Parenting may possibly be one of the most challenging yet rewarding endeavours in life. While nurturing children through various stages of childhood and adolescence requires constant attention and active involvement, the dynamic of parenting dramatically shifts when it comes to adult children. Your children may no longer rely on you anymore for all aspects of their health and wellbeing, but that does not signify the end of your relationship with them. They still need your guidance, experience, and wisdom as they face the ups and downs of their relationships, careers, marriages, their own journey in parenthood, and so on. The key to developing and maintaining a healthy bond is to understand that your relationship must evolve as your children approach adulthood and take charge of their own lives.
Too often, old habits and patterns of behavior prevail and get in the way of cultivating meaningful relationships with adult children. Here are a few ways of connecting with your children as adults and strengthening your relationship with them.
- Treat them like adults. This may seem obvious, but it may be one of the hardest transitions to make. It’s natural for parents to remain overprotective and worry about their children’s wellbeing. But as they come into adulthood, they need the room to mature into their own identities and explore their own paths in life. It may be instinctive for you to try stop them from making mistakes or solve for their problems for them. But that only deprives them of the opportunities to learn and grow from their own experiences. Treating them like adults can also instill in them a sense of responsibility and maturity, and bolster their confidence as they step out into the world. Mutual respect ensures that both parties are accountable for their actions and have an equal share in the responsibility of maintaining the relationship.
- Respect boundaries. It is imperative to recognize that your children are independent adults with their own priorities. You may share a very close bond, but even the healthiest relationships flourish when boundaries are respected. Unannounced visits, multiple daily phone calls, violating their privacy or excessive offering of unsolicited advice are just a few actions that may create a rift between you and your adult children. Respecting boundaries becomes even more important when spouses and even their own children come into their lives. Honoring boundaries goes a long way towards demonstrating respect and goodwill. Remember, boundaries can go both ways – if you find that your adult children are taking you for granted or not demonstrating an appropriate level of responsibility, you can be firm in communicating and upholding your own boundaries.
- Avoid the guilt-trip. As your children dive into adulthood and get busy, it’s natural that you’ll start to see less of them compared to when they were living under your roof. You may feel like you must compete with their friends, significant others, careers or other priorities for their time and attention. But refrain from making them feel guilty for leaving you out or emotionally manipulating them. Over time, this can drive them further away and take a toll on your relationship. Manage your own expectations, create a loving environment for them and trust that they will reciprocate with their affection of their own accord.
- Be supportive. Parents often have certain expectations that their children will follow in their footsteps or live out a specific version of their lives that they had envisioned for them. However, your children’s life goals will not always align with yours and this can often lead to source of disagreement and anger in your relationship. Accept the fact that your children have the right to carve out their own story and make choices that you may not always agree with. Embracing their unique identities and respecting their decisions about their lifestyle, relationships, career moves, parenting styles and so on will help you create meaningful and healthy relationships with your children. Offer to share your wisdom and advice when solicited, but don’t dictate or feel offended if they ultimately make different choices. Remember that no matter how old your children get, they may still require emotional support and encouragement to boost their confidence as they achieve their own milestones or cope with setbacks.
- Communicate. Proper communication is the cornerstone of any good relationship. It’s normal to have conflict or disagreement with your children from time to time – often relationships come to a stalemate over a lack of open and honest communication. Remember that there is now a shift in the dynamic with your adult child – refrain from talking down to them or at them as though they are still young children, and you are the only person who knows what’s best. Try to understand their perspective, validate their feelings, and agree to disagree when at a crossroad. Having open channels of communication with your children will reassure them that they will always have a confidante in you in times of need.