You’ve nurtured them, raised them, and now – suddenly – they’re all grown up. It can be hard to recognise our kids are now adults in their own right. As they move out, find jobs and settle into relationships, you might feel you’re growing apart. Don’t worry – there are still ways you can stay close to your adult child.
1Recognise the change
One of the most important things you can do is accept you no longer have the same relationship. They have every right to make their own decisions – good or bad. You may not like or understand their choice of partner, friends or career, but it’s not your place to criticise.
I have a friend whose contact with her parents is limited to a weekly phone call. Even then, she says, they always find ways to make her feel she’s a disappointment. “Everything I do is wrong, in their eyes,” she says. “By ‘wrong’, they mean they don’t agree with it. My profession, my decision not to get married, even the car I drive. They still think they can tell me what to do and that their disapproval is a punishment. It’s easier just to distance myself.”
2Find common ground
When my son was growing up, a shared love of music was a common bond. We liked a lot of the same bands and went to live gigs together. No matter what else was going on, music was how we reconnected.
Now he’s left home, it’s still a way to touch base. He’ll send me random messages about an old favourite he’s rediscovered or a new one he’s found. We’ll invariably move on to other topics and chat about what’s happening in his world. He doesn’t feel like I’m nagging him for details about his life, and I get to make sure everything’s ok.
3Ask for advice
Just because your adult child is your kid, it doesn’t mean they don’t have valuable knowledge or insights. If your daughter is an accountant, for example, there’s a good chance she’ll be able to give you some sound advice when it comes to filing your tax return.
Seeking their opinion will make your child feel you view them as an equal. Psychotherapist Tina Tessina explains: “Sharing advice as friends and equals will create the friendly connection you want. It also shows maturity – you’re demonstrating to them that you realise the relationship has evolved.”
4Try something new and exciting together
A shared experience is one of the best ways to forge bonds with someone – especially if it’s a little bit frightening. Supporting each other, conquering your fears together and giving each other courage is a powerful way to strengthen a relationship.
If you’ve ever wanted to try zip-lining, paragliding or white-water rafting, this is the perfect opportunity. As well as the experience, you’ll have shared memories of how you faced a challenge and met it head-on.
5Share some family history
Do you have old family photos stored at home? Or scrapbooks from when your kids were – well, kids? Look at them together. It’s a chance for your adult child to learn more about their family, going back to before they were even around. It helps give them a sense of identity, closeness and belonging.
I’ve kept written journals since before my kids were born. We also made detailed ‘memory books’ for each of them during their early years. They both love looking through them. They’ve realised there’s more to us than simply being ‘Mum and Dad’. They’ve learned lots of family stories. And they’ve awoken some of their own early memories that had faded with time.