While parents would like the relationship with their adult children to be simple, it's often difficult.
Sometimes for reasons a parent may never know, a son or a daughter will distance from them as an adult. It may be because of an old fight or a new issue that keeps them apart emotionally. Maybe they are disappointed in one another. Sometimes one of them is too demanding or old quirks still rub the wrong way.
While we say we yearn for the end of conflict, perhaps we have not been willing to accept each other — warts and all — or maybe we're stuck in the role of parent or child and have not understood it is time to create a different role.
Have you ever, out of care and concern, offered advice to an adult child and been surprised at their defensiveness because they heard it as criticism? That seems to be a normal reaction and thus is one of the most important lessons parents need to learn.
Jan Isay, author of “Walking on Eggshells,” suggests parents of adult children might consider new ways of relating by learning from the dynamics of a close friendship.
You listen to your friends and are careful about giving advice. You don't sniff at their tastes in furniture or the messiness of their kitchens. You empathize with their pain and you celebrate their joys. You encourage them, as they encourage you.
I would add to keep your helpful opinions to yourself unless asked, and if asked, begin by saying, “Here's what works for me,” which leaves them free to make their own decisions. Listen carefully to their criticisms and consider changes, and be a pleasant guest in their home who doesn't stay too long.
A desired goal is to have a relationship that is as easy as friendship and as close as family. That is a delicate balance and requires attention and a willingness to practice new behaviors from each family member.
Charlotte Lankard is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. Contact her at email@example.com.