Lifestyle and Living
May 2023 | By Anne Bokma
How often do your adult children call or visit? We can guess at your likely answer: not enough!
One of the most difficult transitions for parents is accepting the fact that their grown children just don’t need them the way they used to—and they may not be in contact as much as parents would like. Parents may long for the days when they were the ones their children looked up to, when parental approval mattered more than anyone else’s and when they had the final say about what their children would or would not do.
Once your children leave home, all this changes. Wise parents learn how to graciously accept this.
50% of Adult Children Visit Parent(s) Once a Month
What’s a realistic amount of connection to hope for with adult children? It may help to know that 50% of adult children over age 25 visit one or both of their parents at least once a month, according to a 2017 Statistics Canada report. Thirty percent see them less than once per month and 14 are estranged from their parents and rarely or never see them. Statistics in other countries paint a different picture. In France, for example, 43% of adult children see one or both parents every week.
Certain factors affect how often adult children visit their parents, including how far apart they are geographically, whether adult children are in higher level jobs (in which case they see their parents less frequently) and whether adult children are only children (in which case they tend to see their parents more often). Visits may increase when grandchildren come along and also as parents age, when adult children may take on more of a caregiving role.
How to Keep the Relationship Strong
There are many ways you can forge a strong relationship with your adult children, from learning to communicate with them in a way that works for them (texting, for example) to creating a rich life of your own so you aren’t so dependent on your adult children.
Some other suggestions:
1. Remember—your child is a grown-up: That means they are responsible for their own actions and behaviors. Try not to offer your advice unless it is solicited, otherwise your opinions may be seen as intrusive. If you do have certain concerns, be sensitive about how you raise them. If you are asked for advice, don’t be surprised if it isn’t always taken.
2. Lay off the guilt: Saying “You never call me” or “Why aren’t you coming home for Christmas?” is likely to have the opposite effect you desire. Guilt is not a good way to keep your children close. The better option is to ensure their interactions with you are positive and that you don’t make demands.
3. Respect boundaries: In order for emerging adults to gain confidence, they need to have control over their own lives. Don’t force your opinions on them, show up at their door unannounced, call too often (it’s often best to wait for them to call you) or insert yourself in conflicts between your adult children and your grandchildren. Your job is to step back and allow them to live their life.
4. Be very clear when it comes to financial help: You may want to gift or lend money to your adult child to help them with something like buying a home or funding a grandchild’s education. It needs to be made very clear upfront (by you) whether this is a no-strings attached type of transaction or if you expect to have some say in how the money is spent. Conversely, your adult child may approach you if they are in need of funds. It can be very difficult, especially if you have the resources, to say no in this case.
What’s important here if you do decide to give, is to outline the terms of the gift or loan. If it’s a loan, put the details of how you expect the loan to be repaid in writing. If it’s a very large sum, it may be wise to talk to a lawyer to create the necessary paperwork. Having a firm agreement in place can prevent problems down the road.
5. Always avoid showing favoritism: Studies show that many parents have a favourite child—often it’s the one who is most like them. While this may be perfectly normal, it’s key to ensure your behavior is always even-handed and that you treat your children—and grandchildren—equally.
6. Engage in enjoyable activities together: Find ways to connect by engaging in fun things to do. Maybe it’s a movie night with popcorn, a camping vacation, games night or a hike in the woods. Ask your adult children what they would enjoy doing and see what you can do to help make it happen. Remember, the family that plays together, stays together.