“My mother is visiting; she’s making me crazy! I can’t wait for her to leave!” Sound familiar? If you can’t stand your own mother, or even if you can, how do you know that you aren’t sowing the seeds for your own adolescent to be saying those same words about you someday? Would you want them to be thinking about you that way? Of course not! Hey, we are all great parents here (perhaps not perfect, but at least great), who want perfect relationships with our adult children tomorrow. But how does that rosy future happen, when the parent/child relationship today is such a challenge?
My relationship with my mother was not so great. She truly made me crazy, to the point of disliking her company. The obligatory visits were far from enjoyable, on both sides. I had a hard time forgiving her for perceived wrongs inflicted during my growing up years. She had a hard time communicating through a thick wall erected over years of practice being silent. This impasse was maintained for two decades, then dementia set in. So an amicable resolution of our relationship never happened.
My relationship with my adult children is very different, perhaps described as close, which is a relative term. I prefer ‘satisfying’ which means that both sides are happy with the relationship, which of course changes over time. We are not best friends, nor do I want that relationship with my children. And if you asked them, I’m sure that’s not what they want either.
To have a good relationship with your adolescent tomorrow requires concerted effort, more on the parent’s side than on the child’s side, today. While that may seem unfair, it’s just the way it is. And especially during the adolescent years the onus is really on the parent to be the adult that they are, and take the lead on sculpting the future relationship.
Adolescents today do not know what they want tomorrow, or who they will even be tomorrow. They may think they know, but there are so many internal changes in store for them, that they may be right today but will change their mind tomorrow. Adolescents live very much in the here and now, with little thought for the impact of today on tomorrow. Their actions certainly have consequences that they are responsible for, but they do not have the long-range thinking capability to really understand the impact of their behavior way down the road.
COMMUNICATION TAKEAWAY: What you want your future adult relationship to be with your future adult children? Have you given that vision any thought, and how you will create it today? That future reality endures far longer than the adolescent stage lasts, and the seeds for it are planted during the adolescent period. Maintaining a closeness – knowing who your child is, what their interests are, who their friends are – staying very involved in their life is important. Balancing that with a distance – you are still the authority, the take charge person, the enforcer of consequences when rules are broken – this is the challenge. Every good adolescent/parent relationship needs the winning formula of closeness + distance = caring. Weighing out every situation for the degree of each ingredient is the balance part.