How do you go from being a parent to a mentor with your adult children?

August 20, 2012 under Syllabus 2012-2013


As our children get older, our interaction with them changes. No longer can our values and ideas be imprinted on them by virtue of being the parent. As children age, they bring their own mindsets to the family relationship, life in general and beyond. This can be especially difficult if their values, ideas and mores tend be different, sometimes substantially different than yours. It may something as simple as moving out and leaving the area or as significant as having members of the opposite sex other moving in with the now adult child, to variation in life styles.


Typically, as a child moves into adulthood, their ideas and ways of doing things can and usually are substantially different than yours. As our children age, like we age, they change, like we change. It seems that a parent often moves more from the guiding hand on the shoulder to the dispenser of wisdom and information as to how the world really works. All too often, in trying to understand the adult child’s mentality and life, there can be alienation between the parent and the offspring. It is almost as if there is resentment for bringing up your values.

The challenge is how to still be a parent, with all of our values, and still be a mentor, parent and sometimes even a friend to your child when their values are different, sometimes dramatically different than yours. As parents, we have developed our value system over a period of time, and our now grown children, especially those out of college are starting to develop theirs.

There is an old joke about a young man talking about his father and remarking to a friend that when he was in high school, he thought his father might have been dumber than a box of rocks, but when the young man graduated from college, he was amazed at how much his father had learned. There may be a lot of truth in that old “saw”. From the sometimes rebellious years of high school, to the realization that a child has a vast amount of unlearned information, this seems like a good time to focus on what your values are. The most important thing is to let your adult child know that you are there for them and although you may disagree with some of the things they do, you are always the parent.

Bible Readings

1. Tobit 4: 5-6

Through all the days my son, keep the LORD in mind, and suppress every desire to sin or to break his commandments. Perform good works all the days of your life, and do not tread the paths of wrong doing. For if you are steadfast in your service, your good works will bring success, not only to you, but also to those who live uprightly.

2. Exodus 20: 12

Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land the LORD your God is giving you

3. Colossians 3: 20-21

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord.p Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged.q

4. Ephesians 6: 1- 4

Children, obey your parents [in the Lord], for this is right.a “Honor your father and mother.”b This is the first commandment with a promise, “that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on earth.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up with the training and instruction of the Lord.c

Catechism Readings

1. Paragraph 2199

The fourth commandment is addressed expressly to children in their relationship to their father and mother, because this relationship is the most universal. It likewise concerns the ties of kinship between members of the extended family. It requires honor, affection, and gratitude toward elders and ancestors. Finally, it extends to the duties of pupils to teachers, employees to employers, subordinates to leaders, citizens to their country, and to those who administer or govern it.

This commandment includes and presupposes the duties of parents, instructors, teachers, leaders, magistrates, those who govern, all who exercise authority over others or over a community of persons.

2. Paragraph 2200

Observing the fourth commandment brings its reward: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the LORD your God gives you.”8 Respecting this commandment provides, along with spiritual fruits, temporal fruits of peace and prosperity. Conversely, failure to observe it brings great harm to communities and to individuals. (2304)

3. Paragraph 2208

The family should live in such a way that its members learn to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped, and the poor. There are many families who are at times incapable of providing this help. It devolves then on other persons, other families, and, in a subsidiary way, society to provide for their needs: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”12

Small Group Questions

  1. Do you think that your father valued your opinion as you became older?
  2. Do you model the type of behavior that you would like your children to have as they become older
  3. Do you have any family members that mentored you as you aged
  4. If your father is alive, how is your relation with him?
  5. Could you talk to your father when you were young? How about now?
  6. What do you wish you knew when you were younger that you know now? Can you give your children that information?

Recommended Resources

  1. Live and Learn and Pass It On, H. Jackson Brown, People share what they have discovered about life, love and the world
  2. Life’s Little Instruction Book, H. Jackson Brown, 500+ suggestions, observations and reminders on how to live a happy and rewarding life.


  1. This week would be a good time to start to talk to your child about life and responsibilities


Jack Gauche & Bob Considine

Included Resources

Perhaps to be used as a lead in to group sharing exercise

Cat’s in the Cradle by Harry Chapin (1942-1981), 1974 Album Verities and Balderdash

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say “I’m gonna be like you dad
You know I’m gonna be like you”
And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home dad?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then
My son turned ten just the other day
He said, “Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let’s play
Can you teach me to throw”, I said “Not today
I got a lot to do”, he said, “That’s ok”
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said, “I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m gonna be like him”
And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home son?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then
Well, he came home from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
“Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while?”
He shook his head and said with a smile
“What I’d really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please?”
And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home son?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then
I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind”
He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job’s a hassle and kids have the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you”
And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me
And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home son?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then

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