Both parents and young adults envision a future characterized by mutual friendship and respect, but there are times when this seems far off – if not impossible. Repeated conflicts, challenges to authority, stretching the boundaries, questioning the values, and exploring lifestyles that may seem alien blur the future vision. How do you get from the “here” of a strained relationship between a parent and young adult to the “there” of a friendship based on respect? The short answer is that it isn’t always easy and the road can be bumpy. It’s important to be patient and stay the course. Parents can influence the course of this journey by building the following bridges to that future state.
Begin while they are still in high school or even earlier to establish a more adult-to-adult relationship outside the home. When you change venues and you go to a restaurant, you are no longer on the parent’s turf and the relationship and conversation can change. You build a bridge to a new space for the future of your relationship. By the way, you will know that the relationship has changed when your son or daughter offers to pay.
When you spend time with your young adult, whether inside or outside of the home, practice developing a bridge of understanding by employing non-judgmental listening. In this type of listening, the parent reflects back or summarizes what he hears the young adult say to ensure understanding the young adult. It’s important to listen with the third ear – the heart. By reflecting back not just the content but the emotions you are making an important emotional connection. Emotions are the currency of intimacy and a bridge to a deeper relationship. Sure, there are times we need to interject our opinion but as parents, we can always do a better job of just listening.
Act as a Consultant
Offer the bridge of being a consultant for your son or daughter. By this I mean offer them ideas and options when they are facing a problem or considering an important decision. When you make the offer, you have to explain the role of a consultant. This is a person often hired by a company to offer advice and solutions to problems the company may be facing. The company has the option to consider or reject the consultant’s ideas. The best way to approach a son or daughter is to:
- Ask yourself if this is a decision the young adult has to make and you are willing to accept. If yes, offer consultation.
- Explain how you would be willing to be a consultant. Explain this role and how you offer suggestions but he/she is solely responsible for the decision whether he/she considers your advice or not. Whatever the decision, you will accept.
- If he/she agrees to your consultation, offer your ideas, let him/her choose and don’t evaluate the choice. Regardless of the decision, say thank you for considering your advice.
If you have other “bridge” ideas that have worked for you or would recommend, please let us know! If you would like additional help with your young adult, don’t hesitate to reach out and set up a consultation with Dr. Jack!