Q:  My relationship with my adult son is not great, and I always worry about him. How can I be helpful and caring without it taking over my life?

A: Parenting does not end when our children reach a certain age. The worry, concern and caring continues long after your child becomes an adult. However, learning to set boundaries and finding ways to develop and nurture the new adult relationship will help both you and your son in the long run.

It is important first to let go of what you thought your relationship would be when he got older, and instead accept what it is now and allow it grow from there. Sometimes it is our own expectations that get in our way and prevent us from moving forward.

If you want to have a good adult relationship with your child then try to listen more and get to know who they are now, what is important to their life, and who are the important people in their life. Make room for their significant other, as well.

Setting up boundaries with your adult children can be challenging, especially if you feel they need your help. Decide what boundaries are most important to you and the success of your adult child. It may mean not providing money or buying things for them. It may mean emotionally setting boundaries and not getting as involved in their difficulties.

Both you and your adult child have the right to set what boundaries are important to the relationship. You may want to ask them to always respond to texts or make time for a get together at least once a month. You can also ask your son what is important to him. He may wish to put boundaries on your involvement in certain decisions he makes, or ask you to call before coming over.

One thing that is challenging is when our children make decisions we disagree with or follow values and life paths that do not align with our own. However, sometimes the best thing you can do is respect your differences, and not allow them to break your familial bond.

It is possible to share your wisdom without making it the topic of every conversation. You want to stay true to yourself and share your honest thoughts. However, be mindful to do it in a non-judgmental way. Imagine how you would express your views to a friend, and give your adult child the same respect of autonomy.

Plan time with your son that is based on a mutual activity you both enjoy. Build fun times together that do not center on advice giving or future planning. Just be in the moment and enjoy a meal, a movie or a walk together. Allow the family bond and history to be the driving force in your relationship.

The relationship can become complicated if your adult child is relying on you to support them financially. You need to decide if you are able and willing to continue. If you feel that it does not endanger you financially, then consider if you are able to provide this support without resentment.

Generally, it is helpful to set boundaries on finances by offering a set amount of support you are comfortable with providing, and placing a timeline on when it will end. This allows your adult child time to create a plan to become independent. Most of the time, if there is not a clear end to the assistance then the person will not be motivated to find other help or means.

Relationships change with age and your role in your child’s life will look different now. But it can still be a wonderful and fulfilling relationship. Consider what is most important to you about maintaining this relationship and focus on the positives. While things change, it is all part of the process. Together, you will find what this new friendship looks like.

Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at mshapiro@seniorconcerns.org

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