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  • Lori K Walters

Who am I when my kids leave home? Questions of Identity when parenting young adults.

Updated: 6 days ago

Who am I when my kids leave home?

In my coaching practice with mothers, making shifts in one's way of parenting takes you into the deeply personal territory – your innermost hopes and fears, what’s important to you, character traits you think are just 'who you are', and beliefs.

This is an important element of my coaching: guiding parents down through the layers of their beliefs. Beliefs they may or may not be aware of. Beliefs inherited from their parents, adopted from social standards, or elsewhere. Beliefs that support them to be parenting in their integrity, and other beliefs that block them from being in relationships with their kids in their true nature and highest self.

If you want to become more flexible with your almost-adult kid, more assertive, more trusting, more receptive, more honest, and more tolerant, you will spend time exploring the marrow of what you hold and sorting through your underlying theories and convictions.

It wobbles your foundation, clears out your basement, and shifts your trajectory. It’s both scary and exciting, frustrating and satisfying, uncomfortable and freeing. It's where you make meaningful discoveries about yourself.

What is the role of a parent? That’s the big question you’ve faced from the moment you found out you were pregnant or decided to adopt.

If you’re like me, you've wondered if you’re a conduit for a divine spark bringing its light into the world, the continuance of your family line, or maybe just a mammal propagating your species. Are you the one who chose to be a parent or are you an instrument of the immense creative life force? Maybe you’re the parent chosen specifically for this child, or by this child, or maybe it’s a completely random match.

What I see in the parents I work with is a fresh look at these questions. Not just acknowledging the perspective they’ve been holding but also questioning whether it still fits at this stage in their lives. As their kids become more independent, they’re asking what their role is now. Am I a teacher or student or both? Do my words matter to them or my actions? Should I be leading or waiting on the sidelines?

What’s grabbing your attention as you read this? I invite you to not think about it too much, but rather, sense what’s sparking for you right here and right now. How does parenting weave into the picture of your life now? What does that feel like? Where does it live in you? Take it to your yoga mat, a friend or your journal. There are gems to be discovered here. ~

Many parents of young adults also come face-to-face with a question of identity.

We humans define ourselves in different ways - what we do, how we look, what we own, talents we possess, and what we achieve. Someone might say, "I’m a no-nonsense parent, I drive a hybrid, run twice a week, and expect my kids to carry their weight.” Others may see themselves as a creative, deep-feeling parent who gives their kids their freedom. And, like all humans, we naturally attach ourselves to those identities.

When my kids went into the school system, I had to relinquish my identity as a homeschooling mom. For a decade, when someone asked me what I did, that was my answer. And I liked it. I was proud of what I was doing. I liked being seen as a brave, non-conformist, groovy mama. I didn’t realize how fervently I clutched it until it was disappearing. It was so uncomfortable letting go of that label and feeling a question mark where it used to be.

Now you’re at the stage where you must release your identity as a parent of a high school student, a child who lives at home, a kid who borrows your car, a university student, or a young adult leasing their first apartment. Recognizing that that’s not who you are anymore is uncomfortable, or even downright painful. You can’t help but wonder, now that it’s all changing, who am I, if not the protector, consoler, manager, booster, provider or motivator?

I invite you to take this question in a little more deeply.

What are your parenting identities? Which ones do you cling to? What feels uncomfortable about relinquishing them? How else would you like to identify yourself? What feels truer or more comfortable about that? ~

Shifting something in your way of parenting also takes you into the question of what is deeply meaningful to you in the big picture of your precious life. It asks what sustains your spirit, now that you're at this juncture.

For some, it's up to fate or in the hands of God. Some trust that, if they follow certain teachings, then the meaning of life is already taken care of; others embrace the exploration of it all and are content to sit with the myriad possibilities.

Some of my clients come into greater contact with their source of spiritual sustenance, which they can rely on again and again on their parenting journey. They discover deeper layers of the way that they are held and guided by something within themselves - where they take their questions and work with the intricate edges of growth that parenting asks of them.

Your connection to your Source has strong influences on your way of parenting. Where do you get your spiritual fuel? What draws you toward it? How exactly do you tap into it? In what ways are you supported, sustained or guided by it?


Whether you feel oneness with Nature, have a relationship with God, connect to ancient spirits by candlelight, or sense your participation in the energy of Life, you will encounter some of these questions as you change your way of parenting: who am I, why am I here, what’s my role as a parent, what's meaningful to me now and where am I going at the end of this life?

May we hold the questions with self-compassion, curiosity and faith in the wise and loving nature of the universe. And may the answers that come to you guide you as you raise that bright little spark that landed in your arms so many years ago and release them into the love of the world.

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