In the past 100 years we have gone from seeing children as robust and benefiting from the rigors of life to seeing them as fragile and in need of protection. In addition, while parents in the early 20th century wanted their children to conform, respect the parents' authority, and to fear them, today's parents want their children to be independent and to love them. Many of today's parents are confused about how involved or uninvolved they should be with their children when they leave the nest and are often hurt by the sometimes-sudden decrease in intimacy that comes with their independence. The following are suggested as recommendations to decrease conflict and increase closeness with your adult child:
· Don't criticize their choice in romantic partners. You have raised your adult child to be independent, so don't assume that you know better about who they should be with.
· Don't criticize their parenting. Yes, you may have years of experience, but most people like to learn on their own and resent intrusions from the outside, especially from parents.
· Don't criticize their sexuality. This should go without saying, but we don't choose our sexuality, our sexuality chooses us. Criticizing something about your child that is part of his or her make-up is a guaranteed recipe for alienation.
· Don't guilt trip about their lack of involvement with you. Guilt increases distance and resentment.
· If you're going to say no to a request for money or some other form of support, do it with affection and not as a complaint or criticism.
· Take responsibility for mistakes you've made in the past.
· If your adult child has cut off contact, don't respond with retaliation. Work to understand why your child feels the way that he or she does. Assume that there are separate realities in every family and that your adult child has a legitimate perspective, even if it isn't obvious to you. Get a lot of support for the inevitable feelings of hurt, anger, guilt, or shame evoked by the alienation from your adult child.
Dr. Coleman's most recent book is titled, WHEN PARENTS HURT: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don't Get Along (HarperCollins). A frequent guest on the Today Show and NPR, he has also appeared on ABC 20/20, Good Morning America, the BBC, and numerous news programs for FOX, ABC, and NBC television. Dr. Coleman's advice has been featured in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Psychology Today, The London Times, and many other publications. He is a Senior Fellow with the Council on Contemporary Families and has a private practice in San Francisco and Oakland, California. Sign up today for Dr. Joshua Coleman's FREE monthly ezine at www.drjoshuacoleman.com or whenparentshurt.com.