Ask yourself: Is a parent’s work ever done?

“The hardest part of a parent’s task is to know when the task is done.” (Diana L. Paxson, White Mare, Red Stallion)

Jan Kwiatkowski, LMFT, is a psychotherapist and mental health consultant for Aurora Family Service in Milwaukee, WI.

This week, I want to focus a little on relationships between parents and adult children.

It seems like an oxymoron to write the words “adult children”, but I think it speaks to the joys and challenges that come with changing relationships, roles and status when children reach adulthood.

As children grow older, the fact that we have been in a parenting role with a relationship history does not change. However, like all historical events, the progression of time presents the opportunity to adapt, grow, learn and make meaning of our lives.

You might notice that it is often in happy life events, like graduations, starting college, weddings, the birth of children or grandchildren, that your family experiences some real bumps along with the joy and excitement. This is because each person is figuring out how to navigate the shift in levels of dependence, independence and interdependence.

In a perfect world, parents provide the space for children to move from complete dependence, through all the learning stages of independence, to a time of interdependence. Interdependence is marked by balance and reciprocity.

There is excitement and creative potential in these times of role shifting. We watch with pride as a child moves on and accomplishes goals and dreams. There is also some sadness as we realize we are not needed in the same way.

We may have put all of our energy into raising our children, while putting aside other tasks and relationships that may or may not be repairable. Making meaning of this internal process and self-defining this new stage in life is often a time when people will choose to see a therapist.

Many, also experience that helplessness that comes with watching our adult children make terrible, sometimes life-shattering choices. The feelings of loss, guilt and powerlessness can become overwhelming. Again, parents have to make meaning of this internal process and self-define this time in life. Parents question if they did the right thing, whatever decisions were made.

Some thoughts of wisdom on being in relationship with our children children:

1. Love them. Love them. Love them…with no strings attached.

2. Be available, but not pushy. This is especially hard when it comes to letting them find their own way and make their own mistakes. We wanted this from our parents.

3. Bite your tongue. When adult children want your advice or input, they will ask for it.

4. Trust yourself and the upbringing you gave them. We added and tweaked the foundation our parents gave us. It’s their turn to create and do the same.

5. Set boundaries on how you can and will support or help, when needed or asked.

6. Be patient…most of us did not figure it all out right away. They won’t either.

7. Get busy creating your new stage and realize we are always trying to make meaning of the stages of our lives.

8. If you have a practice of prayer, sending positive energy, visualization, etc. use it in support of yourself and your adult children.

9. And finally….LOVE, LOVE, LOVE them. and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE yourself.

Aurora Family Service helps families overcome challenges, changes and crisis to live well again. We achieve stability and strength for families through counseling, parenting, elder care, financial, career, health and community services.  For more information, visit our website, follow us onFacebook, or call 1-414-342-4560.

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