From Dr. Jane's Notebook

Get mentally and emotionally prepared for holiday visits


One of the most gratifying moments in the life of a parent occurs when adult children return home for the holidays. Once the “kids” have moved out, parent-child relationships go through a series of changes every time we separate and reunite. Initially, we may stand ready to welcome them back by preserving their bedrooms and all of their possessions. Eventually, we realize that they have a life of their own. Then at some point between when we’re changing their diapers and they’re changing ours, comes the opportunity for adult friendship. Here are a few more thoughts on the matter.

·         Parenting is a process of preparing children for independence. During the years of early adulthood, children face the developmental task of separating from their parents. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell which generation has the harder time letting go. At a time when we’re asking our grown-up children to stand on their own, it is ever so tempting to measure them against the yardstick of our expectations. Sometimes they simply need to know that we have confidence in them.

·         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. Nowadays, there are few if any technical barriers to communication. Closeness is really a function of whether the parent and adult child “like” each other enough to want to share their lives. Living physically close to your adult child is no guarantee that you will be emotionally close.     

·         Respect is the key to lifelong friendship. One remnant from childhood that many of us carry is the deep need for respect and approval from our parents. Those who never felt respected by their own parents may find it difficult to show respect to their own children, but this is a legacy we can change. I recommend treating your offspring as you would your very best friend(s) because they can and should be your best friends forever.

·         Avoid judging friends and partners.  If your goal is to make the leap from being a critical parent to being friends with your adult 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 because you will surely lose. Trust their choices in love and friendship whenever possible. Encourage your children to use their problem solving skills and seek counseling or family life education classes to hone their interpersonal skills.  

·         Avoid judging your child’s parenting skills. If you are lucky enough to be a grandparent, be careful about judging your child’s parenting 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. Allow your children to teach you about current approaches to baby technology and parenting.

Thanksgiving and the winter holiday season offers many opportunities to strengthen family relationships. This year, make a conscious effort to approach family reunions with an open mind and a generous heart. After all, Thanksgiving is a time to recognize and express gratitude and fortunately, there is always much to be thankful for.

©Copyright, 2011, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.            

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