When The Parent/Adult Child Path Is Rocky
You have an empty. Your adult children are busy building a life of their own. You long to maintain a close relationship. You call.
You text again.
One or two words flash on your phone.
Yes! The beginning of a conversation.
You eagerly text back.
What if your kids need time and space to figure things out on their own, time to develop their sense of independence?
What if they need time to figure out who they are apart from their relationship with you?
Does it mean you will never be close in the future?
Are you doing something wrong?
Are they doing something wrong?
Are you a bad parent?
If questions like that keep you (or a friend) awake at night, maybe the following thoughts will put your mind at rest.
Pulling away from our parents is normal.
One dad was very mater-of-fact.
"Yes, of course, we have experienced (our kids pulling away) when they were trying to "try their wings/leave the nest." This happened just prior to their marriage and just after - for a short time. We knew they loved us and we just gave them space."
More than one mom assured me that pulling away was healthy - a natural part of growing up, gaining independence and finding their way.
I found this comment from another mom especially enlightening. "My kids pull away when we get too pushy or try to repeat our opinions over and over while they are thinking through things themselves and trying to figure it out."
And then there was this insight... "My son had to pull back until he figured out that he could handle life on his own. After he figured out he could be independent, he started coming around and calling more often. In the middle of that time, it was hard to be patient and not take things personally. "
But what if your situation goes beyond what you think is normal? What can you do in those situations?
Here is a small piece from a couple that discussed this with me at length. Their story gave me new insights and I hope you find it helpful as well...
It comes from some new friends I made. They have several children. While they enjoy an emotionally connected and growing friendship with all of their children now, it wasn't always that way.
For a period of time, one of their kids needed space and even asked one parent not to call or come over at all.
Yes. It happens.
This was very hard for both of these parents.
But they honored the request. Many months went by with very little contact with their adult child.
What would you do if that were you?
I couldn't imagine how I would handle it emotionally.
How did they cope?
One thing that helped was a conscious, deliberate decision to give the situation over to God and pray. Reading the Bible, especially the Psalms was important "to get what I needed for dealing with my feelings" was another.
In order to protect their child's privacy throughout this time, these parents chose to share personal feelings with only a couple of their closest friends.
The level of acceptance and self-denial they exhibited, without becoming resentful or bitter, gave me a lot to think about.
A variety of life events occurred for this child, most of them quite positive in nature, and happily they started to reconnect. Happy and eager to build a friendship in this new phase, they let their child lead the way in re-connecting and focused on being positive and encouraging.
"Coming into who you are as an adult is very tumultuous," they told me. "They can't get to being interdependent without going through independence first."
(Aha! So that's what I did! It's so easy to forget those things when we sit on the other end, huh?)
These parents also shared with me a growing conviction. They realize (and regret) they made mistakes in parenting, but they can't take all the responsibility now for the reactions of their children. That burden goes beyond anything God designed us to bear.
Apologies and repentence are essential ingredients in every healthy relationship.
Forgiveness and mercy are also necessary.
Adults have to work through pain and hurtful experiences as adults. .
I plan to explore that idea later, but maybe this is enough to think about for today.
Sometimes we need time, space and some independence before we can understand ourselves and our families better. And sometimes we need that understanding before we can build deeper friendships.
I hope we can be patient with ourselves and each other as we continue on this journey.
(If you would like to talk more about this topic in private, please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love to connect with other parents and especially love to hear from adult children - we have so much to learn from you!!!!)