While we will always be our child’s parent, the job of parenting ends, for the most part, as they complete their childhood, enter their own adulthood and establish their own lives. This is not always an easy idea for a parent to accept and is a predictably common cause of friction between parents and their adult children.
Parents do not always know best. Made light of in the 1950’s television sit-com “Father Knows Best” with Robert Young, the complete truth is that parents who think they know better than their adult children about what is best for them are misguided at best and apt to be unwelcome and intrusive at worst.
True, our children will be different than we either were or are. They will also, in all likelihood, be different in some ways as adults than they were when we were actively parenting them as children. When we lose track of or deny those differences, we are in trouble!
A parenting relationship is one in which there is, all efforts to the contrary, a de facto power differential. Parents are the adults with the power. Children may struggle against it, but while their opinions may be heard and taken into account, the parenting adults get the final vote. This is not, nor should it be, the case between parents and their adult children.
The power differential is gone.
Now, there are two adults. One is the parent of the other but being the parent and parenting are two related but entirely different roles and activities. If that needs explaining, this article may not be of any value to you. You are now both adults and what was once a parent/child relationship must be allowed to morph into one between two adults.
This can be an awkward readjustment even for the parent who understands that
their role has changed. Habits are very difficult to change and, for better or for worse, parenting someone becomes a kind of habit. For the parent that feels that because they parented their adult child, that they can never be truly equals as adults, the prognosis for a good and mutually respectful relationship as adults is probably compromised.
To a parent, their child is always, in some ways, their child. But for the sake of being able to successfully transition a good parent/child relationship into a good adult/adult relationship, the habit of parenting must be left behind in favor of becoming mutually respectful loved ones and friends.