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How to Manage Your Relationship with Your Adult Children

Remember when your small children needed you all the time? At the time the goal was to make them self-sufficient and independent. As they grew into peer-focused teenagers you probably started to miss being the center of their universe. When they made it through their early twenties and beyond, the time of uncertainty began. How much did you let them make their own mistakes, how much were you there for them in any manner they would allow?

And now, they are settled into their adult lives. They see you as a person in addition to a parent and they may be concerned about you from a financial and an emotional perspective. It’s challenging to know how to talk to them about whatever you’re facing at this stage. How much do you reveal about your own worries and how much do you preserve the parent-child dynamic? You know your children, what they can handle, what could overwhelm them and historically how you communicate with them.

Ideally, mutual respect will make those difficult conversations go more smoothly. You respect who they are, regardless of how much you may or may not approve and trust that they are mature enough to handle distress. Hopefully, they also respect you, do not need to control your life choices and understand that you need to remain as independent as possible. There is no getting around how weird this is after all those years of you being the infallible parent. However, this is the phase of life you’re in now and you need to balance your parental position with how much you need their love and support.

Talk to them honestly about what you’re experiencing without burdening them with your fears. They need to have an understanding of your situation, including your finances. Many families wait until it’s too late to have this discussion, causing chaos in the inevitable end. You don’t need to disclose exact dollar amounts, but you do need to direct them where to find the information if you are incapacitated. Do it sooner rather than later while you can be available to answer questions. It’s kinder to them to have this dreaded conversation rather than leaving them to play unhappy detectives in the future.

Most likely you have a reasonable relationship with your adult children and their families, given that family dynamics are at play in every family. Help your children help you by communicating openly and respectfully so that you appreciate each other as partners, not adversaries.

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