How do family relationships change when children become adults?
A. Expectations should change, as children become adults.
Cultures expect various behaviors from adult children. Much depends on the view of the larger family. In some places, parents expect their adult children to remain under the authority of the family leader. Other cultures expect the adult to move into his own home and become independent in every way. But all cultures recognize that we should not treat adults as if they were children. And all agree that adults should have more responsibility for their own lives. So as children become adults, both the parents and the mature children think differently about each other.
1. Parents expect a mature son or daughter to:
- Care for self, manage finances, and be a good citizen;
- Develop friendships;
- Find purpose and spiritual meaning in life.
2. Mature children expect their parents to:
- Allow them to make their own decisions;
- Recognize that adult children are responsible for their decisions;
- Show joy and confidence in them;
- Reduce or stop financial support;
- Talk to them as they talk to other adults.
Believers care about the spiritual life of their children. Will their adult children continue to develop, as believers, in their spiritual life? Many young adults question their beliefs, and some turn away from the church.
Once your children are young adults, you should not push them too hard spiritually. You can have some expectations for them as long as they live with you. But you cannot demand that they believe what you have taught them. The door to the world outside must be fully open to adult children. This can be the most frightening time for parents. Most parents want to keep control to prevent their children from making mistakes. But young adults make better choices when rebellion is not the only path to freedom. The plain truth is that love and freedom go together. So parents who love their older children should treat them like adults.
B. Relationships can deepen, as children become adults.
1. The relationship between parents and children changes, but it can grow as well. Parents and children can discover each other in new ways once they begin to relate as adults. But no matter how old children become, they must honor their parents. To honor means "to respect, appreciate, and value." God's command to honor parents is for all of life.
Some parents abuse, neglect, or mistreat their children. God does not command us to honor the evil ways of our parents. But all parents deserve a measure of respect such as polite words, love, and kindness. While the relationship between a parent and child changes, it always requires honor.
2. The relationship between a husband and wife can grow when children become adults. For many years, the mother and father spend most of their time, energy, and money on their children. But as children become adults, parents may wonder, "Now what will we do?" For some parents, this question is like a giant standing over them. The marriage often goes through pressure when the couple is alone in their home. For decades, they have focused their attention on the children. Often, a husband and wife have forgotten to strengthen their relationship with each other. They may need to get to know each other again. Without the children, old problems may resurrect. It is hard to ignore problems when there are no children needing attention in the home. Husbands and wives can have a new beginning when their main focus returns to each other. Their friendship and love can grow. Facing the past, they can remember the miles they have walked and the mountains they have climbed. There are many memories to discuss. Facing the future, they can walk new paths together. The marriage relationship will change when children become adults. Some call this the time of the empty nest. The husband and wife can make this a good time. And soon, in the nest that once had children, there will be grandchildren!