I hear this often: “I know he’s 23, but I still worry about him.” Or, “Geez! I’m 25 and my dad still wants to control me.” How do parents and their adult offspring figure this out?
First, let me pose a couple of questions: (1) Who controls the purse strings? (2) Do these family members live together or apart? It’s fairly obvious that if your kid is an unemployed high school dropout living in your basement, you probably have the right to establish some rules. On the other hand, if your kid has moved out of your house and is self-sufficient, you might want to consider cutting the apron strings.
Let’s also consider a couple of alternate scenarios. For example, what if your twenty-something daughter moves back home? Maybe she’s recently divorced or has decided to go back to school, and you’ve generously offered her free room and board while she regroups. Or maybe you’re the one who has moved back in with your adult kids because of a change in your own circumstances.
Families are colorful and varied, that’s for sure. And so are the ways in which they co-exist. Irrespective of whether adult family members are living under the same roof, a degree of courtesy and respect for one another is not overrated. Let’s say your elderly parents are flying to Florida to go on a Caribbean cruise. Wouldn’t you want to know that they arrived in Ft. Lauderdale safely? Does that mean you’re trying to control their vacation time? Of course not. It means you are concerned for their well-being. Similarly, if you, the adult, recently divorced daughter who moved back in with your parents, go out on a match.com date and stay out until the wee hours getting to know the guy, wouldn’t it be reasonable for you to let your parents know you’re okay and having a good time? Obviously, they’re going to be concerned for your well-being.
Being accountable and respectful isn’t asking too much. On the other hand, calling and/or texting your adult son multiple times a day, to ask him what he ate for lunch or whether he went to the gym is a bit extreme, don’t you think? So, what are the boundaries? And who sets them? It’s not too late to schedule a meaningful conversation between the affected family members. And rather than making rules for one another as though you were children, how about communicating your expectations instead? It may be that you’re misinterpreting your parents’ concern as an attempt to regain control. Or it may be that your parents think you’re simply being too nosy. Listening to each other in an effort to understand is always the best choice. And that’s what mediators are trained to do.