Family ties are important, especially in a day and age when many families are separated by distance and circumstance. When our children are grown and on their own and have their own families, it becomes challenging at times to maintain a solid relationship with them. According to Psychology Today, your task as a parent changes. The way you fit into their lives is much different from when they were younger. You now fit more into your adult child’s life by understanding what they believe is important and by respecting them for it.
Not all parent-child relationships are rosy, in fact some are very strained and painful. Your children may have become alienated from you over time. You may desire to reestablish a bond that has been long since broken and may not know how to go about it. We cannot live our lives for our children and understandably it does hurt if they have chosen paths that has caused them pain and sadness. Poor decisions about job choices, where to live, bad relationships and financial issues can find your child in desperate situations from time to time. Life is based on choices and choices bring consequences. These can be hard lessons for them to learn. Yet, even in these situations they need to be independent (both physically and emotionally). You can learn that they need to make their own mistakes and need to have their own voice and be respected and loved as a individual regardless of the difficulties. Here are three things you can do to help you better learn from your adult child.
1) Communicate with your adult children
Talking with your adult children is essential. It’s not always the quantity of conversation as it is the quality. Listening is a large part of communication, so learn to listen with an open mind and a non-judgmental attitude. In an article by Silver Planet, a website for boomers and their aging parents, the parent of the adult child is advised to have an “available shoulder”, adding, “They may not want your advice, just an ear.” This is so true. We communicate so much differently with our children once they are grown. They no longer need the “drink-all-your-milk-and-eat-your-vegetables” lectures. Learn to converse with them as you would with any other adult, for after all, that is what they are.
Make it a point not to argue with your adult child. Arguing only alienates and does little if nothing to resolve differences. Express your love to them and support their efforts even if you do not agree. Don’t criticize them as this will break their spirit and discourage them. Let them tell you what is important to them. Accept that your adult child has his own opinions and is entitled to them. Trust that life’s lessons have taught them to think and respect them for how they think. Share thoughts and feelings. If there have been rifts in the past, try to talk openly about these things.
2) Spend time with your adult children
Time is precioius and spending time with your adult child is important. As much as possible, let this be dedicated, uninterrupted time. According to Communication and Conflict, interruptions take many forms. In our high technological age, Now we have to compete with cell phones, video games, and a host of other distractions that may interfere with the time we want to spend with our adult child.
Learn to enjoy the moment. You don’t have to wait for special occasions like holidays to do this. Even days when your son just stops by to help you move some furniture or plant a rose bush for you can prove to be meaningful and memorable moments. These are times when topics can be discussed and feelings explored. Plan a trip with them if possible. That will also give you another opportunity to spend time together. It is not a time to pry into their affairs, but just to enjoy each others’ company.
3) Relinquish your control
Often the most difficult things to do as a parent is to learn to let them live their own lives. You adult children now have families of their own, jobs, and their own circle of friends. You have to respect that and let them live their lives their way. Don’t intrude into their privacy and feel you have to micromanage their affairs. Many parents feel that as they get older or feel their child will ignore them and no longer need them. In many respects, it’s true; they no longer need you for many things. Your place in their life is different but not unnecessary. Learn to be patient and let them come to you for advice and counsel. If you leave yourself open to receive them, they will know it and they will come in search of your wisdom and loving support. However, if you continue to try to control their lives and express your dissatisfaction for everything they do, you will push them away from you and build impenetrable barriers.
Remember, no matter how old you are you never stop being a parent. You adult children will always be your children. Don’t let life slip by without capturing the special moments that come when they are spent with your adult child . Let it be a learning experience for you. Take time while there is time to hear their voice, enjoy their laughter, look in their faces and enjoy what you see there. See how they are changing as they mature. This is a time for learning from them and sharing with them, so learn to appreciate them for who they have grown up to be.
Silver Planet: “Parenting questions for those with adult children”
Child and Youth Health: “Living with adult children”
Psychology Today: “Parenting after the adolescent becomes adult”