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Question

 

Hi Gramps,

My 27-yr-old son and his wife have been complaining that we’re “intrusive.” Each week we ask if they’re praying as a couple, reading scriptures, attending the temple, etc. They also say we’re pushy with our opinions about major decisions. Does a parent’s stewardship change as the kids grow up and get married?

Colleen

 

Answer

 

Dear Colleen,

You and your husband sound like very loving parents.  Some parents mistakenly believe that their role ends when their child turns 18.  As you know, this is not the case.

On the other hand, your son is right.  While your stewardship as a parent does not end when your child marries, it does change.  Fortunately, we have some counsel on that in the Ensign.  Richard B. Miller, a Professor of Family Life at BYU explains it this way:

“Marrying and leaving the parents’ home requires a fundamental shift in the relationship between children and parents. While parents of young children have a divine mandate to supervise and discipline their children, it is not appropriate for parents to control their adult children. Instead, the hierarchy of supervision and control dissolves so that parents and their adult children are on equal footing. This shift allows parents and adult children to develop relationships that are built on mutual respect and friendship.”  For Newlyweds and Their Parents

This can be a wonderful transition for parents and their grown children.  If this transition is difficult, remember that in the pre-existence you did not share a parent/child relationship, but were spiritual siblings.  For a short-time here on earth you were the mentor of a spirit brother, and now it is time to move to the next phase of “mutual respect and friendship.”  This is a blessing for both couples.

Bro. Miller also wisely reminds us that there needs to be reciprocity in this new phase of the relationship.  Adult children should not expect their parents to be “Santa Claus”.  They need to be as financially independent as possible, as soon as possible.  And while adult children will likely not have the same financial resources as their parents, they can reciprocate in other ways.  Bro Miller gives a couple examples:

“One couple was fortunate to have the wife’s parents come to their home for the weekend to help paint the outside of the house. As a sign of appreciation, the young couple took the parents out to dinner. In another family, the adult children got together and planned a surprise birthday party for one of their parents. In both cases, the married children acted like adults by treating their parents like adults, thereby fostering adult-to-adult relationships. These relationships are based on friendship and mutual respect, with each being concerned about the happiness and well-being of the other. Most important, these relationships are satisfying for both the parents and the adult children.”

While this transition from parent/child to mutual respect and friendship may feel odd at first, it is worth the effort.  Bro. Miller warns of the consequences of not making the transition:

“Unfortunately, some parents have a hard time letting their children grow up and become independent. President Kimball said: ‘Well meaning relatives have broken up many a home. Numerous divorces are attributable to the interference of parents who thought they were only protecting their loved children.’ He also observed that sometimes parents ‘will not relinquish the hold they have had upon their children.’ Wise parents will honor their children’s adulthood, foster their independence, and respect their marital boundaries, thereby giving their children the opportunity to establish strong marriages.”

It sounds to me, like you are a wonderful and loving parents.  Enjoy this new phase of your relationship with your son and his wife.  Strive to love her like one of your own.  You’ve worked hard, now enjoy the fruits of your labor.

 

Gramps

 

 

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