“Are You Wearing That?”
Not long ago I read a book with that title. I smiled because I have heard parents talk to their grown children in a way they would never talk to any other adults. “What have you done to your hair? When is the last time you got a haircut? Do you think you can afford that?”
I began to pay more attention to how I talk to my children. Once when we visited one of our daughters who was away at college, she eagerly showed me a jar full of quarters. Her eyes sparkled as she said proudly, “We are saving our quarters so we can go to an Amy Grant concert in San Francisco.” I started to open my mouth to say, “Didn’t you have trouble paying your P.G.E. bill last month? How can you afford to go to a concert?” Instead, I said, “What a good idea.” To myself, I said, “How lucky I am she still shares her joy with me.”
How Do Your Parents Relate to You?
Your parents may never have made the transition to an adult to adult relationship with you. Can you remember how uncomfortable it felt to be given advice you weren’t asking for? You may even have received criticism for how you live. Remember those feelings when you feel compelled to point out mistakes you think your children are making.
What If My Children Need My Help?
If your children still expect you to support them or rescue them when they make foolish choices, you need to set boundaries and negotiate ways for them to pay you back. A rule I try to follow, “never give advice that isn’t asked for” has worked well. On the occasions I didn’t follow that advice, I paid a price in lost trust and closeness. People learn from their mistakes.
Learning to relate to grown children adult to adult will bring many years of continued love and relationship. Your children will interact with you because they want to, not out of obligation. You will be surprised at how often they will ask for advice, because they will feel free to make their own decisions without offending you.