Many parents and their teenage or young adult children have great relationships; others are just so-so; and still others are very strained and painful. Often much struggle, fear, anger--even violence--erupt between parents and their grown or almost-grown children while each is learning to define new roles.
Many times parents and their children never grow beyond the painful stage. We once had a forty-two-year-old friend, from another state visit us briefly. We were not to let his mother, who lived nearby, know he had been there. She would be very angry if she learned he had taken time from her to see us for a few minutes. In her mind, he was still accountable to her.
While some adult children resent their parents’ interference, other grown children rely on their parents to help them out of problems. We know men who have been failing in business, but they didn’t worry; they knew their parents would bail them out.
1. Needed: A Peer Relationship. The goal for parents and young adult children should be to develop a true peer relationships where each sees the other as an equal. The parents are not forced to have all of life’s answers nor to be totally in control. Neither are the young adults inhibited from developing their unique, God-given abilities. A peer relationships is one of equals who contribute to, and receive from, each other. Through the process, each develops his/her abilities and each grows in appreciation of the other. A peer relationships is a true friendship.
Without a peer relationships between parents and children, power struggles, suspicion, and avoidance may continue through life. Sometimes parents and adult children greatly misunderstand each other and treat each other with less respect than a stranger.
2. How To Develop A Peer Relationships. Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it." The word "train" does not mean to punish or to force. It means to systematically teach as a coach does, to whet the appetite, and to stimulate toward maturity. In Old Testament days a mid-wife massaged the inside of a baby’s mouth with crushed dates soon after birth to stimulate sucking. Likewise, a parent is to encourage a child’s desire to learn and then systematically coach the child for adulthood.
Another phrase in that verse says, " in the way he should go." God has a calling and a direction for each person’s life. The parent is to help the child discover that calling and encourage full development of skills to live out the unique life God intends. Parents make a mistake when they try to push a child in the way they think he/she should go rather than helping each one find God’s unique plan for him/her.
The verse also has a promise, "...and when he is old, he will not depart from it." A person who has been stimulated to discover who God has created him/her to be, who has been equipped to live that out, and who fully joins in the learning process, will then be an effective individual with a great deal of life contentment because of living in line with the special calling of God for him/her.
How do we develop a peer relationships with our grown children? The process must start at birth as we prayerfully search for God’s calling in our child’s life. We must whet the child’s appetite for God, for self discovery, and for being equipped to be the special person God has intended.
Developing a peer relationships also means that parents have a goal of moving this child toward maturity. They aim to grant gradual independence--to give more responsibility and more privilege as the child grows. The happiest parent/child relationships is not one of adversaries, but of friends--one young, one older--together discovering God’s plan for each of them.
Years ago we asked a mother the secret of her remarkable friendship with her teenage daughter. She replied, "Staying friendly." Yes, there will be testing and resistance. It’s part of the child’s learning who he or she is. But handle those necessary explorations with courtesy and friendliness.
Walk in your child’s shoes for awhile. Remember when you were that age--your questions, doubts, and uncertainties about yourself, your parents, your friends, the world. Help your growing child by understanding and encouraging, not by handing out inflexible answers.
3. Removing The Roadblocks To A Peer Relationships. Some common obstacles hinder parents and young adults from having true friendships. Parents fear they will lose control if they are friendly. Young adults fear parents will be pushy or too involved and won’t allow privacy. Sometimes parents try to force their grown or almost-grown children to have the same values and lifestyles as theirs. Other times a young adult is wrongly influenced by a friend or spouse who may try to destroy an adult friendship between the parents and children. Unfortunately, few examples of strong peer relationships exist in Christian families.
The following ideas may help remove obstructions:
A. Gradually grant responsibility and independence. Remember how you taught your children to ride a bike? They fell down a lot, but little by little they learned to ride. Becoming an adult means there will be some failures, but your confidence in them will help them achieve maturity.
B. Permit privacy. Each person needs some time and place of his own. Parents should refrain from being nosy and suspicious.
C. Evaluate past problems you have had with each other. Then take some definite steps to correct them by apologizing, asking for forgiveness, and telling each other that you really do love each other.
D. Talk to successful parents and young adults who have a strong peer relationships. Learn how they make it work in their lives.
4. LEARN TO LIVE WITH DIFFERENCES. God has created each of us as unique individuals. Instead of expecting our children to be cookie cutter copies, we need to allow them to be different. It is OK if your young adult children’s tastes vary from yours. Our family members all enjoy music, but the tastes range from rock, jazz, and easy listening to classical, simple guitar praise songs, and complex music such as "The Messiah."
As parents, our tastes can vary from mood to mood, so let’s allow our young adults freedom to differ. Their clothes, hairstyle, or music shouldn’t become tests of faith. What we really want is for them to know God personally and to walk in the unique way He created them. Sometimes, however, we decide that if they don’t like our music (which, by the way, our parents didn’t like), they aren’t spiritual.
Not only will each child in your family be different from the others, but each will also be different at various times in his or her life. This enables the child to explore who he is. Our grandson, when he was three, sometimes played that he was a fireman; other times he’s was a doctor or a pilot. He needed that practice, and many other experiences, to discover who God was creating him to be.
I Corinthians 12 tells us each believer is a unique part of Christ’s Body with a unique contribution. Don’t stifle differences and uniqueness’. Encourage them.
5. HELP! WE’VE BLOWN IT! Most families fall short in some way because we’re all beginners at this game. We didn’t have experience in being parents before we had children, and our kids didn’t have experience in being kids! If we could live all of life and then start over with what we now know, we might be a lot smarter. The point is, if you or your children have failed so that you are not friends, you need to frankly face your problems and do the following:
A. Ask God to forgive you. I John 1:9 assures us that if we confess our failure to God as God sees the failure, He will forgive us.
B. You need to forgive. God’s forgiveness is one part, but you need to forgive yourself and others in the family. Ephesians 4:32 says we are to be tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as Christ has forgiven us.
C. Confess your failure to your family members. Open discussion needs to take place. James 5:16 says, "Confess your faults one to another and pray for one another that you may be healed."
D. Be sure to pray with and for each other.
6. SET ATTAINABLE GOALS. Start with small steps to correct your past failures. Talk about how you're going to restructure your roles so that you can have true peer experiences in your family.
7. EXPECT OTHERS TO CHANGE. Often people say, "My teens are always like this." Or, "My mom always reacts that way." Let people out of the mold; allow them to change. II Corinthians 5:17 says we are always in the process of change as God’s Spirit works in us: "Old things are passing away all things are becoming new."
Agree with God as He works in each of you differently. You're still members of the same family and Body of Christ, each learning from the other and caring for the other.
Conway / Farrel Articles ~ Reprint by permission only, ©2011
Midlife Dimensions ~ www.Midlife.com
The Conways and Farrels are international speakers and popular authors.
Midlife Dimensions is a ministry founded by the Conways and continued by the Farrels.