Relating to adult children — 07 November 2010
How to best relate to your adult children

Some say that parenting is a lifelong mission. If so, the role definition of parenting adult children is not a well-defined task as is parenting young children to adulthood.

The goal of parenting is to enable children to develop the necessary skills and emotional fortitude to become independent and self-sufficient adults. From adolescence on, youngsters yearn for freedom from parental supervision and control. Yet, both generations continue to have ongoing unverbalized expectations of each other after the youngsters leave home and forge their new life-course.

Since some parents have their own vision of the best course for their children, they often continue to guide, direct and advise their adult offspring in every important juncture in their lives. Parents may point out the uncertainties and risks in their adult children’s career choice, mate selection, housing option and major purchases or give unsolicited advice on daily living alternatives. Many young adults resist this input as it is viewed to be intrusive upon their autonomy. The guidance vs. independence tug may plague some loving parents and adult children for many years.

How can good parents refrain from intruding upon their children’s autonomy, even when they foresee their young adults heading in a ‘least likely to succeed’ direction?

American Journalist, Ellen Goodman, explained the parental challenge this way, “The central struggle of parenthood is to let our hopes for our children outweigh our fears.”

Shauna Smith, in “Making Peace with Your Adult Children,” took another approach, “In assessing your relationship with your adult children, one of the things to remember is that although a bond will always exist between you, you are not obligated to them for life.”

W. Somerset Maugham, clarified, “A mother only does her children harm if she makes them the only concern of her life.”

Whether parents of adult children need to conquer their fears, relieve themselves from a lifetime obligation or create appropriate emotional boundaries, it is clear that they need to develop certain new tools in order to have a healthy, mutually respectful relationship with their offspring.

To be of help to your adult children,

• Respect your children as mature adults.
• Always ask them with curiosity, not judgment, to tell you more about their choices. Inquire about the thoughts, feelings and considerations they exercised during their decision process.
• Affirm their enthusiasm, logic, wishes, or any part of their reasoning.
• State your support for their option and carefully mention your personal reaction. “I see that moving away is a good choice for you personally and professionally. Your enthusiasm is evident. I feel sad about not being able to see you as often.”
• Remember that pointing out their impending mistakes will most likely not change their choices, only distance them from you.
• Know that children seek their parents’ approval and love for life. The more you provide it, the more likely they are to make better choices and become healthier and happier adults.

Related Articles

About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

(0) Readers Comments

Comments are closed.