As our children grow into adulthood, so do our families. Our kids enter the next phase of lives as they create their own families. When our families grow, it’s up to us to navigate new and different relationships, and to embrace the challenge of recreating and maintaining close adult relationships while allowing freedom for individuality.
Our best life lessons are learned through our interpersonal bonds, especially with family. As parents and grandparents, we’re given the opportunity to nurture the family link. The way we show up and conduct ourselves determines the strength of our connection. Our behavior can either bring us closer or broaden the gap; this includes all relationships, but especially those with our adult children and their own families.
Tips to Build Strong Relationships
Be respectful of boundaries. Although you may have enjoyed a very close relationship when your kids were younger, they are now adults and have their own lives.
Drop your own agenda. Although you’re still the parent, you’ve now taken on a different role. Be curious and open to other’s thoughts and suggestions.
Ask for permission before you offer advice — your words of wisdom may not be welcome! This is true for all family relationships; however it’s especially important to remember when you have grandchildren, or a new daughter or son-in-law. Sometimes when my adult kids call about a problem, I’ll ask them up front, “Are you looking for advice, or do you just need to vent?” That way, we’re both clear before the conversation goes any farther.
Let go of expectations. You create your own suffering when you want things to be different than they are. It’s time to let go of the way things used to be when your kids were younger. Be open to new traditions and family relationships.
Don’t assume. Making assumptions will only get you into relationship trouble. Rather than making assumptions, have meaningful conversations with family members and create agreements. (example: “When we all go on family vacation together this summer, let’s agree that each family member will take a turn cooking dinner” — rather than assuming they’ll cook a meal.)
Don’t take things personally. This is a tough one, especially for moms! Ask yourself if what was just said or done was directly intended for you, or are you just choosing to take it on? If you feel you may have done something wrong, then apologize. If not, don’t take it personally. Chances are those hurtful words were spoken in a state of reactivity and have more to do with the person who spoke them than you!
Communication is key. Listen more…talk less. There will be disagreements; seek to understand but sometimes it’s best to “agree to disagree.” Speak when you’re calm, not in the heat of the moment. Avoid finger pointing.
Be inclusive rather than exclusive. Be open and accepting of your adult kid’s girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse or partner. Your adult kids are now juggling two extended families, so try to be understanding of their need to divide family time. If it works for all, invite the other families to join yours — the more the merrier!
Keep your get-togethers simple and have fun! It’s easy to envision a perfect family get-together. Sometimes we go overboard in preparation and are exhausted by the time everyone goes home. Less is more.
Remember your parenting days are behind you. Your kids have their own life and so should you.
Here’s to more family time!
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