As parents, we spend almost 20 years thinking of, and treating our children as dependents. Not only in the financial sense, but also in terms of maturity, development and capability. We see ourselves as the head of the household, the people our children turn to for advice and we are not used to being wrong or not having the best information and the greatest resources.

Life however is a cycle, and as we grow older, retire and become less active, our children grow in ability and strength to take on the same roles we had when we were younger. If we’ve done a good job as parents, our children should some day be as capable or even more capable than we once were. 

Training your children for this role and recognising the day when they have fulfilled their potential and when you need to step back are 2 very different things. Many parents try to extend the time of “training” well beyond the time when it should end, and this will often lead to immense conflict and friction between parents and their adult children. 

Whilst it is always hard to let go, here are some of the things which you can do to make the transition easier. 

Remember Your Children are also Coping with Their Own Issues

Remember that your children are at a life stage which is very busy. They must cope with a different world than the one you might have experienced when you were their age. The pace of life is fast and very demanding. Accept their situation, be understanding and supportive. Don’t be judgmental or put demands on their time and attention. Chances are they will enjoy being with you and come around often. 

Take Responsibility for Your Relationships

Families have long histories and sometimes it is difficult to change long-standing ways of communicating and behaving. It is often a challenge to change these patterns. It is worth trying. However, don’t expect the other person to change, begin with yourself. 

Set a Positive Example

Set a positive example for your children and grandchildren. This stage of life can be a time of enrichment, activity and enjoyment. Be healthy physically (exercise and eat well), emotionally (have a positive attitude), mentally (keep up with current events) and socially (be active in the community and with family activities). 

Know Your Contributions Mean Something

Know that your contributions to the family are helpful and valuable!

Help Someone Else

Help someone else; it can distract you from your own situation and may make you feel better by coming to someone’s assistance. 

Be Kind

Be nice to your family. Don’t scold and berate them. Treat them as you too would like to be treated. Learn new and compassionate ways to communicate with each other. 

Respect Your Children as Adults

Don’t tell your children what to do. Respect that they are adults and capable of managing. Let them make their own decisions and give advice only when asked. Don’t try to change the other person. Accept your children for who and what they are. 

Adapted from an article first published by the Tsao Foundation.