It hurts when your children grow up and don’t seem to need you anymore. You’ve gone from being their hero and the most important person in their lives to someone whom they rarely call or talk to. When you do try to ask them how they are or give them some advice, they back off in resentment or refuse to listen to you.
This scenario happens all too easily when your children enter adulthood if your relationship with them doesn’t evolve too. As long as you continue to treat your kids as kids and not as adults and equals, there will always be a chance for a distance to grow in your relationship with them.
Here are some of the most important areas in which most parents need to recalibrate their expectations and interactions in order for their relationships to grow with their children.
Money and Careers
Careers and work paths today are no longer as clearly mapped as they were a generation or 2 ago. Getting a degree or a tertiary qualification no longer guarantees a great job and what you study in college no longer determines what you’ll be doing in your career in 10 years time.
With this in mind, you need to be able to allow your kids to explore their interests, inclinations, strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. It takes about 5 to 10 years for most people to map out a career path. So hold back on making early judgements and from trying to steer your kids too aggressively down a specific career path. The reality is that the “truths” that shaped your career are probably no longer valid in the workplace today.
Avoid using money to control your kids. If they need financial support, help them, but try to avoid a “hand out” situation. It doesn’t help their self-esteem and it distorts the relationship which you are trying to build with them. Instead try to support them by opening up your home to them and by sharing in some other responsibilities if possible.
This is really hard. Every parent worries that their child will make a mistake and get hurt. Most parents will also feel that no-one could possibly be good enough for their child. However, you need to know that as your children grow up, they need to explore their feelings and that eventually, when they do get married, their relationship with their spouse will be private, special and separate from their relationship with you.
Respect their decisions. Be there to support them when things don’t work out. Try not to take sides when there are issues and always try to include their partners in any family events and get-togethers.
Privacy and Respect
When your kids are young, it is natural to expect that they should tell you everything and that you have the right to ask them anything. But as your children reach adulthood, there may be some areas in their lives which they don’t want to share with you. They may also feel that they want to have more time to be on their own or to spend with friends away from the family. Weekends will no longer automatically be “family days”. Respect their need to grow as individuals, but continue to let them know that you love them and include them in activities that they enjoy and that allow you as a family to relax together.