Becoming friends with your adult children

When your beloved children become adults, you do not relinquish the desire to nurture them.  However, it might be necessary to establish new methods of interacting with your adult children, in recognition of their maturity and independence.

Since your adult offspring are no longer children, you can love them, support them, befriend them, comfort them, and celebrate their achievements, but you no longer can  “parent” them. Once your children grow up and take on responsibility for their own lives, it is time to step down from the role of teacher/mentor and embrace an adult-level relationship based on mutual respect.

Individuals who continue to “parent” their adult offspring often run into roadblocks described as interfering, controlling and overbearing. No one wants to be thought of in those terms.

You can avoid such parenting pitfalls with the following suggestions:

Listen

When your adult children need to talk, be an enthusiastic listener. Avoid negative opinions or judgments and assume the role of a neutral sounding board.

Do not offer advice

Even when advice is solicited, make suggestions gently and take no offense if your ideas are ignored. Sometimes when adult children ask for advice, they are actually looking for someone to hear what they have to say.

Sympathize

When your adult children have problems, be sympathetic, but squelch the urge to share what you did in the same situation. Recognize this is a different time and things might not be the same for your children as they were for you.

Do not reprimand

If you want to keep lines of communication open with your adult children, do not scold them for not calling, writing or visiting. If you desire contact, make the call, write the letter, arrange a visit. Never visit unannounced – you wouldn’t do that to your friends.

Compliment them

Acknowledge your adult children’s achievements. Give sincere praise. Approval from us is still as important as when they were young.

Embrace your adult children’s choices in relationships

Nothing will drive a wedge between parent and child more than disapproving of the child’s choice of a mate. Resolve to welcome your child’s new mate into the family with open arms and an open mind.

Allow your adult children to experience parenthood in their own way

Love your grandchildren, but respect boundaries and refrain from attempting to “parent” them. You enjoyed raising your children, now you must let go and allow your adult children to bring up their offspring in their own unique style.

Have a social life of our own

Your adult children enjoy seeing you happy and fulfilled. They feel guilty otherwise, which creates unhappiness for everyone.

You brought your children up to be productive, independent and mature adults. You cannot be disappointed at your own success. Celebrate their independence and maturity.  Sometimes you might be lonely for your adult children as they go about their busy lives, but if you follow the above guidelines for preserving a healthy relationship with them, your adult children will always come back, and when they do, you can happily seize the moments and cherish the times.

A loving family is the greatest blessing. You have it in your power to have this blessing if you are able to “let go” of the need to be in control and embrace a new role of loving friendship with your adult children.