Dear style & substance,
I was recently accused by one of my adult children of going on a “rant” when I was frustrated about some circumstances at work. I truly don’t think that it qualified as such, but has made me re-think how my adult kids perceive me. Thanks!
We see two questions in your one question… what is a rant and how might I tone down what I am saying? and are my adult kids my friends or do I need to sensor what I present to them?
Adult children can be quite complicated and interpreting the mixed messages they send can be exhausting. A “rant” to our generation may not what it is to theirs, so don’t get upset by the terminology or try to correct the term for them, use it more as an indicator of how they are receiving your words! It is our tendency to expect that because we are happy when they are experiencing an exciting and successful life, or interested and engaged in problem solving when they are upset about something…that they will feel the same about us. Even though they are adults, they put their parents in a safe-never changing-healthy-even keel-home base-box which makes them able to go out and live their lives with a more secure and content approach. Kind of like a touch-stone. Children, no matter the age, have expectations for parental behavior. Although we have identifiable emotions; to them, we will always be the parent. If you have always been the rock of your family, the voice of reason, your adult children will have the expectation that you will remain so.
A chink in the armor, such as frustration or dissatisfaction, can be a very big shock to your children. Transitioning into adult relationships with them is best done in a steady and incremental fashion. You would assume that when discussing a highly charged issue in your own life that they would be interested and share in your “distress”…not so with many of them, so reading their non-verbal head tilts and furrowed brow will give you the subtle indication to stop and save the issue for a less expectation-oriented friend!
Bring them into conversations about problems and decisions that are less emotionally important to you and give them a chance to formulate their own responses. These types of conversations may center on aging grandparents, how to spend the holidays, or even something a bit more light hearted such as planning a small family vacation. This moves into a more shared model, which possibly one day could include the more personal issues you are contending with. Most importantly, these are adult familial relationships, not friendships.
Over-sharing and TMI have become so commonplace today that discrete communication is a lost art. Friendships with your adult children should be censored! They do not see us as “girlfriends” or peers even though you may share laughs at that level. As much as adult children want to be treated as adults, there is that subtle line into confidants, buddies, pals, or BFFs that you must find and respect for your own well-being! While we promote honesty in all relationships, remember that your children will always need you as a role model and an advisor, be mindful of what you share and in what manner.
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