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Health and Wellbeing

10 Sep 2019

How to connect with your grown-up child

Connecting with grown-up children can be difficult.

As children grow up, they can become disconnected from parents due to distance, changes in lifestyles and schedules. Or simply they grow into adulthood, and the nature of the relationship changes.

Although cell phones and texting have made sharing information inexpensive, easy and more immediate, these methods of communication can sometimes be the only ones used between the busy child and parent, sometimes leaving one or both sides longing for more connection. Regardless of the mode of communication between you and your adult child/children, it is important to understand that as your child grows and develops, so too will your relationship.

Understand your needs as a parent

The needs of a parent and those of an adult child are different. Which of the below best fit you?

  1. You want to maintain a connection with your child: you want to be a part of their lives.
  2. You want to spend time with their child: You just want to see them.
  3. You want to feel reassured that their child is doing well, and is happy.
  4. Your sense of who you are, your identity, your sense of self and your purpose is tied to you child and so when those same children become distant and detached, it can feel like losing your sense of self.

Know what “unhealthy” parent- child dynamics are

Some relationship dynamics can lead to a strained relationship, poor communication, a mismatching of needs and potential dissatisfaction. Here are just a few:

  • Projecting your own values, wishes, or dreams onto your adult child;
  • Not respecting them as their own people who make their own decisions and lead their own lives, separate from you and yours;
  • Emotional needs, and incorrectly thinking adult children are responsible for meeting them (they’re not, and vice versa);
  • Guilt-tripping your adult child about the amount of time they see you; and
  • Passive-aggressive communication: Including silent treatment, withholding, saying one thing when you mean another, being combative, etc.

Developing a healthier parent- child relationship

There are plenty of things you can do to nurture the relationship you have with your adult child, here are just a few:

  • Listen if you sense that your child needs to talk to you, make time for them;
  • Respect an adult child as their own person;
  • Understand that your adult child is not responsible for meeting your emotional needs;
  • Accept spouses and partners. Unless you fear that your child is in an abusive relationship, keep your concerns to yourself;
  • Use healthy communication. Speak clearly and directly, without being passive-aggressive, sarcastic, or saying one thing when you mean another;
  • Praise your child. Even as adults, your children crave your approval.
  • Set reasonable expectations. Avoid comparing.
  • Watch your words. If an adult child asks for advice or opens up a topic for discussion, it’s okay to share your opinion, but be tactful; and
  • Set aside adult-only time. If your adult child has children, try and enjoy some adults-only time, without the grandkids around.

Rajna Bogdanovic - Clinical Psychologist

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