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Relating to Adult Children-Why Your Role Must Change From Parent to Friend

Updated on December 25, 2012
Your "child" is now an adult.  It is time to rethink your role as parent.
Your "child" is now an adult. It is time to rethink your role as parent. | Source

Your Adult Children-Why Roles Must Change in Order to Have Great Relationships With Your Adult Children

A person's relationship with a parent can be the most difficult relationship he/she has. The parent-child relationship can be a relationship fraught with difficulties and conflicts. The parent-child relationship is usually hierarchal with the parent in the more dominant role and the child in the more submissive role. This is good during the childhood period or when a person is incapable of making decisions for himself/herself. However, when a child reaches adolescence, there is a change in the relationship between the parent and child.

As a child approaches adolescence, he/she can no longer be classified as a child but as a young adult. Many parents view their children's adolescence as dangerous and/or foreign territory because their "child" can no longer be "controlled". The relationship between a parent and an adolescent can often result in a clash of wills. Many parents contend how hard a time they have with their teenagers in terms of the teenagers' friends, political/ social/relgious opinions, and lifestyle decisions. Adolescence is a time when a child elect to breakaway from his/her parents if he/she is to develop into a successful and independent adult.

If a child's adolescent period was tough for many parents to face, adulthood is even a more daunting period for parents to face. When a person becomes an adult, he/she no longer needs the parents so much. As an adult, a person is hopefully independent enough to make his/her own life decisions. Many parents, however, are afraid to let go of their children. These parents adamantly insist on parenting their adult children in age inappropriate ways. This age inappropriate parenting results in driving a sharp wedge between the parents and their adult children. Many adult children of these "overparenting" parents leave their parents never to see them again. What these parents fail to realize is that their adult chldren are by definition adults, not children to be further molded.

As a person approaches adulthood, parents must readjust their parental roles from parents to friends. Parents who view their adult children as their best friends have the best relationships while parents who still view their adult children as children have the worst relationships. Adult children in relationships with such parents report that their relationships are unequal with the parents being intent on being in a dominant, dictatorial role which ill-serves everyone involved. These types of parents usually have adult children who distance themselves from them. In extreme cases of parents who insist that their adult children are still children, some adult children of such parents want nothing to do with their parents.

When parents view their adult children as their best friends, the relationship is equal and non-hierarchal. Adult children are free to discuss many things with their parents in this type of relationship. When people become adults, they do not need parenting. The parenting role should cease once a person reaches adulthood. There is an exception to this i.e. if any adult child is deemed developmentally challenged and is incapable of making decisions for himself/herself. However, if an adult child is totally healthy mentally, physically, and emotionally, the parenting role should switch to that of best friend. The friendship relationship between parents and their adult children ensure mutual respect and equality which is of paramount importance in adult relationships.


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      4 years ago

      For the person about the boyfriend in dorm room, read learning to let go, it's time to let go.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Any advice on talking to adult-children (female) about letting her boyfriend sleep in her dorm bedroom without sounding controlling but rather just reminding her of the consequences of making these decisions. She is a freshman.


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