All of my children are grown-ups now and live out of the area. I recently read an article in a magazine that had some parenting advice that I thought was really good. I realized that I didn’t do these things with my kids when they were growing up and I’m wondering if it’s too late to start trying to be a different parent with them based on these things I’m learning. I feel like I should keep trying, but I don’t want them to think I’m trying to parent them still.
I commend you for your desire to keep improving as a parent. As you know, the job of a parent is never over, so naturally you’re going to think of your own children when you read parenting advice. I don’t believe it’s ever too late to make changes as a parent. In fact, you might see things more clearly now that you’re not in the trenches of daily parenting.
Parenting is a combination of guiding children while building a solid emotional connection with each individual child. Even though the guiding begins to taper off as they mature, the emotional connection, or relationship, you have with each child will endure forever.
The best kind of parenting advice you can apply at this stage in your parenting journey is advice that teaches you how to improve your emotional connection to your children. Any other advice that focuses on changing your child’s behavior now that they’re adults is simply manipulative and would be controlling and hurtful to your relationship.
I’ve spoke with many adults in my private therapy practice who have welcomed the changes in their relationship with their parents in adulthood. Some parents recognize they could have built a stronger relationship with their child when they were younger and work to be more involved and interested in the lives of their children and grandchildren.
The mistakes you made as a parent of young children can’t magically disappear, but I find that most adult children are forgiving and welcome any efforts at improving their connection with their parents. We are wired to bond and connect with our loved ones, so any attempts at genuine connection will usually benefit both parent and child.
Since we never outgrow our need to be connected to those we love, it’s never too late to start trying to connect. You might even muster up some courage and ask your children if these changes would be meaningful to them. You might be surprised at their reaction.
Reassure them that if they see any changes in your connection to them that you have no other objective other than improving your relationship with them. Let them know how important they are to you and how you want to be the best parent and support for them.
If you want to take it a step further, you could even ask them how you can best support and connect to them as their parent. Your new roles as the parent of adult children and a grandparent give you lots of reasons to evaluate how you do relationships with your children. There is always room to grow!
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.
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Copyright 2012 St. George News.