By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
GATLINBURG — Some people have the mistaken notion that parenting stops when a kid graduates from high school or college, says counselor Tony Rankin of Nashville.
Nothing could be further from the truth, he told a large gathering of women who attended his workshop, “Once a Parent, Always A Parent,” at the Tennessee Woman’s Missionary Union annual Missions Get-Together held last month in Gatlinburg.
“Getting ready to parent is not a short-term decision. Once you start it, you never stop doing it,” observed Rankin, who has three children, ages 29, 26, and 25. Though all three are legally adults, “I feel like I’m still parenting my children,” he said.
Rankin observed there are similarities to parenting the 3-month-old, the 6-year-old, teenager, college student, 30-year-old, 40-year-old, and the child who may be in his or her 50s or 60s.
“There are differences, but parenting is parenting,” he noted.
Rankin said there are common things that a child needs from his or her parent regardless of age. Among them, children need:
- To feel safe and secure. Whether children are 4 or 40 they want a sense of security from their parents, Rankin said. He noted his daughter is 25 years old but she still calls him asking for his opinion on occasion.
- Affection. Affection should continue throughout their lives, Rankin said. He noted that often it is harder for parents to show affection to their adult children. “If we depend on a physical touch from our parents when we’re older, we will be disappointed,” he said. Affection may have to come in the form of time spent with your parents, he observed.
- To be pursued. “For me, this is at the top of the list,” Rankin said. “The number one need of all children is to be pursued.” He noted that one of the “saddest things in today’s family” is adults between the ages of 30-65 whose parents are still alive but do not pursue them or seek to spend time with them. “Most of us want to be pursued by our parents but most of us are not,” he said. Rankin challenged the women to pursue their children regardless of age. For adult children, it may be meeting them for lunch during the day or having them over for dinner or just a cup of coffee one morning. He reminded the adult women that even if they are not pursued by their parents, they still need to love them and be thankful for what they have done for them while putting their focus on pursuing their children.
- To express themselves without fear. Children need to be able to express themselves without fear, Rankin said. Parents must help children of all ages feel “they can tell us something without being afraid to tell us.”
Other things children, regardless of age, need today, Rankin added, include the need to be valued and praised, emotionally healthy families, no pressure to perform, regular one-on-one time, and help in learning to deal with conflict.
Finally, Rankin said, children do not need to feel judged by their parents. Parents judge without even meaning to by comparison with other children, success, material things, and reminding them of past mistakes, he observed. “No one likes these things.
“If we can get to the place where our children can feel they are not judged, we will feel successful as parents,” Rankin predicted.