In it for the long haul

Making the decision to have a child is to decide to have your heart go walking around outside your body forever, to quote Elizabeth Stone.

I don't think we appreciate, and probably cannot comprehend, that a parent is a parent forever until we become parents ourselves.

While the relationship changes over the years, it remains an important emotional bond for the rest of most parents' lives.

It can become strained at times and, sadly, can bring an estrangement, leaving adult children and parents feeling battered, bitter and unappreciated, and holding grudges for real or imagined slights.

Some parents find it difficult to accept that their offspring have become their equals and attempt to exercise some hold over them through financial or other means, such as emotional blackmail, to keep them dependent.

Parents still have a lot to offer their children through their own life experience but it's quite a salutary thing to ask yourself what you were doing at the same age.

What sort advice were you happy to receive?

What responsibilities were you managing quite happily?

How then do you get the balance right so that you can offer advice because you continue to care, but don't want to be seen as meddling?

It's very similar to the dilemma you faced when they were teenagers about how much freedom to give them and when to step in.

It's those lines of communication from way back that still need to be nurtured so that parents can ask questions and show concern without feeling they're interfering, and adult children can respond without getting defensive, or can seek advice without feeling that they are somehow inadequate.

It's important to acknowledge what the child has become, and the child to acknowledge what their parents have done for them.

There will be times when you feel let down, but avoid living in the past, nursing grievances.

Look for all the good things and there will be many.

There's also a need to acknowledge that, while you continue to care, you no longer have responsibility.

At all.

Although, that doesn't mean you should take no action if you become aware of actual risk of harm.

This lack of responsibility also extends to feelings that you've somehow failed if things go wrong.

Your offspring are adults.

They have freedom of choice.

They are responsible.

We gave them both their roots and their wings.

No matter how emotionally attached we are, we must let them fly.

They will have a different view on life in lots of ways, just as our views were different from those of our parents.

Acknowledge, even celebrate, the differences.

We showed them the way and now, however reluctantly, we must stand out of it.

- Ian Munro 

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