How you can navigate parenthood when your children go off you

Apr 18, 2019
Navigating the relationship between parent and adult children can be tricky. Source: Getty Images

Rhonda was visiting her 26-year-old son in his new flat and noticed he didn’t have a bed cover. She offered to buy him one as a moving in present and the response was “Thanks, but don’t bother”. When she next visited she noticed a new bed cover in a colour she hated, which had been bought by his girlfriend. She felt replaced by the new woman in his life, but was smart enough not to say anything.

Many of us have been through this kind of experience and it can be depressing as what were once close relationships, cool as adult children become more distant. Parents resisting their children becoming more independent run the risk of cooling the relationship even faster. If you’re trying to navigate these kinds of relationship changes, there are a few tips you might like to consider.

Don’t try to compete with your child’s partner — even if you don’t like him/her. You’ll lose the competition and possibly damage the relationship.

Accept that your children are adults and don’t treat them as teenagers who should accept your advice. If they don’t ask for it, they probably won’t accept it and won’t thank you for it.

Don’t expect your children to be your best friends. They are probably busy with their own lives and challenges and often don’t have the time to be involved participants in your life.

Your ’empty nest’ life doesn’t revolve around your children. They’ve left home and you have the chance to build a new life focussed on what you want to do. By all means, be interested in your children and grandchildren, but don’t waste this opportunity to live a free and independent life after spending most of it tied to a career and family.

Don’t assume that they are always available for a chat, text, or email exchange. It’s normal for response times to get longer as they establish their independent lives. They have other friends, other interests and often busier lives. Slow response times, shouldn’t mean they don’t care — it’s just that you’re lower down the priority list and they know that you’ll forgive them for being slow.

Let them change the relationship to something that works better for them. We all know that trying to hold on to maturing children is courting disaster. They want their independence. Surely it’s better to treat them as adults and talk about the fact that the relationship has to change and try to develop a new relationship that works for all parties.

We have published a range of books that cover the main issues that most people have to manage in their 50s, 60s and 70s. You can find more information on our website at

Have you had to reshape the parent-child relationship as they’ve moved into adulthood? How would you rate the relationship you have with your children?

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