Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Connecting with Adult Children

To be honest, I was under the impression being in touch with our adult children is the norm until I started reading comments on social media, blog posts, and articles. It seems we may actually be the exception, instead. Which is sad. And curious.

My four daughters and I are quite close. We share similar philosophies and political leanings. We love to laugh and share everything from our daily routines to problems, from good news to bad. We are in touch because we want to be not because we're expected to be. We enjoy each other's company and appreciate any time we have together.

One daughter lives 8 hours away but not a day goes by without us texting and/or a phone call. This is the way it is with empty nesters I know personally, too. Thus, my erroneous thought all of us enjoy a wonderful relationship with our adult kids. Now, I realize I am one of the lucky/blessed ones and I am more grateful than ever before.

Do I agree with all their life decisions made in their adult lives? Nope. Do we all get along all the time? Nope. But when we do have our disagreements we tend to have them and then let them go. We try not to harbor and build resentments. As in our relationships with other people, we have to realize what's right for us isn't always going to be the right thing or right way for our adult children.

We don't really know what goes on in other families because we don't live their lives so I won't make any assumptions as to why so many parents have difficulty connecting with their adult children. I will say if there is a problem that has become so intense or complex you can't find a way around it, seek out a counselor. I do know parents who feel used and a couple who feel alienated by their adult children and counseling is most helpful in these as well as other situations.

Don't think for a second I'm not guilty of failing on some of these suggestions because I am. We're not perfect, we just do the best we can, right? That being said, here are a few ways I think would work to help us stay connected with our adult children.

  1. Do not offer unsolicited advice. Or at least keep it to a minimum. I'm not the world's best at this but I'm far from the worst. Parents are pretty good at problem-solving. We've done it for decades and we possess experience wisdom but that does not give us the right to intrude and tell our adult kids what to do and how to do it. Safe your sage advice for the times it is requested and if it is never requested, pat yourself on the back you did a great job raising the kids! Remember, when they do ask for advice don't be critical. 
  2. Back off a minute. You raised these kids and most likely you loved every minute of it. But it's THEIR time now so we have to back off and give them the space they need to figure out this whole adulting thing which is not the easiest thing to figure out if you remember. Heck, I'm still working on it. 
  3. Do away with expectations or keep them under control and to yourself. If I've said it once I've said it a gazillion times: expectations will leave you with nothing but disappointment. Not to mention when you expect something from another person what you're really wanting is for them to do something the way you would do or the way you want it done. That's not fair. So what if they don't call or text or respond to yours every minute of the day, they have a life to live and they don't answer to us anymore. Of course, if you're feeling taken advantage of because the only time they do come around is when they need something it may be time for a family meeting or some tough love but that's on you to decide. 
  4. Remember, you are not the boss. You did your job, put in your time and now you're done. Not with being a parent but with parenting dependent children. 
  5. Find a common interest and share it. Does everyone enjoy shopping? Going to the movies? Bowling? Hiking? Football? Whatever the interest, if you find a common one invite them to join you. If they come, great! If not, go anyway and have a good time but don't stop inviting them because one day they will show up. 
  6. Show a genuine interest. Sometimes we parents can come off seeming nosy instead of interested. Check the way you ask-- are you engaging in conversation or poking around where you aren't wanted or needed? Even if your intentions are innocent if your adult kid thinks otherwise, just be careful until they realize and/or appreciate you're genuinely interested.
  7. No guilt trips. Honestly, if my mother ever put a guilt trip on me I would have had a conniption fit. People can carry their own guilt without having it put on them. Now is the time for us to recognize and respect the differences between us. 
  8. Be a good listener. Sometimes we just need someone to listen and who better than our parents? Unless they jump in to tell us how to solve the problem which isn't what we wanted. Chances are your adult kids are perfectly capable of solving their problems but may need a supportive ear for a minute. Just give the ear and keep the solution to the problem to yourself unless they ask for it. Remember, we always want to be the ones they turn to not the ones they turn away from. 
  9. Snail mail. Use it. Send a 'thinking-of-you' card every once in a while. You can put a little $$ in there, a newspaper clipping you saw they can relate to, a gift card, or just a little note and an 'I love you.' I started using the app, TouchNote and everyone loves it! I mostly use it to send pictures of my grands to my Dad and stepmom and my aunt but I do use it for my girls as well. It's so easy and a great way to send a postcard or greeting card. 
  10. Accept whatever form of communication they are willing to use. Text, email, video chats, phone calls, whatever. I'd rather have any form of communication than none at all. 
  11. Ask if they'd be willing to have a weekly phone call or video chat with you. And PROMISE not to keep them on there for 2 hours. We have people like that in our family and it drives me nuts. A 15-20 minute conversation is good enough and if it goes longer and all parties are ok with that then great! Don't forget about conference calling if you have multiple kiddos because having them all on the phone at the same time is super fun! 
  12. Weekly or monthly meals. If your adult kids live close enough start a weekly or monthly meal at your house. Just let them know when it is but do not badger them to come. If they do, great if they don't just freeze the leftovers. 
  13. Pray for them. If you are the praying sort, do it. I can't tell you how very aware I am my grandmother prayed for me until the day she passed. My mother has passed but my dad and stepmother continue praying for all of us daily. It makes a difference. 
That's all I've got right now but I'm sure Y'all have some more and I'd love to hear them!

Also, please visit my friend Mary who has a wonderful post about the difficulty of parenting adult children. Y'all can read her post HERE

Thanks, Y'all! Have a wonderful day!

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  1. That is some awesome advice! Sometimes, though, no matter what you do the disconnect is there. With our son, the problem (I hate to say it) seems to be his wife. She decided within minutes of meeting me that she didn't like me. Add to that her life before our son was very different from ours. She kind of views us as racist, right-wing, gun-toting, religious wackos. She's made it clear she'd be okay with never having to deal with us and any time we haven't acted as she thought we should...they've cut off all contact including with the grandchildren. Our daughter on the other hand was the wild, problem child during her teen years, but she has come around full circle to where she and her husband bought the house next door to us this summer! My point, I guess, is that sometimes you can do everything right and still not be close, because it takes two and if one doesn't want to....

    1. You're right. I know a similar situation where the son and his wife live right next door to his mother but won't do a darn thing for her which makes those living an hour and more away come to town to help the mother who is in her 80s. The wife says it's the family's fault because they never made her feel welcome but I know they are always included in every single family event. I think the family finally gave up. Luckily, there are no children involved but still... I'm sorry it's happened to you. Sometimes, sadly there's just nothing we can do.

  2. Pam, I really enjoyed this post. You have some really good ideas. I'm downloading that TouchNote App right now to look at. My oldest daughter came in last weekend for a visit and to attend a wedding. It was so fun being together after almost 2 years without seeing each other in person. Fortunately we do text, call, video chat and Marco Polo, which all help us keep up on each other's lives. Both girls are coming this weekend. They have a funeral to attend, but hopefully we'll have some good times together too. They are only here for a short time (the grandson too). I'm really excited because we haven't all be together in a long time. I know they always have others they want to see when they are in town, but I've learned to be happy with whatever time they can give us. I try never to pressure them into do anything. If we just get a couple hours, then that's okay. It's better than nothing. Sometimes we get surprised and get a lot more than we expected. And that's the way I try to play it when we're texting and video-chatting from a distance too. It works for us.

    I'm working hard on the not giving so much advice and just listening when they call. That's been a hard one from me, but I think I'm doing better. And you know what, it's a lot less stress for me when I can really do it. lol

    Have a great day!

    1. I hope you like TouchNote. I just sent another postcard last night and the family is loving them. I'm like you, I'll take whatever I can get with the one who lives far away. Fortunately, she prefers time with her mama. :) I'm pretty good about giving advice only when asked for except where the grandbabies are concerned. Can't seem to keep a lid on it then. LOL

  3. Oh, my goodness! All of the above! Sooo good!

  4. Great advice you have given, Pam. I agree with all of it, and I also use the TouchNote App. I’m blessed with my girls, and my mum and I were very close too. That’s a real blessing, right?

    1. It is a real blessing for sure. I have the same with my girls and had it with my mom. Don't you love TouchNote? My auntie and dad/stepmom LOVE getting them in the mail. :)

  5. You and your lovelies are all so blessed!! Maybe it's a little different with girls. Our 'boys' are both in their 50s now. It has been at least three months since we talked with Jeff (youngest). We have texted a few times. Joey is in Kuwait for a year but we talk with him every two weeks and his wife just called two days ago. We miss them. My heart aches to see them (and they are my stepsons). You are blessed!

    1. We really are and I'm realizing it even more these days. It's hard not seeing Claudia as often as I do the other girls but at least we have texting and calling, etc. I can't imagine not having any of this like our parents did (didn't) back in the day.

  6. I feel like we have a great relationship with our children. I love your advice! It isn't easy not being the boss anymore but I manage pretty well at keeping my mouth shut.

    1. Thank you! No, it isn't easy not being the boss anymore especially now since we've packed on a couple decades of wisdom. :)

  7. "...we don't live their lives so I won't make any assumptions as to why so many parents have difficulty connecting with their adult children." Yes making assumptions often make matters worse. I've heard of relationships much worse than mine and apparently (can't always tell what's going on behind the scenes - nor do I need to know) many better. I do seem to have an easier time relating to the younger non-adult crowd.

    1. You're so right about making assumptions. I have the easiest time with the under 5 group. LOL

  8. This is excellent advice. But I would add one more. Apologize when you have done something wrong. A few years back My daughter confided in me and instead of just listening, I empathized and told her I'd felt the same way. Well, she didn't need to know about me, she needed the love and support of her mother.
    I wrote her a long text message apologizing, and telling her exactly how I'd blown it, and what she actually needed me to do.
    That text opened my eyes, and opened hers as well.
    Now I listen and comfort her. She is my daughter.
    If I need comfort on a problem then I discuss it at another time.
    I never empathize out loud at the very moment she is spilling to me. I do say, I bet that feels painful, or hard, etc.
    Our relationship is much better now.

    1. Good one! I've always done that with my kids and was never afraid to say, "I don't know" when I didn't have an answer. I think I assumed everyone did that with their kids. Ooops! :) Yep, that listening this is not the easiest one. We always seem to want to open up about our own experience or give our advice. I think that's human nature. I know it's hard to overcome.

  9. I am so envious when I hear about how great parents get along with ALL of their adult children. :) I wonder if part of it is a boys vs. girls thing. Anyway, bottom line: let go and let God handle it! :)
    Thank you so much for sharing the link to my post!

    1. I'm not sure since I don't have boys but I've heard both ways from moms of boys. My parents never had as close a relationship with any of my 3 brothers as they did/do with me. My brothers tend to make their wives a first priority at the expense of a solid relationship with us but I envy that because I have one who puts his family way above me and the girls. I don't know. Let go and let God is what we used to say and it's still the best way. :)

  10. We do have to let them be an adult and make their own decisions (as hard as that may be for some parents) but that's part of becoming an adult and being on their own. I'm happy to say that I get to communicate with my kids almost daily either via a phone call, text, or FaceTime ♥


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! It makes me feel connected to everyone even though we may live far apart! Have a wonderful day!

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