Once your children grow up, you might think you’ve finished the hard work. Although you won’t be engaging in the hands-on work necessitated by youngsters, parenting your adult children will still take some effort. Once you are on more equal footing with your grown kids, you may need to earn your adult children’s respect as the foundation for a new and rewarding relationship.
Update Personal Boundaries
Your children are now adults, and as you step back from an active parenting role, boundaries will change. Still, they remain important for mutual respect, says clinical psychologist Jill Castro. For example, you can continue to support your child and her goals, but it’s reasonable to insist that your child not call you in the middle of the night unless an emergency occurs. Once you establish these boundaries, enforce them so your child learns to respect them and you.
Accept Your Adult Child
While you laid the foundation for your child in the values you instilled, your child has the freedom to make personal decisions about actions, opinions and beliefs. Even if your child strays from the morals and standards you taught, accept the person your child is becoming. Release your expectations, and concentrate on choosing to enjoy your relationship with your child, advises author and psychotherapist Kathy McCoy. This acceptance will set a stage for mutual respect between you and your adult child.
Avoid Inappropriate Venting
Once your child attains adult status, it can be easy to fall into more of a friend or “peer” relationship with him. However, venting about marital issues or about other family issues with your adult child can cause family discord, warns Castro. Your child may feel uncomfortable with this venting or it could put your child on the defensive, which might affect the level of respect your child has for you. Instead, express these feelings to a friend or a therapist.
Apologize when Necessary
Mistakes happen in any relationship, including those in which you are parenting adult children. If you make a mistake in the way you interact with your child, accept responsibility for your actions and apologize, advises psychologist Joshua Coleman, author of "When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don’t Get Along." Personal accountability and accepting responsibility builds respect in relationships and adult children are more likely to positively respond to you when you conduct yourself this way.
Failure to Launch
Launching out into the world is a rite of passage, but some kids miss this milestone. If your adult child flounders and lacks direction, it may be time for some firm limits from you to prevent unhealthy enabling from occurring. Instead of engaging with your child in a way that provokes negative power struggles, communicate directly, advises family counselor Debbie Pincus, MS LMHC. Asking your child about plans and efforts for education and employment is reasonable. Communicate respectfully with your child to foster a reciprocation of respect.