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Mothering Your Adult Child

Read about some techniques for setting boundaries when mothering an adult child.

Mothering Your Adult Child

Sometimes you may feel put upon. “Mom, can you watch the kids this weekend? I know you don't have anything much planned.” Or “Mom, can you help us out with this or that material need?” You always want to say yes, but you know that that is not the solution. If you say yes to everything, no matter what you really feel, you are creating resentment within yourself and you are not really helping your children.

Setting Boundaries

You need to remember to set limits and boundaries, even with your grown children. Even though they have families of their own they are still going to see you as the “mom” and are going to lean on you at times when you might even need to do some leaning. As with every other stage of life, honesty is the best approach. Make your statements and responses reflect what you need and not be about how guilty your child should feel for having asked you for something. It is natural to ask. It is unnatural to say yes when you really need to say no.

Form the Supportive Center

Remember that no matter how old a child is, you are still at the center of his or her universe. What you do and say will always matter. So be kind to yourself and to your grown child by being uncritical and supportive. The world is already critical and competitive enough. There is nothing wrong with giving good advice if asked, but when your grown child brings a new idea or is excited by something, join in the excitement even if you think it is pure lunacy.

Mom Alert!

Guilt is never a good teaching tool.

You have already raised your children. You have a love bond and a history together, but you are not still raising this person. You have to take yourself out of that mode or you will find your children avoiding the kind of intimacy you crave. Now is the time to really appreciate your children as people. Trust them to accept the parameters that people have with each other. If you do not want to watch the grandkids, say no. If you want to help them out and you enjoy spending time with your grandkids, say yes and mean it. Learn to say what you mean and live with what you say.

Carving Out a New Role, One More Time

Don't allow grown children to manipulate you, and try not to manipulate them. Direct expressions of love are always the best. If you miss your children and want to see your grandchildren and feel you are being ignored, call your child and say, “ I miss you and would enjoy spending time with you.” Do not call and say, “Why haven't you called me?”

Momma Said There'd Be Days Like This

A grandmother is a very special member of a child's world. Strive for a warm, close relationship. This means communication if you do not live nearby and visits if you do. Remember important dates and show an unconditional acceptance of anything the child does. But recognize that your role is very different as grandmother than it was as mother.

At this stage of the game you do not want to alienate anyone by appearing to be overly critical. Your objective is to express your love, not to make someone feel guilty and bad about himself for not attending to your needs.

Approval Is Key

The greatest gift you can give your daughter or daughter-in-law is approval. If you start from the basis that you believe in her competence and mothering instincts, you will be given the opportunity to add your two cents when the going gets rough. If your daughter or daughter-in-law feels competitive with you in any way for the prize of supermotherhood, you are going to be left in the dust, no matter how valid and valuable your advice might be. If you want to have a good relationship with everyone, be diplomatic. It's time to pass the torch to this new generation of mothers and to offer support, not competition.

It is not good diplomacy to be uninvolved in the care and raising of grandchildren. This puts you in a no-win situation. If you seem disinterested in your grandchildren because you do not want to step on anyone's toes, you are going to be perceived as uncaring. So show your interest, but do so without challenging the judgment of your daughter or daughter-in-law.

Making Space for Everyone's Needs

It is amazing how quickly grown children can regress into the self-centered belief that they deserve all or most of your attention. Just remember who you are and how much you have already done for everyone. You have a right to do whatever you want to do with your life. If you do not want to be as involved as everyone wants you to be, decide on your limits ahead of time, make them known, and try to be attentive in ways that matter to you. If you let everyone know you love them and are there for the special times, no one can expect you to devote this time in your life to raising more children.

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