The second half of parenting is a combination of learning how to connect with our adult children as well reflecting on (and developing) the legacy we leave them. The best relationships are those that are negotiated and renegotiated, and that certainly applies to adult children. Intentionality is also a continued requirement, but in a completely new context. Time together is more limited so making the most of it and having a common vision can clean up the emotional clutter that comes with opposing expectations. It might feel contrived to talk about certain elements of the relationship, but left unspoken, the time together can generate tension, distance, and may even invite the “no more than three day’s together rule” that usually isn’t initiated by you.
Taking the time to intentionally iron out some of the following topics can be a game changer. Inviting them to the table to share their insights will show you care and want to meet them on their terms. Remember, they might be the person that is has the least flexibility due to their season of life. Practically inviting their input will make them feel valued and understood and purposefully considering the future will help you build a living legacy.
What does it look like to stay in contact with your adult children. Do they want to initiate all contact by phone or, is it OK to call them? Is it best to agree to a standing appointment for checking in? If they are married, what does it look like to connect with their spouse? What about grandkids? Finding the right balance of contact can take time, but be open and willing to discuss what is working, and make changes when needed.
Discuss the length of time and what it might look like to visit your adult children, or for them to visit you. Plan special events that can form new traditions. Be intentional to schedule time to be with your family members in a meaningful way. Help out as much as possible. Having someone to take care of them like when they were living at home is a fading memory. Cooking a great meal, treating them to dinner, and offering to babysit so they can go out are well received. If not, find out what is desired.
It is a good time to set new traditions in place. The family dynamics, geography, free time, ages and even number of people in the family are all potential changes and the traditions need to fit the new season. Talk about what works and what doesn’t.
Making room for a full time job, a move, a spouse, and grandkids can all be factors in the ever changing family, which will affect the holidays. Again, be willing to discuss them as they come, allow the freedom for the children to make some suggestions and then honor them. It might be difficult to hear what they want, but forcing something they don’t want or being together because they feel obligated doesn’t allow the authenticity that forms the best relationships down the line.
Talk about if and when you can get together. Get buy-in early on so there isn’t disappointment down the line. Discuss setting aside a regular time for the extended family each year to avoid conflicts. Consider hosting everyone in a popular location that is appealing to visit. Or, plan an exciting adventure around your family values. Again, give people freedom to make choices that fit them and their season of life. If you make it appealing they will want to be there.
Knowing them better
Studying them and learning their language (personality, love languages, preferences) is the best way to maintain intimacy. This is the season to come alongside them as an advocate, encourager, supporter. They need your wisdom, but don’t want it imposed. They desire your commitment to their growing family, but don’t want it to be too intrusive. They need you to take the first steps toward inviting them to share their opinions and desires for relationship and have you honor their needs and be OK with boundaries.
Make entertaining an opportunity for enrichment
As families grow up and move away, they shift toward sharing time together around events. An entertaining family vacation can also be an opportunity to deposit a lifelong legacy with a little extra planning. Having some intentional activities will add an element of meaning and build a stronger team. Find a mission trip that appeals to your family values and build a team by serving alongside each other and debriefing the experience to see how people were impacted.
Revisit and revise the Family Culture
Know the culture of your family by revisiting your core values during this season. Once you have written them down and made them plain, make sure you reinforce them. In communication, gifts, time together in person, over the holidays, on vacation make an intentional effort to incorporate something that aligns to your family culture and values to reinforce what it is like to be part of your family. This is what it’s like to be a (fill in your last name)!
If you would like some help to develop a targeted family plan, please contact me at email@example.com. I am here to help you build an intentionally successful team at home!