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What Do Parents of Adult Children Need?

By Dr. Don Dunlap
Pastoral Counselor
Parents want to know their adult children are happy, and they want to be needed for their counsel.

Family Counseling Ministries   -

Do adult children perhaps overemphasize the “leaving and cleaving” principle? It’s true that parents must not interfere in their adult children’s decisions, but they still long to know that their adult children are happy, secure and successful—and that they are productive, effective Christians. In the first of three articles on parenting adult children, Dr. Dunlap urges men and women to communicate regularly with their parents. He suggests that they consult their parents for wise counsel and valuable encouragement. 

1.      Parents want to know if their adult children are happy. 

Most Christian parents fully concur with the truth that happiness is fleeting, and that Believers technically pursue the abiding quality of joy instead. However, we should grasp what parents mean when they ask us, their adult children, “Are you happy?”  This question is very important to them.  

They want to be able to see that we are happy, and they want to know whether or not we are handling life in a spiritually mature manner.  This does not mean that they expect our lives to be problem-free. That is not a realistic picture of life.  Rather, they want to be certain that we have the inner resources and strength to draw upon, in order to deal biblically with challenging situations as they arise.  

They are rightfully interested in our marriage relationship.  Are we growing together in Christ, and are we bearing fruit for the kingdom of God?  These are legitimate questions to ask and they do not violate the “leaving and cleaving” principle.  There is a distinct difference between interfering in our personal affairs, and longing to see us as productive, effective Christians. 

Parents want to know that our job situation is secure.  Because they love us, they have certain valid concerns for our financial well-being.  Are our basic needs being met?  Are we planning wisely for our future financial needs?  Will money be available for their grandchildren’s education?  Have we managed to avoid the alluring trap of credit card debt—the deceptive and unscriptural “buy now, pay later” mentality?   

They have no basis for prying or for inquiring as to the details of our income flow, such as our expenditure decisions, for example.  They are perfectly within their bounds, however, to lovingly and discreetly encourage us to live within a budget and implement biblical principles of finance.   

It is especially gratifying for them to know that we have a loving, healthy relationship with our children.  Someone has wisely noted, “We haven’t really taught someone a concept until he/she is able to teach someone else that concept.”  Knowing that we enjoy close parent-child relationships with our children, is, understandably, yet another validation of their own parenting years. 

2.      Parents want to be needed for their counsel. 

Proverbs 6:20-22 is a reassuring promise, “My son, observe the commandment of your father, and do not forsake the teaching of your mother.  Bind them continually on your heart…when you walk about they will guide you, when you sleep they will watch over you, and when you awake, they will talk to you.”   

While parents no longer have biblical authority over their adult children’s lives, they continue to have valuable life experiences and counsel that their children would be prudent to avail themselves of.   When adult children solicit their parents’ counsel at different junctures of life, they often make better, more informed decisions, and they circumvent unnecessary heartache.   


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