How much should parents intervene in their adult childrens lives? The answer in most cases is not much. Once adult kids are independent and paying their own bills, its time for Mom and Dad to gracefully bow out and stop giving them advice.
Thats easier said than done. When folks watch their grown children behave in ways that make them cringe, theyre tempted to offer helpful suggestions or tell them how to do things right.
Unfortunately, such interference seldom has the desired effect. Adult children and their spouses resent parental intrusion. They dont want to be told what to do. They have contemporary viewpoints. They dislike being treated like kids.
Our children have a right to feel that way. They deserve the chance to take charge of their lives. Times have changed, and they are members of the current roster. Adult kids understand technology and modern mores far better than older folks. Theyre ready to take their turn at bat. Parents must watch patiently from the sidelines.
Excessive parental advice also sends a destructive message. It tells adult kids that theyre making poor choices. Were saying, Youre not capable of taking care of yourself. You need us to intervene.
It also implies that we somehow have all the answers or that we never struggled when we were starting out. The truth is that each of has made plenty of mistakes. Wed do many things differently if we had a second chance.
Of course, all bets are off if adult kids are still financially dependent or in some way relying heavily on their folks. When parents are providing free, daily child care, they have a say in the grandchildrens discipline. And if theyre paying an adult childs mortgage, they can squawk if he buys a new ski boat.
Its equally important to step in if grandchildren are endangered or neglected by grown kids actions.
Fortunately, most adult children are doing a fine job of managing their affairs. Theyre gainfully employed, raising their families and being functional members of society. We may not agree with all their choices, but its best we keep our opinions to ourselves.
HOW TO AVOID INTERFERING IN YOUR GROWN KIDS LIVES
Trust that theyll make good decisions. Have faith in your offspring. They wont do everything as you did. Theyre unique individuals raised in a different era. Believe that theyre competent men and women wholl be able to call their own shots.
Give asked-for advice sparingly. Even solicited input can be perceived as interference. Start with a supportive, Oh, thats a tough problem! I remember that same issue when I first started working. Then offer, Heres what worked for me. It might be worth a try! Give more only if requested.
Let go of judgments. Were seldom critical of just one issue. It tends to seep into all we say and do. Its especially destructive when its directed toward our grown children. Catch yourself going judgmental. Replace critical thoughts with more accepting ones.
Make positive observations. Your grown kids are doing many things right. Let them know that you approve. A heartfelt, Wow! You guys keep the neatest house! creates a positive atmosphere and sets the stage for a close relationship.
Engage in earnest, informative discussions. If youre concerned about something theyre doing, ask them to share their thoughts. Begin with an open invitation Ive never heard about a family bed. Would you please educate me? to learn more and keep the dialogue open.
Share books and articles carefully. Sending newspaper articles and Web links can be tempting. But they spell disaster if accompanied by an underlying heres-how-you-should-be-doing-it message. Forward occasional items with an airy Thought you might like this, message thats free of any ulterior motive.
Watch your attitude and tone. Tone and attitude are subtle ways to express disapproval. You may say Thats fine! with your words and I totally disapprove, with your scowl. Scan yourself for hidden messages that contaminate your parent-child relationship. Do your best to delete them from your psychic hard drive.
Zip your lips. If you cant be pleasant, dont say anything at all. Believe that your kids are doing their best. Behave as if they were.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit lindalewisgriffith.com.