The Emotional Health of the Parent
Before exploring how an adult friendship can be nurtured with adult children, the parent needs to take an honest look at herself.
One common pitfall of moms especially, is “needing to be needed.” This is the challenge of the "empty nest" – there are no longer little birdies to nurture and care for on a daily basis, which is the primary role and identity of the mother. However, while child rearing requires extraordinary time and energy, our lives were never meant to be child-centric. That stage of life is only for a season. Parents who lead productive and meaningful lives apart from their adult children are doing by far what is best for everyone.
Ron was born to parents in their forties who thought they would never be able to have children. Due to their age and this unexpected blessing, they showered their son with love and attention, to the point of spoiling him in some ways. As he matured and began the natural processes of pulling away, they became more and more dependent on him for their emotional well-being. When Ron married, the situation intensified. While they loved their daughter-in-law, their son was no longer “theirs” and they felt rejected when the newly weds didn’t call for several days or include them in their weekend social plans. Ron lived with the burden of feeling that his parents’ happiness depended on him. This resulted in intensely ambivalent emotions of genuine love and respect for his parents, but also guilt, resentment and anger for their inability to release him from being the center of their lives. Fortunately his wife was able to help him work through his feelings and come to a place of understanding and respect for his parents, while maintaining his independence.
Another important point is that parents need to guard and cultivate their own relationships with spouses, other family members, and friends. If a child is making unwise choices, it can become difficult for a parent to think of anything else. But investing some time and energy in others is important to maintaining a balance in one’s own life.
Personal growth experienced through travel, developing hobbies, or discovering new interests, is beneficial to the emotional and spiritual health of the parent.