Photo credit: Luke Stearns via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND
We all know how important it is to spend quality time as a family. Time spent bonding with children is vital to helping foster a close relationship between parents, children, and siblings. No one can deny there are emotional benefits to all members involved, but how do we keep those bonds in place as children grow up and start their own independent lives?
As much as parents might dread it, kids do have to grow up; they will go to college, move out of the house, and begin lives of their own that are separate from those of the family unit. Thought they hopefully will continue to visit or call, eventually they will have another home and that will be the center of their focus. This is where the original family unit either must evolve, or wither. Parents must be willing to embark on a new type of relationship with their adult children.
Accept their independence.
Parents cannot stop their children from growing up; they must choose to accept their independence or risk permanent damage to their relationships. The rules must change; for one the parents will no longer be in charge of all the decisions. Adult children need to feel respected as that-adults. Adult children will want and need to be able to make their own choices.
Parents must learn to allow adult children to make those choices, as well as some inevitable mistakes. The time for protecting them from the whole world is over, and though it is hard to let go, the “kids” will appreciate that the decisions they make are truly their own. That doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t accept advice, as long as the parents offer it without trying to control every situation. If the parents are lucky, the kids may even realize the adults are wiser than they believed during their teenage years.
Give major decisions a voice.
Whenever a decision must be made for the family as a whole, involve adult children in the decision making process. Whether the issue is a shared family vacation or choosing healthcare options for an elderly member who is incapacitated, the younger adults will appreciate having their opinions heard. Perhaps they will contribute an idea or argument that older members of the family haven’t considered. Sharing concerns, and decisions, as a family of adults, will allow those relationships to continue and be strengthened.
Cultivate shared interests.
One of the easiest ways to stay close to adult children is to spend time pleasurable time together. The activities the family used for “quality time” when children were young may or may not still be appropriate once everyone is considered an adult, so find activities and passions that can be shared now. Do parents and adult children share a mutual love for certain activities like hiking, working puzzles, cooking or reading? Find things that everyone can enjoy, either for the entire group or smaller sub-groups, and make time to do those things together.
If regular meetings are difficult to schedule, at least find time to talk about hobbies or joint interests, be it over dinner once a week or a skype call. If adult children live too far away to visit regularly make the most of the time you have. Also, consider rotating who hosts the group for family dinners, get-togethers, and weekend trips.
Remember, maintaining a deep family relationship requires work, but is always worthwhile.