Mouth Shut, Door Open
One of the qualities young adults most appreciate is a parent who is transparent about their own struggles. As parents and their children learn to relate on a friendship level, being honest with one another is vital. You will not find a young adult anywhere that doesn’t say they want authenticity in their relationships, especially with their family. There is something about a parent admitting, “I don’t know”, or “I made a mistake”, that is very disarming and opens wide the door of communication. It makes the child feel respected and trusted on a whole other level. This is especially true as parents share their own spiritual joys and disappointments, helping young adults navigate these important years. As one mom said, “My walk with God is personal, but not private.” In other words, she is willing to share what she has learned along the journey and certainly not afraid to admit she doesn’t have the answer for all problems. Telling your story to your adult child (when solicited!) can lead to a better understanding of your family and the way God has led you. Throughout childhood and adolescence, the parent shields a child from anything that might cause anxiety or threaten her sense of security. But this is the time to let them in. They can handle it, and you won't lose status in their eyes, you will likely gain status. This simple gesture can be a very important part of the transition from being "parent" who takes care of the child, to "peer" who develops a symbiotic, mutually encouraging relationship with the adult child.
The flip side of this is also true. Listening to your young adult’s opinions and thoughts communicates respect and value. Age does not necessarily determine maturity, and the parent may be surprised at the wisdom of their young adult. Any healthy relationship depends on “give and take”, and this one does as well.
Another essential in creating a healthy dynamic between generations is actively encouraging young marrieds to honor their spouse as well as in-laws and extended family. Support your adult children in those relationships by pointing out the positives (you may have to look hard) and helping them work through misunderstandings or difficulties. Save any criticism or complaints about the in-laws until you are with your spouse or trusted friends.
It should go without saying that all parents must observe boundaries regarding their child’s privacy. Always calling before dropping by their house, asking permission to see or talk to grandchildren, and avoiding nosy questions regarding money or personal matters, are basic rules that should always be observed. This communicates respect and common courtesy.
It also needs to be understood that the more enlightened party (parent or child) holds the greater responsibility in doing everything possible to make these interactions successful.
One mother has said her philosophy is “Mouth shut, but door open!” This is a good approach and if followed, will lead to a good rapport between parents and their adult children.