From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Where have all the children gone?
Some of the most gratifying moments in the life of a parent
occur when adult children come home for visits. Once the kids have moved out,
parent –child relationships go through a series of changes with each separation
and reunion. Initially, we stand ready to welcome them back by preserving each
element of their bedrooms. Eventually, they really move away and establish their
own lives, at which point, parents and adult children graduate to a new level in
their relationship. Then, some time between when we’re changing their diapers
and they’re changing ours, comes the time for adult friendship between parents
and their grown children. Here are a few more thoughts on the matter.
- Parenting is a process of preparing our children for
independence. During the teenage years and early years of adulthood,
children face the developmental task of separating from their parents and
demonstrating an ability to “stand on their own.” Sometimes, it’s hard to
tell which generation has the harder time letting go. What’s clear is that our
kids need to know that we believe in their ability to succeed.
- Closeness with your adult children has nothing to do
with location. Fax machines, cell phones, traditional “land
telephone lines”, and the internet have done a lot to bridge physical
distances. The physical ability to communicate is no longer a problem. Rather,
closeness is a function of whether the parent and adult child “like” each
other enough to want to share their lives. Adult children living in the same
town as their parents sometimes see each other less than those who live at a
- Respect is the key to lifelong friendship. One
remnant that most of us carry from childhood is the deep need for respect and
approval from our parents. But some parents find it hard to respect their own
children, and consequently have a hard time allowing their relationship to
evolve. For this reason, I recommend treating your offspring as you would your
best friend. All too often, we are more polite to strangers than we are to our
own family members. We also “lay fewer guilt trips” on those who are not
related to us.
- Be careful about judging each other’s partners.
If your goal is to make the leap from being a critical parent to
being an adult friend with your child, be careful about commenting on their
love life. Love is always wrapped in layers of loyalty; try not to get
involved in a tug-of-war, especially one where you might lose.
Even though you have been a role
model for relationships all of your child’s life, there is danger anytime you
interfere with cupid’s arrow. In most cases, our children desperately want us to
like their friends. On the other hand, if you are asked for a serious opinion
about a prospective mate, don’t hesitate to name any behaviors which concern
- Beware of judging your child’s parenting skills.
If you are lucky enough to be a grandparent, be careful about judging
how your child parents. For years, they learned about parenting from you, and
now it is their turn to be in charge of raising a child. Notice and complement
their strengths as parents, instead of criticizing or making uninvited
suggestions. Remember that all young parents need praise and support. Be
available to answer questions when asked, but avoid presenting yourself as an
expert. Approaches to pregnancy and child-rearing are constantly evolving.
Don’t be threatened by changing trends between generations, but rather, learn
about new approaches and allow your child to teach you what they know.
In short, the quality of your relationship with your grown
up child will likely depend on your openness to their thoughts and ideas. Most
grown children want their parents’ openness, respect and approval. If they don’t
feel safe communicating their true thoughts with you, they won’t! The month of
December offers families an annual opportunity to rekindle and intensify
parent-child relationships. A wise woman once told me, “I learn a whole lot more
by listening than by talking”. A great deal of pleasure can be found in getting
to know your children as they grow.
©Copyright, 2003, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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