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Tuesday, December 10, 2019
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Maintaining a Good Relationship with your Grown Child


 

For many of us, our children are grown and gone.  They’ve left our nest and are building their own and filling it with their own little fledglings.


This is a time when we can grow our relationships with our grown children. The dynamic will change, but if we embrace the change, we will discover that our relationships can become richer as they mature and we age. Following are a few tips for maintaining good relationships with your adult children.

 
Remember…your children will someday be where you are today.

Our children have difficulty imagining us as young. That’s why they sometimes roll their eyes when we begin sharing stories of our childhoods…you know, those stories about walking to school in the snow, up- hill both ways…barefoot. 

Yes, the world is different. Our parents could not have imagined the changes which have occurred during the Baby Boomer’s lifetime. And life has been a different experience for our children than it was for us. But, it’s important to remember that they will someday be where we are today. And their kids’ lives will be unimaginable to them.

 Be patient with your grown children when they are impatient with you. And don’t hesitate to gently remind them that they are inexorably traveling the same road you have traveled….just with different scenery along the way. The mutual understanding that aging is inevitable (if we’re lucky) gives you and your grown children something in common…a touch point for understanding and communication. Kids, even grown kids balk at our advice. But, reminding them that they can’t escape getting old may give them a reason to listen a little more closely to what you have to say.

 
Choose Your Battles

This is so very important. Your grown children have no doubt made some decisions you would not have made. You may have discussed them, argued about them, even become angry with each other about them. But, there comes a time when the battle becomes bigger than the relationship. And that’s when you risk alienation from your child. 

Some things are worth fighting for. But, for the most part, if there’s no blood on the floor, you’re better off keeping your mouth shut. Most things are not worth a fight…especially since constant arguing will make your child hesitant to come to you for advice when he or she really needs it. 

And, oh, by the way…bite your tongue before saying, “I told you so.” There will be times when your grown child will come to you and say, “I wish I had taken your advice.” (Yes! Really!!) Those moments are so sweet. But don’t get snarky about it. Just express your joy that your child has come to a place of peace in the situation and be supportive. Then when you’re alone you can pat yourself on the back.

 
 
 
Learn to be Forgiving

When you hold a grudge, two people are held hostage…you and the person you won’t forgive. 

Forgiveness is sometimes very difficult. But, it comes easier with practice. If you’re not sure how to forgive your grown child from some imagined or real transgression, think of it as letting go. Imagine that you are carrying a big heavy stone around and holding it up between you and your child whenever you’re together. You’ve got to throw it aside if you want to maintain a positive relationship with him or her. 

So, practice forgiveness by saying, “I forgive you” and then not bringing the matter up again.

 
Don’t discuss one Child’s Problem with Another Child

When your child comes to you with a problem, he or she is assuming your confidence. Breaking that confidence will damage your child’s trust in you, and he or she will be hesitant to come to you again. In addition, it is unfair to the second child to ask him or her to keep the first child’s problem secret. It is a burden which was not sought. Each of your kids has his own problems. If one child wants to share or ask the advice of another child, let that be between them.

Alternately, if one child IS the problem, don’t go to the other child with your frustration. It’s not his job to carry your burdens regarding another child. If it’s just too much to bear alone, talk to someone who you know will keep the situation in confidence, such as a counselor or trusted pastor.

 
Don’t Alienate your Adult Child for Life

It’s sad, but many parents of adult children are estranged from them…usually because of a single argument, a word said in anger or an inability to grow the relationship. All the things we’ve discussed…choosing your arguments, keeping information in confidence and forgiveness…are possible tipping points for your relationship with your grown child. None of us wants to alienate our children. The Bible says, “Provoke not your children to wrath.” That’s doubly true when they’re grown.

Do not reject a child because of some single lifestyle choosing you do not like.
This one is very tough because it not only involves your relationship between you and your child, it involves your relationship with you and your community. When your child makes a lifestyle decision of which you do not approve, such as living with a boyfriend or girlfriend outside of marriage, you’ve got to face your friends, other family and perhaps even your church family with that reality. Will they think you’ve failed as a parent?   Have you failed as a parent? 

It’s good to be reminded that when our children reach the age of accountability…or turn 18 in our society…they are responsible for their own decisions. There’s nothing wrong with communicating our disappointment with what we consider an inappropriate decision…once. But, beyond that, it’s their decision. If friends or church family ask about the situation, simply say that you love your child no matter what, you’re praying for him or her and you hope your friends will pray for him or her too. As for the rest of the community, trust us…they all have their own problems. So ignore your noisy ego.

Again, the Bible is illustrative of how to handle this situation. How many times did God use the most unlikely of individuals to do his work here on earth? He didn’t choose perfect people to achieve His perfect ends. We don’t know what He has planned for our children. And, oh, by the way, who of us hasn’t, in deed or thought, given Him reason to shake His head in amazement and chagrin at our decisions.

Keep the conversation with adult children going. Whether your child lives nearby or on the other side of the world, it’s important to communicate regularly with him or her. As you age, your needs in regards to him or her will change. Decisions your adult children may need to make regarding your care and health will be easier if the two of you have kept a running dialogue throughout the years. Alternately, your child will be more likely to seek out the benefits of your wisdom if you are talking regularly.

If your child lives nearby, schedule regular meeting times such as a weekly or monthly lunch date. If your child lives too far away to meet regularly, take advantage of e-mail, facebook and other media to stay in touch. Or create a tradition by scheduling a weekly telephone call at a time when your child is not tightly scheduled…such as every Sunday afternoon.

Whatever you do, don’t limit your visits with your children to holidays. Holidays are not only full of stressful time and energy restraints, they are fraught with emotion and memories…not a good time to have a heart to heart talk. 

Don't argue with adult child's perception of you.
Your child has his own image of you…created over a lifetime of good days and bad, happy times and sad times and the mistakes we all inevitably make as parents. There is very little we as parents of adult children can do to change that image. (One exception to this rule is if you know you have seriously hurt your child in some significant way in the past...such as the pain caused by an alcoholic parent. In that case, acknowledge the hurt and ask for forgiveness.)  You know who you are. Your child’s take on you does not define you. 

 
In Conclusion
“Actions speak louder than words”. " Patience is a virtue" . "Choose your battles".  "Forgive and forget".

All the old wisdom applies when it comes to our relationships with our adult children. Someday they’ll understand that as well as we do. The frustrating truth is that they  have to travel the same bumpy road we’ve traveled before they reach the same understanding we have.

But, no matter what our relationships with our children, there are two things you can always do for them. Tell them you love them whenever you can and pray for them daily. These are the most powerful tools any parent has.