Amanda Gregory, LCPC, EMDR Practitioner

Do you sometimes feel that you need an active parent in your life even though you’re already an adult? The ability to take care of oneself as an adult, commonly called adulting, can be difficult to learn and even harder to achieve consistently. But it is required in order to live independently.

You can succeed at adulting by learning to act as your own parent. First, think of yourself as a child. If you were the parent of this child self, what would you do? Would you allow them to stay up till 2 a.m. or would you require an earlier, more sensible bedtime? Would you allow them to avoid chores or would you insist that their chores get done before they get to relax and have fun?

Here are a few ways you can act as your own parent:

Establish Rules. What rules would you set for a child living in your home? Take those rules and adjust them so they are age-appropriate and then establish those rules for yourself. For example: 1) Lights out and in bed by midnight. 2) In the house by 11 p.m. on work nights. 3) Chores and errands done before you can watch TV. Of course, your rules should focus on your specific needs. If you struggle in certain areas of adulting, you’ll want to tailor your rules to address these areas.

Earn Rewards. Are there adulting tasks that you’re avoiding but need to do in order to take care of yourself? Develop a system that will motivate you by giving yourself rewards for tasks that you complete. You can identify immediate or long-term rewards that will truly motivate you. Let’s say you’ve been putting off getting a checkup. You could decide that if you go to the doctor, you can go out with a friend that night. If you are trying to be more consistent with cleaning, you could set the expectation that you will clean one day a week for a month. When you meet this expectation, you can earn a larger incentive, such as buying something you’ve wanted for a while.

Schedule Playtime. Leisure time is required for a healthy lifestyle. Parents encourage their children to engage in play, as this helps children to de-stress. Make sure you are scheduling leisure time for yourself, too. Your playtime activities could include watching sports, going to events, spending time with friends, or engaging in a hobby, to name a few. Scheduling this fun time will help you to maintain a healthy work–life balance.

Ease Up. Go easy on yourself when you fail to meet your goals or when you make mistakes. Children are less likely to make consistent changes when they are demeaned or harshly punished. That’s true of adults, too. When you disappoint yourself, acknowledge your emotional experience and then focus on what you wish to change in the future. Putting yourself down or harping on your mistakes may not help you to change your actions in the future.

Express Love to Yourself. As children, we learn that we are worthy from adults, usually our parents. When you’re acting as your own parent, it’s important that you recognize your own value and express love for yourself. Try to identify specific actions of self-love that speak to you. A few examples of self-love are welcoming positive people into our lives, keeping firm boundaries with negative people, treating ourselves to experiences that we enjoy, and giving ourselves praise and encouragement.

Do you need help adulting or learning how to take responsibility and be a parent for yourself? If so, you might benefit from working with a counselor. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to schedule an appointment.