Staying relevant in your adult children’s lives
Our relationships with our family members are the greatest predictors of our personal happiness. As these relationships change, so do our happiness levels. Research shows that once our kids move out of home, we get happier – and so do they. But we still need to get the balance right.
What do our kids want once they’re young adults? And how can we give it to them in ways that strengthen our changing relationship with them, rather than increasing the distance and stifling their autonomy and independence?
What our adult kids want
They want to talk to you. They want to share with you. They want you to be interested in them. But they want it in limited, gentle ways and without pressure.
While it’s tempting to give solutions to their challenges, our adult kids really just want to be heard and understood. They want empathy and understanding. They’re adults! They can figure things out for themselves. They want to feel your empathy.
Unexpected financial support
If your kids are just starting out or are still students, nothing will put a bigger grin on their face than an unexpected fridge full of food or a stocked pantry. It shows that you understand and you can still support them, but only occasionally because you still respect their independence and the fact they’re trying to do it for themselves.
Offers for babysitting
Once the grandkids arrive, most parents will be thrilled with the prospect of a date night once a month or a weekend away a couple of times a year. It’s a sacrifice but it will strengthen your relationship with your kids and your grandkids.
Friendship and mutual appreciation
With adulthood comes a new relationship structure. Along with connection comes a different form of respect and appreciation. Showing your kids you see them as adults and respect their progress will keep you relevant and connected.
Clear limits and boundaries
Kids need to be clear on what you stand for – even when they’re adults. While fighting over values is unhelpful, being clear about what you think matters is important and draws lines in the sand where needed. Whether it’s about something serious like alcohol or drugs, or something as simple as your expectations when you babysit their kids, your children will respect you when you have boundaries and stick to them, even when they don’t agree with them.
What our adult kids don’t want
Being told what to do
We know it in theory but in practice it can be nearly impossible to do. They’re adults. They like to be understood. They may even gladly take ‘ideas’ or ‘guidance’. But directives are usually unwanted.
No child likes to feel judged. It creates fear about feeling worthy, builds stress and anxiety and damages relationships. It’s no different whether they’re two or 32. Judgement is unwanted.
To feel obligated or indebted
It’s great to help, but when it comes with strings or expectations attached it’s actually worse than no help at all. Only help if you don’t want anything in return.
Hovering and prying
While our adult kids want mutual friendship and respect, they don’t want us involved in every detail of their lives. Prying, asking personal questions or dropping in unexpectedly and regularly (particularly at inconvenient times) harms rather than helps the relationship.
Too much information
They might be adults but our adult kids still don’t want to know all the details. Discretion about certain things is still advisable.
You tell the kids you want to help but are never available. Or perhaps you help one of your kids more than the others. Mixed messages cause confusion and undermine trust.
We are always parents, even when our kids are grown. These rules can help to smooth the relationships we share with our adult children and help us stay involved, relevant and committed to our families.
This article was written by Dr Justin Coulson for Kidspot.com.au and has been adapted for Kidspot.co.nz