How do you relate to your twenty-something kids? Do you have a parent-child relationship or an adult-adult relationship?
I think that parenting after high school is even harder than parenting during the teen years. Our kids are maturing, separating, and figuring out who they are, yet they still need skilled parenting. But we now operate from a position of relationship rather than one of authority. The ten years between 18 and 28 (or so) are critical for our relationship for the rest of our lives. So how do we transition from parent-child to adult-adult?
We only had one child, so I admit I have limited experience. We had a pretty good relationship with him during his growing up years, but the transition to adulthood was still challenging. Even after he got married. Sometimes we’d talk for hours and it felt like we were peers. Other times, it felt strained.
Building an Adult-Adult Relationship
I remember the day when we were finally able to put language to our experience. We were traveling with our son and his wife. They were late meeting us, and that made us late for the next event. I said something about it, and they reacted like teens. Then it hit me. We were traveling as two adult couples, but they were reacting as if we were parents and they were children. I found that by putting the issue on the table and clarifying it, it moved us to a new place in the relationship. We talked about how we communicate with our adult friends, and how we negotiate differences without one person or couple being dominant. Of course, that wasn’t the end of it. We had to have the conversation several times over the next several years and we had to deliberately learn how to be adult friends rather than “mom and dad.” But in the end, it paid off. We are almost always on an adult-adult relationship now, and it’s a delight. So don’t be afraid to clarify your relationship with your kidults. The sooner the better.