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Transitioning from parent to friend - At what age did you become friends with your adult children?

HoggirlHoggirl 2131 replies215 threads Senior Member
I was never a parent who had an interest in being my ds’s friend as he was growing up. In my opinion, that wasn’t in my job description when he was younger. My feeling was that there would be a time for us to be friends once he was launched. Don’t misunderstand me - we did and do have a good relationship, had lots of fun as a family as he was growing up, usually treated each other with mutual respect, etc. He is our only, But, I was just never one who felt like it was my job to be his friend, didn’t fret if he wasn’t always pleased with me, or our house rules. I hope that makes sense.

He graduated in June, has a wonderful job, and is completely off our payroll! Woo-hoo! We are super proud of and happy for him. He lives on the other side of the country in the state where he went to college, so we don’t see him very often, though we do talk on the phone once a week and have some intermittent texting - just as we did when he was in college. He came to visit for Thanksgiving, and while it was a good visit, it wasn’t what I hoped for. I guess my expectations are too high/unrealistic...something. I suppose there isn’t a switch to flip from parent mode to friend mode. Darn. Can you tell me about your transition experiences in the relationships with your children as they entered adulthood? How long did it take to find a new groove? I am probably being impatient. He is still young - only turned 21 after graduating. I lost both my parents at 24, so I didn’t have a lot of experience with this myself - I feel like we had only just started to become friends when they died.

I wish he talked to me more, but that may be completely unrealistic since he is a guy. He *does* talk to me. Idk. I feel like I try to engage him on a variety of topics, but I don’t get much depth. I don’t think dh does either. Maybe he just wants to “be” and decompress when he comes to visit. He certainly does engage, and he’s fun to be around. He is our only, so we are pretty close. I just feel like I’m in an awkward spot not really understanding what my role in his life is to be now.

Any wisdom or insights would be most appreciated!
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Replies to: Transitioning from parent to friend - At what age did you become friends with your adult children?

  • gouf78gouf78 7895 replies24 threads Senior Member
    " I suppose there isn’t a switch to flip from parent mode to friend mode."

    There! You answered your own question! You are the parent and will be forever. Which is good. Someone who loves your kid no matter what and gives unsolicited advice but that's now okay to ignore (versus when they were younger.)
    I think the more independent and confident your kid becomes with their own life decisions the more they'll respond to you as a friend because they stop looking to you for validation of their actions.
    There is a LOT of growing up to be done between 21 and 28. It's like another growth spurt.
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  • MomofadultMomofadult 1127 replies29 threads Senior Member
    What a wonderful, thoughtful, considerate concern! I speak as one who is still dealing with a mother at age 91 who still treats me as a child. I felt I missed so much as a young adult in not having parents that would treat me as an adult. I so badly wanted a relationship where issues, decisions, concerns, LIFE, could be discussed with mutual respect - but it never happened for me.

    So, with mine, I made a conscious decision to be available, non-judgmental and non-directive (not easy and not always successful). I've tried to treat my offspring as I would a young co-worker. My kids are in my professional field - that helps my efforts to treat them as the adults they are.

    As far as family get-togethers, I've tried to let them take the lead. I suspect your evaluation of your S's need to "be" is accurate. It's a transition period for all. I have found it helpful to discuss holiday schedules, expectations regarding food, visits to friends and family, even timing of meals in advance. We all relax when everyone knows what to expect and sometimes the "kids" have had ideas for the actual execution of the holidays that wouldn't have occurred to me, but have worked well. I enjoy being flexible and not having to orchestrate every moment of the day - something I wouldn't have predicted.
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  • eyemamomeyemamom 5428 replies79 threads Senior Member
    I have a 24 and 22 yo. I have no interest in being their friend in the sense they still need the unconditional love and support that only a parent can give.
    We do play games and chit chat and know what’s going on in their lives, that they want to share. It’s no switch to flip.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35412 replies399 threads Senior Member
    I used to silently cringe when my mother announced what good friends we were. I loved her, but she wasn't a friend, not like the ones I chose. She didn't share the same perspective or experiences or style.

    With my girls, in their mid-20's, there's no doubt the love is there. We worked on that for many years. We occasionally do things together and purposely schedule what we call Mom-Girl time. But I'm not a friend in the sense of their favorite peers. I'd say allies, a family that enoys when we do get together (that takes work, too.) We have each others' backs. And we do disagree. Just the other day, D1 gave me a lecture.

    When they were little, I told them that, 100 years from now, when someone looks at our genealogy, they will be our daughters. And in the interim, I will always be their mother. It takes work. As they grow more independent, they learn what matters to them and we need to keep up with that.

    I'm sure you'll be fine, Hoggirl. xx

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  • mom60mom60 8443 replies516 threads Senior Member
    Like @rosered55 I think I’m become both a friend and a mother to my daughters. Today with my 24 year old I’m a Mom. She is dealing with some health issues and I’m definitely in Mom mode and she needs me to be in Mom mode. With my male child I find I’m still more in Mom mode.
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  • TiggerDadTiggerDad 2113 replies74 threads Senior Member
    I hardly knew my own father because he never "talked" to me when I was growing up and even at his death I never had a chance to get to know him. It's this experience with my own father that I've always treated my own sons as my friends from very early on. I always talked to them at every stage of their young lives, so there never was this "certain point" in our lives where my sons "became" my friends. We were and will always be.
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  • CreeklandCreekland 6886 replies93 threads Senior Member
    I guess we're weird. We've always been friends with our kids. I love that they like confiding in me/us and we enjoy doing things together. It's never once affected the "parent" part. We're essentially a team and it was a great life with them as they grew up.

    Two of our three have kept that closeness into adulthood. I love getting calls and texts when they have something to share or want advice and we enjoy the time we have together on vacations, etc. Our oldest broke it off (and all his other friendships from our area) - mainly due to a bad influence from a different adult who convinced him we weren't good parents. It angers several of us who know the whole story.
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  • intparentintparent 36292 replies644 threads Senior Member
    Since birth. Of course I’m their mom. But I honestly can’t remember a time when I had to play the “tough parent” — they have always asked me for advice and taken it. I always talked to them like small adults (“A person’s a person no matter how small” was one of our family mottos - meaning EVERYONE gets treated with respect, even the wee one). We’ve shared a lot of common interests over the years, too. We are very close, and are mostly each other’s favorite people. No different at 23 and 28 than when they were younger. So there were no real transitions to make or habits to break.
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  • abasketabasket 21549 replies921 threads Senior Member
    Define friend. What are you hoping for or did you see lacking when he was home this weekend.

    I subscribe to the idea that you can be a parent and have a "friendship" - friendship meaning, enjoy being together, have some common interests, mutually feel you want to reach out and share things often (through texts or calls or whatever), be honest about opinions, not agree on everything!

    I have two daughters, one son. I feel I am both parent and "friend" to all of them. My son and I can talk about anything - and we also can debate! We go running together. We sent each other pics and texts about sports things and homes for sale in the area and we watch and discuss reality tv! Same with my daughters.

    I think it's really about staying connected. The less you stay connected the less you have to talk about. I don't think any of us could subscribe to the once a week phone call - just because we never have done that and no one seems to want to do that. While you don't have to know EVERYTHING that is going on with each other, the more you know, the more you can chat about.

    Also, make sure you are interesting and have news and interests to share too!
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 10405 replies123 threads Senior Member
    I don't think closeness equates to friendship. My daughter confides in me in almost everything. She showed me texts from her first boyfriend, came to me for advice when she wanted to end things, told me about her first house party in college, etc.... I share a lot with her too, but it's still not a peer friendship.

    I also agree with intparent that we have always treated her with respect, and considered her opinions and likes/dislikes from the time she was teeny. This was a big departure from my own childhood where my mom was uber controlling and dictated everything. I remember my mom criticizing me because I let my daughter choose her outfits for preschool and would ask her opinion about what she wanted for dinner (and the option wasn't pizza or fish, it was would you prefer carrots or broccoli tonight). I too would silently cringe when my own mother would say we were "best friends".
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35412 replies399 threads Senior Member
    Being Mom doesn't make me a dictator. It acknowledges the differences. I'm blessed that their friends like me. That helps.

    D1 was always TMI until I told her that a time could come when she regretted all she was spilling. Even so, at that breakfast the other day, I learned things. I don't think she shared that bf issue because I'm a "friend," but because I *am* the Mom, the one she can trust with an unusual dilemna.

    As Mom, I don't share back the same way as with my own besties. That's a big difference. We have so much we like in common (and both are worrisomely just like me.) But what I deal with daily and monthly, is not her life. Not of so much interest in her own life.
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  • MomofadultMomofadult 1127 replies29 threads Senior Member
    I just re-read your post. Mine are guys - like yours, a bit older. I wanted to assure you that I don't hear really personal concerns, just professional ones where I can act as mentor (even if not always successfully..........). I suspect this is not unusual with moms and boys (different experiences/points of views from other CCers most welcome) - and, quite frankly, I'm not sure I'd want to hear much about my young adult sons' personal lives. I know DH does not hear personal concerns either. We do ask for opinions and "thoughts" on general interest topics and respect whatever is expressed - even if we think WE know better.

    I have found it very useful both as a relationship developer and as an aid to gain practical knowledge to ask advice on things such as technology, or for visiting certain areas where they have been and I have not been, or opinions/thoughts on my own concerns on an approach to a professional question I am facing, or anything where I legitimately would like help - all much the same as I would relate to friends or acquaintances who might provide me with ideas or a perspective beyond my own. The responses my kids provide are not always anything I would consider, but I treat my kids respectfully and thank them, just as I would a colleague.
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  • TheGreyKingTheGreyKing Forum Champion Williams College 2262 replies104 threads Forum Champion
    “At what age did you become friends with your children?”


    We have always had open communication, listened to his thoughts/ideas/feelings, been his confidantes, and just plain had fun with him, sharing interests and activities together.

    Children are younger and less experienced than adults, but their ability to reason, learn, and think still exists. Our son always was our equal. We admired his thinking from the time he was able to articulate it at age three!

    I never set a rule or gave a punishment. Maybe that was all due to my kid’s personality— what would I have had to limit when he never exceeded what was reasonable, and what would I punish when he never did anything wrong? But maybe some of it was the relationship. He was treated with respect and love, and expected to reason out his own decisions— so he respects other people and treats them with kindness, and he makes good, well-considered decisions.


    But here is an answer to the OP’s bigger question. There is always the ability for a relationship to grow. What it takes is a very conscious determination to break out of old patterns and set new ones, coupled with complete emotional honesty on your part and a willingness to listen to, and respond to cues from, the other person. Best of luck and much happiness to you and your son. As the Beatles say, “All you need is love.”
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  • HImomHImom 36051 replies396 threads Senior Member
    Our relationships with each child has evolved as they and we grew. We have done closeness but respect their independence as well. D has been much more interested in voicing her deeper thoughts to us than S. He’s always been more reserved.

    We are content with our relationships as they are evolving, at their own pace. What we aren’t and don’t expect to be ”besties.”
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  • rosered55rosered55 4834 replies124 threads Senior Member
    Some day, sooner or later, our children will be taking care of us, their parents. If we're lucky. I won't demand that my daughters take care of me, but I hope they'll help out if necessary, because they want to.

    I have two coworkers whose moms (one a few years older than me, the other one younger) have cancer and both coworkers are being great daughters, taking their moms to appointments and such. On the other hand, one of my ex's brothers hasn't visited their very sick, elderly parents in several years.

    I'm pretty sure my daughters' relationship with me is more like those of my coworkers' with their moms, not my former BIL's with his parents.
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