There’s that weird, limbo stage kids hit when they’re not really kids anywhere, but they haven’t quite achieved full independence or adulthood. Perhaps they’re away at college, living at home to save money, or just broke off into the real world for the first time.
At a certain age, kids reach a moment when they want their personal and emotional space. They love Mom and Dad, but they also love being their own person with their own schedule, responsibilities, choices, and freedom.
As a parent, you may ask yourself where your place is in your child’s life. How often should you reach out to them? How much is too much? It was easier when they were in grade school and lived at home – it was your job to know where they were, what they were doing, and who they were with at all times. But, now?
Things are different. If you’re anything like my parents, you’d love to always know what your children are up to. Not because you’re creepy and obsessive, but because you want to be up to date with the happenings in their life and any new interests.
Your job as a parent to care for your children will never go away, but the way you care will change over time. As your children’s lives change, and subsequently your relationship with them, you’ll need to discover a new balance that works for both of you.
There is no perfect script for this balance that will work for everyone. People are different, and relationship dynamics are different.
How Do I Go About This?
My advice: Let your child be the driver. Allow them to set their own boundaries and guidelines for the relationship. That way, you know the amount of communication they want and expect from you. This means sitting in the backseat for a couple weeks or months to see how often they come to you for quality time and conversation. But, be careful not to ignore your children or confuse them to think that you don’t care.
Keep up with the speed that they set for your relationship by being the one who calls and makes the plans half of the time. Every relationship is a two-way street, including a parent-child one. While many people place the responsibility on the parent, both parties must show they care in order for the relationship to thrive.
What’s Deserving of a Call?
Checking in on the things they tell you and entrust you with is something deserving of a call. For example, if your child told you he/she had an important doctor’s appointment or interview coming up, make sure to ask them a day or two later to see how it went.
While there is nothing wrong with calling your child every now and again with no purpose other than just to catch up with them (personally, these are my favorite calls), you may be overstepping a boundary if your “checking in” is more of a “checking up on.” Understand that your children are adults and can function mostly on their own, even if they’re still living with you.
How Should I Speak?
When talking to your children, be mindful of the way you communicate. While they are still your children, they are adults and deserve to be treated as so. Kids want nothing more than for their parents to respect them and understand their independence.
Questions from parents that sound controlling and judgmental tend to shut down children and make them stray from a close relationship. Give your children the opportunity to open up to you and welcome an open relationship by asking them non-interrogative questions, such as “How have you been?”, “What’s new?”, or “What’ve you been up to lately?” These questions allow them the opportunity to open up to you and tell you as much as they’re comfortable with sharing.
If they take advantage of these questions and open up, remember what they tell you because it’s probably important to them. During your next conversation, ask them about the things they shared with you during your previous chat. But, be careful not to pry deeper into what they tell you – nothing drives kids crazier than nosy parents!
As a parent, you’ve dictated how you’ve wanted to parent your kids for many years. Now, it’s their turn to contribute a say in how they want the relationship to be. Show them you care and want to stay connected as much as they would like, and then let them take it from there.
If you need help finding the right balance with your adulting children, we’re here to help – just Ask a Pup!
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