Relationships with your children change as the years go by. The stages children go through that range from baby, toddler, tweens, and teens and on into adulthood mean that we as parents have to grow and change with them. Most of us do pretty well adjusting to the changes they go through in their younger years but when those teen years hit we sometimes get stymied.
During those teen years we as parents need to do everything we can to keep the lines of communication going with our kids. If we do not then we run the risk of losing out on a close relationship with them when they become adults. One way to ensure that we continue to have a relationship with our adult children is by making and keeping memories alive. Making lasting memories with our kids when they are young almost guarantees a solid relationship later on because they have something to hold onto. We can not just be roommates with our children; we can not lead separate lives and expect them to respond to us later on down the line.
Traditions are wonderful ways to make memories. Even if your family does not have any traditions that have been passed on through generations this does not mean you can not start them with your children. Our family did not have many traditions when I was growing up so we started a few with our children. We created traditions around Christmas and birthdays so that the children would have those times in their hearts forever. We started a Christmas Eve tradition of gathering the extended family in and opening our gifts together. We had Christmas Eve dinner together and each child had a part in helping to make it. We reminisced and sometimes watched home movies from our childhood in the fifties with no sound in black and white. They loved it!
Birthdays were special times in our household. I stumbled across a small paperback cake decorating book for children right before my first child was born. These cakes were so cute and easy even for the novice. I started making and decorating cakes on my first child’s first birthday and it continued through the years for both children. The little book had a place in front to write down which cake you made for whose birthday and what year. We did it every year and have this little book which we often look at and remember the different birthdays that the cakes were made. Many times the cakes came out successfully and many times they were a flop but all of the times the kids thought that I was Betty Crocker and these cakes were masterpieces. They were so proud of their cakes each year. My daughter tried a different design and sometimes reverted back to an old favorite. My son on the other hand got stuck on the Monster Cake and wanted it every year. By the time he was about thirteen or fourteen he told me he was too old for these cakes. But on his eighteenth birthday his sister and I got together and made him a monster cake and you should have seen his face! He was tickled and you could just see the memories flowing over him like water.
Traditions are just one way to build memories. Believe it or not the most bonding memories we have are based on failures. Neither one of us as parents had camped much as kids but we wanted to give it a try with our kids. Our first few camping trips were done all by trial and error and there were plenty of errors! Those trips are vivid memories in the minds of all of us and when we reminisce about those trips we always end up laughing. There is nothing quite like getting the family out in the wild and living in a tent and eating out of doors to ensure you have memories. The camping trip we spent with alligators, or the one where we did not put our food up and were kept awake all night by the creatures in the night, or our trips to the facilities where the snacks impeded our way, all sweet memories now that bind us together. Of course it depends on how you as the parent handle the situation, are you making the most of a bad situation and persevering on through with lighthearted banter or cursing and fuming and making the trip even worse? Remember that these moments, good or bad, will soon pass and only the memories will remain.
Being there for your child in joy and in heartache ensures a lasting relationship. If they know you are always going to be there for them even when they mess up they will always be there for you. We as parents have low times just like our kids and we need to let them in on what is going on in our lives just like we want to be a part of theirs. Not that they have to be in on the nitty gritty little details of our lives but just being included enough to know our struggles so that they can feel a part of our lives. As they become adults they will continue to share their struggles with us and be concerned with our struggles as well.
Sometimes it is not a matter of being close to our children that deter good relationships when they become adults, sometimes we can be too close to our children. This has been a big issue for me personally. I wanted to be part of every detail of my children’s lives and worked hard all my life to do so. When they became teens and went through stages it was so hard for me to know when to respond and when to let go. I had problems knowing when to let them learn life’s lessons on their own or dive in and rescue them.
One of my children was able to successfully transition into adulthood but has had to put up a few boundaries to keep me from oozing too much into her adult life. Because I love my children so much I am sensitive enough to recognize these boundaries. But it was a huge transition for me to know how to back off and let go as my girl became more and more independent. Like many parents it seems like just yesterday my children were born and needed me and then all of a sudden they are adults. After all it is just eighteen years, in a child’s life that seems like forever but in the life of a parent it feels like we just blink and the years have gone.
On the other hand I have a son who I was equally as involved with and even had somewhat deeper bonds with because of life circumstances. He wanted to come out early from the womb and has been moving ever since. He has never been as grounded as his sister and has always looked at life through the eyes of adventure. From the time he was ten years old he has lived with me and apart from his dad. They maintain a good relationship but not the type of relationship that comes from being together every day.
I had no idea that raising my children identically would be a problem when it came time for them to leave the nest. This child wants independence but has come to rely on me so very much that I feel I have handicapped him because of our closeness. There was a lack of balance that comes from being around both mom and dad. Not only was my son raised by me but he was also in a house with a sister and a grandmother. He found out early on that women are nurturers and if one of us said no then all he had to do was go to one of the other women in his life.
Now the situation is reversed and he is also putting boundaries out for me but I find myself having to initiate boundaries for him as well. He wants independence but wants all the benefits of childhood. He is having trouble leaving the nest and venturing out on his own but at the same time he wants to limit the restrictions on his life because he is a member of our household. I see these types of relationships more and more today in the lives of many parents and young adults. This relationship can be just as, if not more, difficult than the child who is truly independent.
The parent/child relationship can be a complex one as they transform from child to adult. It is not only complex for the child but can be just as complex for the parents. Taking each stage of life as it comes and doing your best to maintain a good relationship with your children will generally guarantee a solid relationship with your adult child.