From my first days as a grandma, my focus has been on the relationship with my grandchild’s parents — my adult children. I understand the importance of this relationship. So did our September speaker, Linda Stroh, Ph.D. author of Getting Real About Getting Older.
“We gain huge physical, mental, and psychological benefits for both ourselves and our adult child when we have a good parent/adult-child relationship. We have way more to lose and way more to gain when that happens,” Linda explained.
At our Sept meeting, our goal was to offer a confidential cathartic and problem-solving conversation that allowed us to voice our emotions and concerns with our adult children when dealing with conflicts and expectations.
Handling Conflict with Our Adult Children
All of our “stories” start at home—where we first learn to manage conflict. Some of us learn “good conflict management habits” in our families of origin, others not so good. Remind yourself of those “stories” that you learned at home—decide which ones you want to keep and which ones you want to “unlearn.”
- We only have control over our own behavior.
- Learn to view conflicts from your adult child’s perspective.
- Get comfortable being uncomfortable when in a conflict.
- Don’t rush to judgment or solution.
- Listen like you might be wrong.
- Remove emotion—it’s not the words, but the actions that matter most.
- Find common ground.
- Pick your battles—they should be rare.
- Someone needs to be a hero/heroine—don’t be afraid to be the first to say sorry.
Managing Our Expectations
It’s easy to forget our adult children aren’t “mini” me. They’ve had different upbringings, education, spouse/siblings than we did; so naturally, they are their very own person with potentially different perspectives on all sorts of topics. Learn to respect those differences.
- Remember the strongest emotions in this relationship are from the parent to the adult child.
- We, and our adult children, are both going through different human development stages throughout our lifespan. It’s no surprise we might miss cues that the relationship has changed and might need different actions/reactions to those interactions.
- Work to learn greater objectivity of perspectives as both you and your adult children evolve with this change.
- Be reminded that we only have control over our own behaviors.
- Parents have a strong ability to create shame, guilt, or fear in our children (regardless of their age)—be aware of that superpower and don’t misuse it—our children pay a huge life-long emotional price when we do.
Remember that you are still one of the strongest role models for your adult children. You are now role modeling how to be a vibrant, engaged, caring, thoughtful older parent, grandparent, mother in law, and friend. Reminding yourself of this might help you live more consciously and continue to make better choices as it relates to these behaviors and relationships in your life.