I’ve learned a lot about parenting just through years of experience. But one of the most important things I learned is that if you want a relationship with your children when they are adults you must start right now, where you are. The parent child relationship is non-voluntary as a rule, but when our children turn 18, it becomes a voluntary relationship. Yes, this means your children can choose NOT to have a relationship with you at that time and it will be based upon the respect and appropriate boundaries and limits you set with your child while they were growing up. This does not mean that every child will want a relationship with their parents, but there are ways to improve that possibility.
We hold a sacred stewardship over our children’s lives…. it is our job to teach them about honesty, respect, compassion, self-sufficiency and what it means to be part of something. Being a steward is a place of honor, a position of the utmost consequence when we do it right and when we do it wrong. It means we are watching over, directing and redirecting our children’s exposure to people, experiences and the world in a way that aids them in a positive, growth-oriented way. It gives them a foundation from which they can make effective decisions that not only protect them, but empower them to move forward into their own independent lives.
Our jobs, as parents, are to put ourselves out of a job. SO heartbreaking but so true. We must, like all mammals, teach our offspring to be self-sufficient, to live well when we are not with them, and to survive when we are gone, so that our genetic lines go forward in time. This is a bittersweet job, one that has left me in tears, sobbing in fact, as I let my adult child exit the safety of family life and move into adulthood. But it must be managed well, with clarity about the separation, strength in the face of the shift, and a commitment of support, frequently, from afar.
If we can truly think ahead with the knowledge that our kids can choose no relationship when they become adults, what will we do differently in the now? Being permissive and giving our children everything they want in the moment is the furthest from the right thing to do as we can go. There is no price or object that can “buy” our kids’ connection to us. That comes from the day to day ethical, clear and mature decisions we make for and with our children. Essential to fodder for a strong relationship with our kids when they are adults include; clear, strong boundaries and consequences about what is right and wrong; regular conversations about WHO the child is, who they think they are and who they want to be; showing them how to deal with disappointment and loss; demonstration of respectful conflict resolution; persistent encouragement for the gains our children attain; unending respect and understanding for the feelings and thoughts our children experience with a clear re-direction as needed.
Author: Guest Post