Guidelines for Helping Your Adult Children Make Friends

1. Call your adult children by their first names, rather than child nicknames. If you have teenagers, they may have already asked you to do this. Nicknames like “Suzie Q” are fine for young children, but as children begin to grow, they feel more respected when called by their first names. In doing so, you are also reminding yourself to treat your children like young adults.

2. Discuss adult topics. As your children grow, don’t limit your conversation strictly to familiar topics or questions about your personal life. Involve them in discussions about current events and the like, just as you would with a friend. Take a minute to think of “adult” topics that you would like to discuss with them. Politics, events, sports, workplace issues (facts and events only, avoid complaints), local neighborhood or political issues are all appropriate topics. Persistent and constant reminders are ineffective with young children and inappropriate with adult children. Of course, you need to set limits and make sure that irresponsibility and bad behavior have consequences, but you don’t need to patronize your children. If they want something from you, don’t answer unless they ask in a polite, grown-up way. Include them in your planning discussions and expect them to take appropriate responsibility for family matters.

3. Share with your children from father to father. If your children have children of their own, you have experience they can benefit from, but you are also willing to learn from them. If they are reading books or taking parenting courses, discuss the information as you would another parent their age. If they raise their children differently than you did, don’t take it as a personal affront and don’t interfere unless asked.

4. Don’t react if your older child says or does something upsetting. Just ignore it and change the subject. Treat your adult children as courteously as you would the adult children of a friend. If they are doing something that bothers you and you don’t react, they will stop. After all, if you were with a friend’s family and someone did something strange, you would just ignore it and not get carried away by family squabbles. You would be polite and nice, for your friend’s sake.

5. Ask your children for opinions and advice. Even in early childhood, children can be encouraged to develop their own opinions about the events and decisions they face as a family. As they get older, you can ask for their ideas on what to do. When your children become adults, you can seek advice on employment, investment, or other concerns. Sharing tips as friends and peers will create the friendly connection you want.

6. Pay attention to the balance of your interaction. As a parent, the role of caregiver and caregiver is familiar, and perhaps comfortable, for both you and your children. But you don’t want to foster that relationship when your kids are older. Don’t let your part in the relationship become all giving (or all receiving). Remember, the goal is to create a friendship with your children. If your kids always seem willing to take you away, make some suggestions of what they can do in return.

© 2020 Tina B. Tessina from The Ten Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make After Forty: Reinventing the Rest of Her Life

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