Twenty true things I know now about parenting an adult child (that I wish I knew before)*

Georgia NeSmith
7 min readApr 11, 2018

These are twenty true things about parenting an adult child who is in pain that I learned the hard way. Oh how I wish I knew these things before, but I didn’t get the best of parenting — either mother or father — myself.

1)No matter what you do, chances are at some point, your child or children will break your heart. And chances are, that which causes your own heart to break may also cause your child great pain.

2) When your heart gets broken, it is very important to remember: yes, it is possible that the choices your child has made that break your heart may indeed be related to mistakes you made as a mom. That is, for example, if you failed to be present at a time in the past when your child needed you the most, that experience of loneliness and of being neglected may indeed be A if not THE reason why your child ends up in harmful, devastating relationships, because that child is seeking the presence you did not give her.

Adult romantic relationships are always in some way about what one’s parents did or did not do, for good or for ill, when one was too small to understand. The conundrum of how one was parented as a child is always at the center of how one works out expectations, desires, and needs in adult romantic relationships. Some aspect of that is always present, until that conundrum gets worked out. That process that can take decades and will probably include many failed romantic relationships.

3) That conundrum involves BOTH parents, even if you know that the OTHER parent was a worse parent than you. That is to say, no matter how bad the other parent was, there will always be some element of your own mistakes involved. Father rigid and unable to listen? Noted. Father demanding and impossible to please? Noted. Father saying, when the child can’t get her school work done, “stop being so lazy — just do it!”? Noted. Father being arrogant and controlling? Noted.

It doesn’t matter, mom. Because, mom, while you aren’t responsible for the choices he made, you are responsible for the choices you made that cut your child’s heart like a knife.

Comparing yourself to the other parent is not helpful. At all. Ever.

4) Ditto with comparing the parenting that your child received with your own. It doesn’t matter if your own mother or father (or both) were the worst parents in the world. It doesn’t…

Georgia NeSmith

Retired professor, feminist, writer, photographer, activist, grandmother of 5, overall Wise Woman. Phd UIA School of Journalism & Mass Communication, 1994.