Blessed with children and blessed again with grandchildren.
In retirement, in an ideal world, we’re finally finished with the anxiety of launching our children into the world of adulthood. Hopefully, they are grown up, finished with school, working, and married with children, but they are still our children and will always be part of our “primary family.”
They, however, have spouses and children of their own, and we now have a different status. Even though we revel in the freedom from responsibility that adult children embody, some retirees can feel abandoned by their grown children. Some others have difficult relationships with their adult children for any number of reasons.
In “Mothers and Their Adult Daughters: Mixed Emotions, Enduring Bonds,” Karen L. Fingerman, Ph.D. argues, “The parent-offspring relationship in modern America is based more on emotional affection than on economic or cultural imperatives.”
In other words, adult children who stay in close touch with their parents do it because they like them and like to spend time with them. That’s the secret. We want them to want to be with us. It’s a choice.
Here are some suggestions to make that happen.
- Don’t talk about how long it’s been since you’ve seen/ had a text from/ or talked on the phone with them. You’re trying to tell them that you love them, but what they’re hearing is a whole heap of guilt. It’s better to say (when they finally do call), “Hi! I’m so glad to talk to you.”
- “How can you live like this?” is not a good way to start a conversation. Have you forgotten what it was like to try to work, do kids’ sports, teach Sunday school, and get Christmas ready? Something’s got to give, and in my house back in the day, it was the housework. Here’s a good place to employ the 50-year-rule. What difference is a clean bathroom when compared to a happy kid?
- Don’t make your kids take sides in your own marital problems. The prevalence of divorce in our generation has made some big family occasions more awkward than they were in an earlier time.
Try to get along when everyone is together, and make it easy for them if that’s impossible.
I have one friend who does Christmas with her adult children early in December so that they can spend the actual day of Christmas with her ex-husband and his present wife. The appreciation she receives from the children is worth the sacrifice.
A few more tips for “children and grandchildren” happiness.
- Make sure that your adult children know how much you love them. Embrace them and tell them so. It’s not all about the grandchildren.
- Have fun with your adult children. Take them out to dinner without the grandchildren. Meet as adults.
- Be a cheerleader for your children. Share their good news with them with genuine joy.
- Treat your grown children with respect. It’s hard to give up the role of advice-giver. Just listen and act as a sounding board. This is difficult! Sometimes I have to bite my tongue.
- Accept your family relationships the way they are and not the way you would like them to be. It’s not “over the river and through the woods” anymore!
“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Elizabeth Stone
I have two children happily married and four teen-aged grandchildren. This is a wonderful phase in our “richly aged” retirement lives. Enjoy it everyday! It adds to our richness.
Homework: Give hugs to all of them, even if they are cyber hugs.