to help, but regardless of his intentions, he does this too much. One of my sisters is 65. My 87-year-old father still cannot help but dive into the adviser role. This is an ongoing understood joke amongst my siblings. While I am grateful that we can joke about it, there has been damage done to relationships regardless of intent. He also becomes very hurt, any time his help is rejected or not coveted. This has had a huge impact on me and my relationship with my children. I have purposely held back from giving advice unless it is solicited. Even then, I ask my children if they are sure that they want my advice.
I want my children to be strong. I can’t have them become so and protect or control them. My job is to love and pray for them. Interestingly enough, this method has actually prompted them to ask my opinion in many situations. However, when they do come to you, let me not encourage you to tell them what they want to hear. Tell them what you are convicted of as the truth. You must remain if not intensify your foundation and resolve. While you may not have instant gratification or happiness, you will develop more trust and joy in your relationship.
Consistency in parenting does not change in parenting, regardless of their age. You must be solid. If you are solid, they will value you more. Just don’t walk away. Keep telling them that you love them…and that you are proud that they belong to you. That makes you the man they can count on. I don’t know how you can get to a higher position in life as a man.
Develop your listening skills. Read and learn as dads, no matter how old you are or how old your children are. Restrain your words and opinions. Pray for them, Love them, Encourage them. Be the best dad possible.