We’re in the stage where our kids are all wiping their own bottoms, tying their own shoes, and some are even attempting life in the “real” world. “Real” as in you don’t live with your parents and you pay for your own food, phone, and fun. We also have a daughter who needed to stay with another family for a season to continue on her healing journey. The sobering reality is that connected parenting never really ends. Honestly, you should be using connected principles with everyone in your life, but that’s a different post.
Connecting with teens and young adults who aren’t living with you (especially those who you haven’t raised from birth or who have attachment challenges) looks different than connecting with toddlers or even school-aged kids. Obvi.
- Be intentional. I’m kind of an out-of-sight, out-of-mind gal. True confession? I’m not one of those mamas who just dreams about when all of her little chicks will be back under her wings for the next family gathering. I literally have to set a reminder on a device to remember to connect with my kids who don’t live with us. #ifitisnotonthecalendaritwillnotgetdone
- Enter their world. What are they doing? Could you go along for the ride? Maybe pop in for a visit at their workplace? Or show up at a pick up soccer game? Gag down your pride and possible dislike and take your child and her significant other out to lunch. I feel like food is the universal truce language. If your child was adopted from an older age from another country, food experiences that reflect their culture of origin are a plus.
- Follow their lead. One of our kids needs rhythmical, predictable connection, so she gets a letter weekly. I write on the same day each week, so she receives it at about the same time each week. Another is more “cool,” so a periodic, “What’s new?” works for him. And yet another has made it clear that she’d prefer to figure out life with minimal connection to us. Every interaction with her is prayerfully considered and only attempted if I’m in a position to not spiral if she hard-core rejects me again. So basically, I’m not dropping in to her workplace for a “surprise” visit anytime…EVER.
- Invite but don’t expect. This is similar to number 3. We always make a point to let the kids know that they are wanted, invited, and welcome to participate in family activities. However, they are free to decline without a guilt trip from us. At least that’s the theory. #iamhumanafterall This actually applies to our teens at home too. There are only a handful of things that I consider “mandatory,” and these are announced with much notice. Because we give so much freedom in the other things, the kids are very compliant with the 2 things a year that I really want them at. And, honestly, if they decided to not come, I wouldn’t fight it. (But don’t tell them that!)
- Deal with your stuff. Use this time that they’re not under foot to deal with your emotional baggage. If the thought of having them under your roof again gives you hives or causes you to hyperventilate, that is a sign that you have stuff. I’m not saying you ever have to let them move back in, but being able to entertain the thought is a good barometer for how healthy you are in relation to them. Take it from a gal who knows. The hardest part of connected parenting is being emotionally available whenever our kids ARE ready to connect.
If you have kids out of the house, how are you staying connected?