R.E.S.P.E.C.T goes a long way towards strengthening bonds between parents and adult children. Recognizing and accepting that your child is indeed an adult doesn’t always happen overnight and sometimes can take a little longer than it probably should. The point is to get there.
As a loving parent, you will always see the small child behind the adult face and grownup mannerisms. However, it is important to get to know your children as the adults they have become, to embrace them as self-reliant individuals, and to treat them with the same level of respect you would give to any other adult.
Sharing Quality Time
With a young child, it is fairly easy to orchestrate fun-filled moments. There are trips to the park, beach, zoo, or museum. There are card games, board games, and video games. There are backyard barbeques and sporting events. Laughter is shared at the dinner table and even while doing chores around the house.
It is possible to keep sharing many good times with a grown family and to continue enjoying each other’s company. Letting adult children take the lead can help. Show interest in what interests your adult children. Don’t force yourself into their private lives, but let them know you would like to hear about the things they enjoy and that you would love to be included in an activity here and there… if invited. Continue to schedule family dinners, card games, movie nights, day trips, vacations, etc. Just remember to be flexible and understanding if your adult child declines an invitation.
Offering Parental Advice
Knowing when, or if, to offer advice to an adult child may be one of the most puzzling mysteries for parents to unravel. As difficult as it may be, it is probably best to refrain from offering unsolicited advice … even when it appears your adult child may be making a poor or foolish decision. Unless, of course, some kind of danger is involved.
Remember, people often learn their greatest lessons from making mistakes. You have made your share of wrong decisions, and so will your children. Wait for your adult child to ask for your advice, then provide it graciously… with the understanding that he or she may not take it.
When you welcomed your children into the world, you felt a strength of love and sense of responsibility you had probably never experienced before becoming a parent. Undoubtedly, the depth of that commitment continued to swell as you watched your children grow.
The fact that a child reaches adulthood does not diminish what it feels like to be the child’s parent. But, the relationship between parent and adult child does need to evolve into a different kind of loving bond.
It isn’t always easy for parents to step back and view grown children as independent beings who are living independent lives. As a parent, it can be hard to let go of the role of nurturer, advisor, and protector.
Understanding the subtleties of the evolved relationship of parent and adult child can be quite a challenge for many parents. How involved should we be in our adult child’s life? Should we offer advice or refrain from giving our opinions? When should we take a stand? When should we back off?
Every parent/adult child relationship is unique, and there are no steadfast rules to follow that will help you establish the “perfect” relationship with your adult children. Like everything else in life, it can be a "hit and miss" process. But the love and respect you have for your children will help guide you.
Adjusting to New Family Dynamics
Try to be accommodating as your family expands and the dynamics within it change. When adult children marry and/or have children, their priorities shift. You may not see your adult children or your grandchildren quite as often as you might like, but they have commitments and a life beyond their relationships with you. It does not mean they care any less about you.
Your adult children must make time for their new immediate family, just as you did when your children were young. Try to be supportive. When it comes to holidays or visits with you, let your adult children decide what works best for them. Make the most of the time you do spend with them. It will help ensure that these special occasions are more enjoyable, memorable, gratifying, and hassle-free for everyone.
Welcoming Spouses and Significant Others
Many parents have dreams and expectations about their children finding love and living happily ever after the “right” person. Such a story book tale does not always unfold exactly as a parent might hope it will.
The truth is… parents might not be pleased with the people their children choose to love, marry, or partner with for life. But, the choice of who he or she loves is the adult child’s decision to make. In some instances, voicing parental disapproval may drive your child away from you.
Unless there is evidence of an abusive or damaging relationship, try to embrace the recipient of your child’s love and devotion. Do your best to see the person through your child’s eyes. Welcome the person into your family. If not with fully open arms... at least with a smile.