Getting on the same page can be difficult. It can be difficult to determine what is “normal” within a parent-adult child relationship. Each family and individual is different, but one thing is certain — developing a healthy bond with your parent as an adult (or your adult child) is possible.
If you’re reading this, chances are you have some desire to improve your relationship with your parents and/or your adult children. You desire a different kind of closeness, less tension, and more connection. Maybe you’ve made efforts to achieve this, but still feel tension or lack of understanding.
There are many potential causes of tension within parent-adult child relationships. According to The Atlantic, this tension can often be boiled down into mismatched expectations: adult children see the relationship differently than their parents do.
One of the keys to healthy relationships — be it family, dating, or friendships — is clear communication about expectations. Because the parent/child relationship changes so drastically over time (think infancy to the teen years and beyond), it is especially important to be intentional about expectations as two adults.
Some common reasons for mismatched expectations:
- Differing values: there has been a shift in how people view the family over the course of the last few generations. Many parents find that they disagree with how their adult children view the idea of family, and disagree with their life choices. In extreme cases, this can lead to a “value breach,” where the adult child has so drastically separated themselves from the values of the parent, that estrangement occurs.
- Feeling criticized, controlled, or conditionally loved
- Poor boundaries
Rewrite the Script
- As with any relationship, it’s important to recognize that you simply cannot control whether the other person is willing to make effort to improve the relationship. Consider whether you are in a situation with your parent or adult child where there is an imbalance in effort — in that case, it may be important to then focus on acceptance and letting go of expectations entirely.
- Listen without defending yourself
- Create a new relationship: use this opportunity to work together to create an entirely new relationship that works for both of you.
- Live your life without trying to change theirs: focus on strengthening your own identity and relationship with yourself.