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Secrets To Staying Close With Your Grown-Up Kids?

March 15, 2011

When I was growing up I knew that the minute I was able to leave home I would. So I went to a school 3000 miles away from my parents home, and when I got married I lived 3000 miles away from my parents home. When my wife (now x-wife) and I decided to have children we both discussed how we didn’t want to have the relationship with our kids that we had with our parents. We even thought about the future and how nice it would be to have our kids as friends when they became adults. How would our relationship change when they got married and had children of their own?  Was it possible to be more than parent and child?

A wise person once said “Parenting is the only love where the goal is separation.” When a child grows up and gets married, the transition can be difficult for parents. Well-meaning parents may not realize that some of their actions may be undermining the new marriage as well as their relationships with their children. What to do…

  • Focused on the positive. It is normal to feel a sense of loss that you are no longer number one in your child’s life. While acknowledging this feeling of loss, be willing to shift your attention to the benefits.
  • Don’t give unsolicited advice. Even your best-intentioned suggestions are likely to be perceived as criticism. Instead ask the couple, “Would you like some help with this?” or “I have some ideas about this situation – would you like to hear them?” Respect the answer.
  • Be willing to apologize. An apology is one of the greatest gifts parents can give their children. When you apologize, you change the balance of power. The parent becomes less formidable, more accessible.
  • Keep a healthy distance. The line between inclusiveness and smothering can be hard to discern. Some families enjoy a great deal of contact, which as a tradition of having Sunday dinner together every week. Others are more hands-off.
  • Work on yourself. Develop interests apart from your child. Take classes, join clubs and expand your circle of friends. Having a support system outside your immediate family keeps you from relying on your children to make you happy.
  • Don’t get caught in the middle. Never talk about your child’s spouse behind his/her back. And if your child comes to you to complain about his/her spouse, avoid taking sides. The situation could escalate, and you could be blamed.
  • Keep expectations realistic. While some sons – and daughters-in-law become beloved friends and confidants, many do not. You lack a shared history, and your preferences and tastes may be very different.

So how did it all work out with me? My girls are now 28 and 25 and each are in a relationship. Chelsey and J (her boyfriend of 2+ years) are a wonderful couple (pictured here) and she and I have a great relationship where we talk weekly and text often, especially about current pop culture. I try to keep my opinions to myself and often ask how she wants me to behave when she tells me something of a delicate nature: for example “shall I just listen with or without comment.” Currently Lace and I do not have a relationship as she lives with her boyfriend who has been very abusive to her and she has decided that my comments on her relationship are inappropriate; but as a parent there are some times where boundaries do not exist. At GAI (www.gunwel.com) we pride ourselves on talking openly and honestly about all financial matters and never allowing our clients to feel less than with re to what they have done financial in the past or currently.  We are here to help so give us a call at 212-979-6830 or stop by for a visit. We’d love to hear your comments and thoughts about your relationship with your parents or kids and the secrets of your success. See you soon!

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