From Dr. Jane's Notebook

"When did my children get to be grownups?"

            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 their 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 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 distance.

·        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 you.

·        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 their children. 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! A very wise woman once told me, “you 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, 2008, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.            

Return to Family Relations

Return to Table of Contents