Tyler is a columnist for the student newspaper at a major university. As he approached his trip home for Christmas this past December, he wrote:
My biggest fear is twofold. I’m afraid that one day I’ll grow up to be just like my father. And I’m scared to death that I’ll never be anything like him. Chances are, in 40 years, I’ll look in the mirror and see him. I’ll open my mouth and hear him. My thoughts will become more and more similar to his. But right now, that day seems rather distant. We barely understand each other.
Tyler goes on to describe how he anticipated the typical frustrations and conflicts with his dad, and getting past those would require some extra effort. He does deserve credit for understanding the important role that fathers play — and that could be a big step toward less frustration and more understanding between them. Read the entire column.
If you’re a father of a young adult — or you remember when you were a young adult yourself — maybe Tyler’s thoughts will ring true for you. Fathers during that stage are reflecting on the past and figuring out how to relate to their kids as adults. For the kids, it’s very clear that Dad has some imperfections, but at the same time, they usually know they need to depend on him in important ways.
Briefly, here are three important suggestions for dads of young-adult kids:
– Give your child freedom to express some emotions and even frustrations about you as a father. Engage him or her in a dialogue, and show respect for his perspective.
– Going forward, continue to show your child kindness however you can — even if you disagree on some issues. Encourage him and meet some of his needs — while constantly asking yourself, “Am I helping him or keeping him dependent on me?”
– If there’s a lot of conflict with your child, trust that when things settle down and he thinks about your role and all you’ve done for him, like Tyler, he’ll come around and learn to appreciate you all the more.
- Be ready to express love to your child no matter what. Support him through all his mistakes, so you don’t lose opportunities to help and influence him down the road.
- Even if things are tense with your adult child, you still have a powerful influence. Keep being the dad she needs.
- Make the effort to learn about something new that your child is passionate about.
- Do a “random” act of kindness for your child that meets one of his or her pressing needs.
- Keep seeking to teach your child skills. As you deal with an everyday challenge in the adult world, invite your child to join you.
- Seek to be a sounding board for your child. Be open to engaging him or her on any topic, and be a consistent and ready source of wisdom and encouragement.
– Help Your Twentysomething Get a Life… by Ross Campbell M.D.
– 1001 Things Every College Student Needs to Know by Harry H. Harrison Jr.
More resources for dads of young adults.