When kids become adults, the parent-child relationship changes. For one thing, there's a lot more to talk about. Even so, there are just a few topics adult children never want their parents to bring up.
1. Keeping up with the Jones' kids. Mom and Dad, we don't have to tell you how rough the economy is right now. You know first hand yourselves. That's why comments that seem to compare us to your friends' seemingly more successful children are a no-no.
You wouldn't want to be like Nick Crews, would you? The 67-year-old retired naval submarine captain wrote a letter to his three adult children mercilessly criticizing them for failing to find a job aligned with their schooling or stay married to their first spouses.
We are constantly regaled with chapter and verse of the happy, successful lives of the families of our friends and relatives and being asked of news of our own children and grandchildren. I wonder if you realize how we feel -- we have nothing to say which reflects any credit on you or us.
Fulfilling careers based on your educations would have helped -- but as yet none of you is what I would confidently term properly self-supporting. ... Each of you is well able to earn a comfortable living and provide for your children, yet each of you has contrived to avoid even moderate achievement.
Ouch. (By the way your answer was hopefully no. No, you do not want to be like Nick Crews.)
2. The lack of grandchildren / a wedding ring. A playful comment here and there is fine. But a regular harping on not hearing the pitter-patter of little feet? Let's not and say we did.
It can be a stressful reminder for your child if they are worried about hitting certain life milestones like marriage and being a parent. (Especially if they are just as ready to make you in-laws or grandparents, but don't have a partner who is on board.)
There are a number of reasons why you aren't a grandparent yet. And unless your adult child asks for your advice, it's best not to make "When am I going to see some grandchildren around here?" a regular talking point.
3. Our exes. Most serious relationships have the inevitable "meet the parents" moment. You're nervous, your significant other is nervous, but everyone meets and it's great! You start to regularly update your folks on what's new with your boyfriend or girlfriend! They become a part of the family! There are jokes made about making grandbabies (see point 2)!
But Mom and Dad, if we break up with someone, it's probably best to never mention them again. Like, maybe even pretend they never existed. It can be an unwanted reminder of something we'd just as sooner forget or move on from, or -- if it happens enough -- appear as some referendum on a relationship that ended for reasons you may not be privvy to.
I dated someone for six years, and now, almost three years after our breakup, my folks will occasionally ask me how he's doing. This unexpected mention always gives me a case of premature heartburn, forcing up memories I'd rather leave in the past. By not mentioning our exes, you're guaranteeing you won't unintentionally bring up bad memories / saving yourself from badmouthing someone we could potentially date again.
4. Religion (or lack thereof) especially when it comes to grandchildren or significant other/spouse. It's always been said that one should never discuss religion or politics in polite company, but it should be doubly true for family.
A friend of mine's mother was vehemently against her dating (and eventually marrying) a Hindu. (My friend, Rebecca, is Jewish.)
Her mother said "it would be throwing away the Jewish education I grew up with," Rebecca recalled. "Jewish camp, Hebrew school... According to her it [was] like spitting in the face of our ancestors because we wouldn't continue the 'line,' meaning our Jewish line."
This, needless to say, created considerable tension between the two. But, upon meeting Rebecca's boyfriend-turned-husband -- and seeing what a good man he is -- her mom changed her mind and accepted him as a son.
Looking incredibly happy and proud in a mauve sari on her daughter's wedding day, the entire wedding was moved when she said the bride and groom were "beshert" -- Yiddish for "meant to be" -- during her teary wedding speech.
So try and take a page from Rebecca's mom's book and look at the person, rather than the religion. It'll keep you from potentially losing your child -- and those future grandbabies you guys want so much.
5. Sex. If you can't promise you won't let a reference to our old boyfriends slip out or remind us how the next door neighbor's kid is a big shot on Wall Street, can you at least do us this one itty-bitty favor? Please, please, please don't talk to us about your sex lives, OMFG.
Now that we're all adults, we understand that people have their needs and desires. But those people are never our moms and dads, or if they are, we'd rather not think about it / have a mental image painted for us by an off-color remark.
One of my friends -- we'll call him J -- shared one such instance he had with his mom that gave me second-hand embarrassment just from hearing about it. While watching TV together, a commercial for Viagra appeared. Upon hearing the infamous "Do you have problems maintaining an erection?" line, J's mother exclaimed: "I wish that was your father's problem!"
J covered his eyes with his hands at the memory. "It's like, 'Come on, Mom!'" he said.
Seriously. Come on, moms and dads. You'll be doing us all a favor by not mentioning these five things.
Nothing wrong with being cautious and slow. Before you tell your adult children that you are dating again (or make a big deal about someone specific), make sure that the two of you are a couple. Ask yourself whether you feel serious about this person. You don't want to get your adult children involved, attached, or concerned when it's not necessary.
If you want to win over your adult children, just tell them that this new partner makes you happy. How can your children have a problem with that? Remember that your kids want to make sure it's someone who cares about you and is trustworthy, because children of all ages don't want their parents to get hurt. Also, many adult children are concerned that a new partner will "financially" and "emotionally" take advantage of their parent. Keep these two concerns in mind when you talk to your adult children. Flickr photo via: Kunni Kun.
The more information your new partner has before they meet your adult children, the better. Don't fear telling your partner too much. The more information they have about your adult children the easier it will be for them to ask questions, seem interested, and join the conversation. Flickr photo via: Petteri Sulonen.
It is important that your adult children observe the two of you sharing responsibilities and enjoying each other's company. A great idea: getting together for a meal - have the partner and adult children meet over dinner or lunch! At the dinner, if you cook the turkey, have your partner make the mashed potatoes. If he doesn't cook, have him set the table. Work together as a team. Flickr photo by: rhurtubia.
No matter their age, explain why you're dating again, that no one will ever replace their other parent, and now that they are older - you too need companionship. Don't dismiss their concerns - instead, if you validate their concerns, they won't get defensive. If you say instead: "I understand that you are worried about me and you're not sure this is right for me. I hear you. I promise you, I will come and let you know if anything doesn't feel right to me about this person. I won't hesitate to let you know. But, right now - he makes me happy. I enjoy his company and I am being cautious, slow and safe."
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