From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Your adult children: coming together for the holidays
gratifying moment in the life of a parent when adult children return home for
the holidays and other visits. Once the “kids” have moved out, parent –child
relationships go through a series of changes with each separation and reunion.
Initially, we may stand ready to welcome them back by preserving each element of
their bedrooms. Eventually, when they really move away and establish their own
lives, parents and adult children graduate to a new level in their relationship.
Then, some time between when we’re changing our children’s diapers and they’re
changing ours, comes the opportunity 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, at
which point they are supposed to
apply every bit of knowledge and wisdom that we have taught them, and
demonstrate their ability to “stand on their own.”
Sometimes, it’s hard to tell which generation has the harder time
letting go. Before they move up and out, be sure to tell them that you love
them, that you have confidence in them, and tell them out loud (or on paper)
about some of their strengths and abilities. Do not mention any of their
shortcomings during this conversation; focus on the positive.
- Closeness with your adult children has nothing to
do with location. Telephones, fax machines, cell phones, videophone
programs like Skype, and the Internet have done wonders to bridge physical
distances. There are few if any technical barriers to communication.
Closeness now becomes 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, perhaps because they never felt respected by their
parents. But we can do better and our relationships can improve. I recommend
treating your offspring as you would your very best friend because it is
possible to be best friends forever. Rather than justify disrespectful
behavior and guilt trips, we can decide to “catch ourselves” being rude and
start treating the members of our own families better!
- Be careful about judging friends and 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. Avoid getting into a tug-of-war for your child’s affection for
surely you will lose. Trust their choices in love and friendship whenever
possible. Encourage your children to use their problem solving skills and
encourage them to seek counseling or family life education classes to learn
additional interpersonal skills. Demonstrate the importance of family and if
necessary, get professional help to work through relationship problems.
- Beware of judging your child’s parenting skills. If you are lucky enough to be a grandparent, be careful about judging
your child’s pparenting skills. 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; fight any urge to criticize or make uninvited suggestions. Remember
that all young parents need praise and support. Be available to help answer
their questions if asked, but avoid presenting yourself as an expert.
Approaches to pregnancy, parenting and child-rearing are constantly
evolving. Don’t be threatened by changing trends but rather, learn about new
approaches and allow your children to share current day thinking and cutting
edge baby technology.
In short, the quality of your relationship with your grown
up children will likely depend upon your openness to their thoughts and ideas.
Most grown children want their parents’ respect and want their parents to be
open-minded. If they don’t feel safe communicating their true thoughts with you,
they won’t! Each year, Thanksgiving and
all the holidays which follow offer an annual opportunity to rekindle and
intensify parent-child relationships. A great deal of pleasure can be found in
getting to know your children as grown-up people.
There is always much to be thankful for.
©Copyright, 2009, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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