Very often, we pride ourselves on our individuality and how we have made our own way in life. We comment positively on how different we are from our parents and their generation. Yet when it comes to our own children, we want them to share our values and morals and learn from our life experience. It hurts when our adult children choose to ignore our advice and this can lead to a breakdown in our relationships with them.
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Parent-child relationships do not start when our offspring turn 18. The communication channels we establish during their childhood and adolescence provide the foundation for us to develop a mutually-respectful adult to adult relationship. It might be difficult for us to accept that our little little ones are now independent adults but it is just as frightening for them to feel that mum and dad are no longer there to catch them when they fall.
Children are used to their parents knowing what to do. As they move into adulthood, they kick against mum and dad's advice in an effort to become independent. This an essential part of their journey towards maturity. Encourage them to open up channels of communication by admitting that you don't have all the answers. Your wealth of life experience was gained in different times. This will level the playing field and introduce equality into your relationship.
Openness and honesty can take away much of the fear your children might have about listening to you. Share poor decisions you have made or talk about disappointments you have faced throughout your life. Young adults need encouragement to voice their opinions to their parents; preaching or judging can intimidate and alienate them. Listen to them and they might start listening to you.
However hard you try, there might be times when your adult children refuse to listen and ignore you completely. Often, this is an attempt to distance themselves so that they can establish their own identity. They stay away rather than disappoint you with ideas they know you will disapprove of. This is when you need to recognise that there is an important difference between letting go and giving up. Stay positive and encourage them to keep in touch.
It is easy to blame yourself when things go wrong with your child but psychologist and author Dr Joshua Coleman thinks that parents are too quick to feel guilty about relationship failures with their adult children. He says that ideas about good parenting are "flawed in many, many ways" and that parents themselves need support for the shame and pain they feel when things break down. Many devoted and conscientious parents have adult children who ignore them.
If you feel your relationship has really broken down and you can't talk to your adult child any more, write them a letter. Their world is full of toneless tweets and texts but you can craft a heart-felt message using more than 140 characters if you use old-school pen and paper. Your child might be unaware of how you feel or how their distance has affected you. If you leave the way open for reconciliation, they have the chance to respond when they are ready.
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