Talk the Talk with Adult Children

by Rion B. Kweller, Ph.D.

Women Sitting and Socializing at GymRemember the days before your kids could talk? They might grunt or gurgle. Before long they could speak one word, then two. The next you knew they were teenagers asking for the car keys and telling you to give them some space.

As a parent, it is sometimes hard to let go of that parental role, and that idea of your house, your rules. Things that worked perfectly well while the kids were growing up get so murky when the kids are grown or almost grown. In days gone by it was simple. No eating in the living room; lights out by nine; no drinking and driving. Now, does it matter that much if the grandkids have a snack while watching cartoons in the family room? Since the kids are old enough to drink, will they know when to call a cab or will they have pre-arranged for a designated driver? And let’s not even get started about sleeping arrangements for visiting boyfriends, girlfriends, just friends, or ‘friends with benefits’. The world becomes so – well, so not as easy as it once was, or at least as we remember it was.

Real families are most often quite emotionally messy. It is how things really are. People sometimes communicate well, are emotionally supportive and are loving and kind. Some families communicate well, are emotionally supportive and are most often loving and kind. Sometimes, though, parents and adult children fight. They might say things they wish they had not. On occasion, individuals even get so bruised that they are tempted to take a break from family to preserve their stability.

On the parental end, thinking of those kids as adults, equals, peers can be a stretch. They have thoughts and feelings perhaps different than our own – different, not wrong, ungrateful or unloving. They do not have to listen or do what we say just because we have spoken. On the adult child’s end, thinking of those parents as adults, equals, peers can be a stretch, too. Does it matter that much to be right or to convince that hard to please parent that we are worthy, special or accomplished, especially if those important acknowledgements have never come easily? Pick one’s battles, and pick them carefully.

*We all want to be heard. Acknowledge that. Try to convey that you have heard.

*Empathize. It costs little. Nod your head. Try to put yourself in their shoes.

*Set clear boundaries. Respect differences, but it is also reasonable to agree to disagree at times.

*Move on. Being adult sometimes means letting go, even if we know we are right.

We have all been there, will be there, or when loved ones have passed, we may wish we had more opportunities to be there again. Accept differences and celebrate areas of common belief and interest to form solid adult connections. Having that kind of talk with your adult children fosters relationships that deepen and mature. That is a great goal for the New Year.

About the Author:

Dr. Kweller is an Executive Coach and Licensed Psychologist in Williamsville, NY. His websites are www.iplanforsuccess.com and bhnet.org. To reach Dr. Kweller call 716 634-1184 or e-mail him at rion@iplanforsuccess.com.