How not to act if the apple falls far from the tree

Dec 22, 2011, 6 a.m.

When we hear "the apple never falls far from the tree" most of the time someone is pointing out a flaw apparently inherited from a parent. And although parents don't want their children to repeat their mistakes, in many ways parents do want their children to grow up to be and think the way they do. But that doesn't always happen, and that can make maintaining a healthy relationship with an adult child challenging.

Parents and adult children are alike in many ways, but different in others. A mother and daughter may both love books and enjoy discussions on everything from Dr. Suess to Dante. But the daughter may subscribe to a different faith or political affiliation. Knowing what not to do when your adult child doesn't think like you may be one of the biggest tests you experience. Get it wrong, and it means fewer phone calls, visits, and restricted access to grandchildren. Get it right, and you enjoy a respectful relationship with your adult child.

While parents should always feel free to express their opinion, it is important to remember that the true authority in your adult child's life is your adult child. Phrases such as "if I were you," "when I was your age" or "in my time" should be avoided unless your adult child specifically asks you to put yourself in her shoes.

Parents of adult children also need to tread lightly when it comes to religion and politics. This is hard because these are both areas where many people feel very strongly. When you can, keep an open mind and try to see your adult child's point of view. If that is too difficult, talk about other things.

Be careful when criticizing your adult child's major life choices. Too much criticism of life choices, such as marriage partners, education, and career choices can quickly make an adult child feel alienated, and chances are they will respond by alienating their parents.

Let adult children raise their own children their way. "Experts" have had differing recommendations on when to conquer various childhood milestones. Ultimately, every parent has to do what they feel is best. When an adult child's own parent steps in and contradicts their parenting choices they get defensive very fast. Your adult child will most likely make a few mistakes, but chances are your grandchildren will survive.

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