Identifying and Overcoming Three Parental Beliefs that Strain Relationships with Adult Children


Central to many conflicts between adult children and their parents are the narratives that parents construct about their place in their child’s life. Unraveling these stories and discovering fresh perspectives and approaches presents families with the chance to evolve into a more balanced and positive environment.

1. It is my responsibility to address my adult child’s challenges.

Some parents of adult children feel a strong sense of responsibility to help their children overcome challenges. Some examples of this behavior include giving advice without being asked, providing resources to shield their child from facing the consequences of their actions, or intervening in conflicts between their adult child and other family members.

Parents of this nature often become frustrated when their child disregards their guidance, fails to fully appreciate the resources provided (or even wastes them), and consistently relies on them to resolve conflicts.

When parents intervene in their adult children’s challenges, they deprive them of the opportunity to develop their own problem-solving skills and convey a lack of confidence in their child’s ability to handle it independently. Parents eventually need to accept the reality that they cannot completely solve their child’s problems or have complete control over their actions or behavior. What alternative thoughts and actions can a parent consider? They may believe, “My child is a capable and competent adult. Ensuring their lack of struggle is not within my purview. I am not responsible for resolving all of their issues. I am committed to providing my support in a respectful and timely manner. Parents can start to take a step back and have faith in their child’s ability to resolve their problems.

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2. It is important for my child’s choices to align with my values.

Parents often view their children as an extension of themselves, to some degree. However, when this behavior becomes excessive, a parent may start exerting pressure on their child to make choices that align with the parents’ aspirations and reflect positively on them. Parents often attempt to influence their child’s career choices, encourage religious involvement, or closely monitor their child’s appearance to conform to societal beauty norms.

The adult child, burdened by the expectations, may exert immense effort to meet their parent’s expectations, sacrificing their own identity in the process, or rebel against and inevitably let down their cherished parents. What alternative perspectives can parents consider? My child possesses a strong sense of independence, with their own desires, requirements, principles, and convictions. It’s perfectly fine if we have our own unique qualities.

3. My child is my baby and I will always treat them that way.

In certain households, parents find it challenging to regard their grown-up child as an independent individual, often providing care that is not suitable for their age. Instead of engaging in meaningful discussions about the adult child’s work or interests, the parent focuses on practical matters like reminding them to pack a lunch and bring a coat due to the cold weather. The parent may expect to have the same level of access they had when their child was much younger. This dynamic can keep the relationship trapped in an old-fashioned state. The relationship fails to progress beyond a less mature stage, instead of discovering fresh and fulfilling ways to bond. Parents may experience a range of emotions when their primary task of raising a child comes to an end, such as grief or a sense of aimlessness. Some individuals may hold onto it as a way to preserve their identity, even after their child has surpassed that stage. What alternative perspectives can a parent consider? It goes without saying that my child will forever hold a special place in my heart. And they have reached adulthood, opening up new and meaningful avenues for connection.

Subtle shifts in perspective can have a significant impact on the dynamics between parents and their adult children. When parents embrace the idea of treating their children as independent individuals and valuing their choices and autonomy, they create an environment that fosters a fulfilling and harmonious relationship.


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