Do you call your mom every day or does your mom call you? Or do you go days or weeks without any meaningful communication between the generations?
Navigating the communication boundaries between parents and their adult kids has never been easy — especially with the changing nature of adulthood lasting longer today, throughout the 20s and 30s.
Sure, technology makes it easier than ever with cell phones, texting, Skyping and FaceTime, but it still comes down to the relationship you have and how much you want to stay in touch.
Family experts from Psychology Today say that the primary thing that binds today’s adult children to their parents is whether the child wants the relationship.
Sometimes a difference of opinion on lifestyle, love life, household standards or work habits can cause tension between parents and their adult children. The good news is that these tensions decrease with age as we learn to pick our own battles and accept each other, finding the humor amidst the frustrations, according to Psychology Today.
When parents are getting older and their grown children are truly adults, the relationship can be a slippery slope to navigate, as more visits and calls may seem like interference or an affront to the parents’ desire to continue their independence.
As was quoted recently in The Atlantic Magazine, older adults want to be cared about, but fear being cared for. That’s why there can be quite a push-and-pull between older parents and their adult children.
If you have parents in this age group, make sure to call and involve them in your lives in positive ways, not always calling for negative reasons. Listen lovingly for hints that there are aging issues taking place that might mean a higher level of involvement in their lives, but try not to interfere unless there’s a real reason to do so.
For parents and their young adult kids who are just learning a “new normal” of independence from each other, here is some “parenting” advice from AARP:
• Observe respectful boundaries. Parents who cherished a close relationship with their kids when they were younger may feel hurt if they sense they are pulling away. But keeping a buffer is all about helping adult kids establish their own separate identity and building confidence in making their own decisions.
• Listen more than you talk. After years of hands-on parenting, you may bristle at having to bite your tongue as your grown kids make both smart and foolish decisions. Parents usually struggle with the want-to-fix-its, but it’s better for adult children to learn from their own mistakes, unless there are serious issues that force you to get involved — drug use, mental illness, etc.
• Set ground rules about how to disagree. Listen without commenting and then comment in a neutral tone. If that’s not possible, take a time-out for both sides to calm down. Sleep on it or allow heated emotions to cool.
• Find common ground to build family togetherness. Get baseball tickets, take a class together, do jigsaw puzzles together. Find ways to create intimacy that might not be there without a little creativity.
• Make room for significant others. Do your best to embrace the people your grown children have chosen to love. Accept the fact that this person will be first in their lives, and that they will shift their primary attachment to their mate. Otherwise, marital trouble may follow.
A survey of young adults, ages 21 to 26 and parents, ages 47 to 66, show that today’s baby boomers are much more communicative with their young adult offspring than they were with their own parents at that age.
Thirty-one percent of today’s young adults communicate with their parents more than once a day, while only 13 percent of the parents said they were in touch with their own parents daily.
Much of this could be attributed to today’s communication technology, compared to having to stand in line at the college dorm on Sunday nights to use a pay phone to call home.