In fact, my first no-no for parents of adult children is to never try to control their lives. “Adult” means “responsible” and unless you are willing to admit that you did a poor job of raising them, you should now be ready to sit back and see the results of your training, what should be a pleasant and satisfying prospect. Failure in this area is usually caused by parents who want the vicarious thrills of their child’s achievements. It’s not about you and what you want any longer. This is his life and we need to be adults who can accept that fact.
Another important no-no: Do not come between couples. And do not separate them either. When my son comes to visit, I expect his wife to come too. I would never ask him to come alone, yet I have heard of that very thing. Your child-in-law should never feel unwelcome. My husband and I are a unit. You want one, you get both. The same is true for your child and spouse. I covered this earlier in an in-law series, but it bears repeating: your child’s spouse should feel love and acceptance in the family. It is nothing but shameful when that does not happen.
Next, and yet another big one, do not manipulate your adult child. Do not use guilt trips. Put “No one loves me,” “I guess you just don’t have time for me anymore,” and “You never come to see me,” out of your vocabulary. Recognize that your perspective may be skewed because you are not as busy as you used to be or you can no longer drive yourself a great distance, so time passes more slowly and intervals between visits seem longer than they actually are. Recognize that your child has obligations, obligations that you taught him to fulfill, like those to God, his wife and children, her parents, and his work. Just what exactly were you doing at his age? Probably the same things s/he is.
Do not make the holidays a source of pain for everyone. There are now two sets of parents to spend time with. Accept your children’s division of the time. Believe me, they are doing their best, but too often both sets of parents want it all. That simply will not work, and all your complaining does is ruin it for everyone. They will grow to hate the holidays, and some of that is bound to rub off on you if you are the ones causing the problems. Don’t allow your lives to be ruled by a calendar. Work it out and make their time with you—whenever it is and for however long—something they will always cherish.
And never, never, never use your grandchildren to get your way. Anyone who uses a child is the lowest of the low. Don’t even consider it. And that includes deluding yourself that you are actually doing this in the child’s best interests, when it is obvious to everyone else that it is you who matters the most to you.
Then there is the issue of losing your independence and their caring for you. Sooner or later it will happen. When the time comes, make caring for you easy and pleasant. Stubborn refusal to follow doctor’s orders, take your medications, etc., will only cast a stumbling block in front of them as they try to fulfill their scriptural obligations, and you know what Jesus had to say about that. Be realistic. No one goes on forever. (“Our outer man is decaying…”2 Cor 4:16.) When it is time to give something up, perhaps driving or living alone, do it gracefully. Make caring for you the joy it should be to a grateful child. Make your final years things they will miss instead of a relief to have over.
This relationship bears obligations both ways. I probably haven’t even touched them all, but these, and yesterday’s, are a good start.
Fathers [and mothers], do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. (Col 3:21)