As parents, we all hope and dream for the day when we can stop parenting and just be our kids’ friends, don’t we? After all the training, disciplining, and agonizing over tough choices, we long for a plateau, a resting place, a haven from which we can simply enjoy these people into whom we have poured our lives.
While there are certainly such respites along the way, the ultimate promise of friendship with our kids may seem far off, when they’re self-sufficient adults. We hope that they’ll be employing some of the lessons we tried to instill in them during childhood, but regardless of “how they turn out,” the parent-child relationship needs to transition, at some point.
Sadly, many parents miss the opportunity for vibrant relationships with their adult children, simply because they never make the relational transition from parent to friend. Or maybe they don’t even know how. Below are some general distinctions that parents of teens can begin to think about and plan to implement as their kids make the almost-always-rocky transition to adulthood.
1. Friends may offer suggestions when asked, but not constant unsolicited advice.
Have you ever had a friend that always had to put his or her two cents in, whenever you mentioned a decision you had made or were about to make? It probably became tiresome, and if the trend continued, you weren’t so likely to call that friend again — and definitely not to ask for their opinion!
2. Friends ask about one another’s lives but don’t pry.
When you ask a friend a question about their health or finances or plans and receive a vague response, you leave it there, don’t you? We all recognize the need for privacy, and friends respect the boundaries set up by one another.
Each person’s comfort level in sharing personal details is different and may vary by the relationship, but no one likes to be badgered into sharing more than the relationship or their personal preferences allow.
3. Friends don’t re-hash old hurts or wounds or hold one another responsible for them.
Now, many a psychotherapist may encourage adults to blame their problems on their parents, and there may be a time when your adult son or daughter talks with you about his or her childhood hurts.
However, for you to do so toward them demonstrates a lack of maturity as well as a breech of trust. They were just children or teenagers then; you were the mature adult. Even flippant reminders of childhood failures can put a rift in the adult friendship you’re trying to nurture.
4. Friends bury expectations and accept one another.
Parents can have expectations for adult children based on old dreams, observations of others, or even their relationships with other children in the family. Each person is an individual, and each friendship is unique.
Regardless of how you hoped your child would turn out and how close of a relationship you hoped to share, you have to take what’s there and enjoy it for what it is.