Build Great Relationships with Your Adult Children
- Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Jim Newheiser and Elyse Fitzpatrick's book, You Never Stop Being a Parent: Thriving in Relationship with Your Adult Children, (P&R Publishing, 2010).
Your job as a parent isn't done once your kids grow up. When they're adults, your kids still need your love, guidance, and encouragement - but your relationship with them should be different than it was while you were raising them. If you learn how to relate to your adult children as respected friends, you can build great relationships with them that can last for the rest of your lives.
Here's how you can build great relationships with your adult kids:
Remember the goal of parenting. Keep in mind that the goal you were aiming for when raising your kids was to help them become independent adults who live faithfully and productively. If they're already mature enough to live that way, congratulations. But if they're still struggling with independence as adults, it's time for you to show them the way to independent lives. So ask God to help you stop interacting with them in any ways that are preventing them from becoming independent. Pray for the ability to let your adult children make their own decisions and experience the consequences of those decisions so they'll learn how to live independently.
Teach key life lessons. Work to make sure that your adult children learn crucial lessons that will help them live as God intends. Teach them that God's love is found in Jesus, and show them how t live for God's glory by worshipping Him out of love, put other people ahead of themselves, communicate with wisdom and humility, relate romantically according to God's design for sex and marriage, choose their friends carefully, make adult choices, work hard, and manage their money wisely. Learning these lessons will help your adult kids avoid getting trapped in sins that often harm young adults, such as sex before marriage and credit card debt.
Listen rather than demanding to be heard. Listening when your adult kids share their thoughts and feelings with you encourages them to open up to you more, because it shows them that you respect their opinions and their right to differ with your own opinions. In contrast, demanding that they choose what you want for them or nagging them until they give into pressure will only damage your relationships with them. Recognize that your adult children are responsible before God to make their own decisions about all issues - including who they'll marry and what kind of career they'll pursue - even when you feel strongly that their choices are unwise.
Pray often. God is always ready to listen to your prayers for your adult kids. Express your concerns to God regularly, and trust Him to respond by working powerfully in their lives.
Forgive. If your adult children have hurt you through something they've said or done, don't let bitterness poison your relationships with them - or your relationship with God, who commands you to forgive as He has forgiven you. Rely on God's help to forgive your adult kids and pave the way for closer relationships with them.
Deal with living arrangements wisely. Today, many young adults still live at home with their parents, or move back home after living elsewhere for a time. If your adult kids are living in your home, be sure to clarify the reason why they're there (such as that they're attending college, helping to care for you or your spouse, or need support following a recent crisis like a divorce). Clearly define the amount of time they can plan to stay at home, to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts. But keep in mind that your adult children may stay at home indefinitely as long as they're productive (such as contributing fairly to household expenses and doing chores) and you all agree that living together is best. If your adult kids aren't working hard to contribute equitably to your household or aren't respecting your house rules for living together well (such as refraining from drunkenness or sexual immorality), it's time to have them move out. Don't hesitate to make your adult children move out for those reasons, since having to move may motivate them to change in healthy ways. If you've had to make your adult kids move out, you can still invite them over regularly for meals and family events together.
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