I am the proud mom of four IDF soldiers.
I spent my early 20s in college and grad school in the US. I had no personal experience as a soldier.
In the army, my kids acquired a new language that I didn’t know. A lot of the time I literally did not understand what they were talking about. I felt inadequate guiding them as I was used to doing as a mom.
I came to realize that how I related to my ‘adult’ soldier children was not only about getting through those twelve intense years, it was also about laying a foundation for my relationship with each of my kids in their 20s and beyond.
Here’s some of what I learned along the way.
Parents have limitations and that’s OK. We can be honest about that with our kids and with ourselves.
In the future, our children will have many experiences that we have not had. We’ll be called upon to help them face obstacles that we as parents have not faced ourselves. We will find the resources to offer support and insight. We’ll do the best we can.
Reaching adulthood is a process that takes a while. Our kids will move forward and have setbacks.
Children can be responsible adults in the outside world and still act like teenagers at home.
Even big kids get homesick.
Young adults benefit from boundaries set by parents – for example, you cannot drive our car if you have not slept all week.
Children can be close to parents and keep secrets from them. It is up to parents to respect them for that sign of integrity and independence and not push them to share everything.
Parents can make the choice not to rescue their young adult children who are struggling and not to intervene to try to solve their problems.
Being there and listening are not ‘doing nothing’.
As parents we can empower our children to develop tools to face obstacles and challenges in life.
From the side, parents can guide young adults to handle bureaucracy, work with an unfair boss and navigate feelings of disappointment and disillusionment.
Parents can gently push kids out of their comfort zone and cheer them on for doing it.
Parents can work on not taking things personally. For example, 20-somethings might rather see friends or sleep than hang out with their parents. This is OK.
My big take-away for every stage of parenting is that other parents are going through what you are. They are a huge help. It is comforting and valuable reaching out to them. It is worth whatever vulnerable feelings come up as you do it.
There aren’t always words, there aren’t always solutions, but there are always actions that a parent can take.
Pick your child up from the bus and ask – how was your week?
Go to every ceremony and event that recognizes your children – for achievement or just for effort.
Our children will always crave and appreciate our unconditional love and support.