5 ways you're unknowingly hurting your adult children

Children want to know their parents care about them long after they’ve left the nest. Are you hurting your adult children in any of these ways?

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  • "Kids don't stop needing you just because they get older," read a Facebook meme. It's true. We never stop needing to be loved and cared about by our parents, no matter how hold we, or they, are.

  • We received a letter as a result of someone who read "5 ways adult children hurt their parents without realizing it." The writer wanted equal time for children to be acknowledged by their parents. He wrote, "I am [a mature adult] and my mother and father combined have called me so few times I remember each call. Each time it was a death or impending death. I spent 26 years of my life serving my country, yet I am not worthy of a call from a parent. I never asked for money or any other 'sins' outlined in [the article]. My parents have never visited me since I left home at 17 and I never asked for anything." This middle-aged man is in pain over the disregard of his parents toward him. Could your adult child be suffering the same neglect?

  • Here are five ways parents hurt their adult children, and may not realize it. Are you doing this to your child?

  • 1. You don't call them

  • You may be thinking it's the child's duty to call you. That's nice if they do, but many are hoping you will make that call. Once you stop calling a child, that habit is formed. It becomes easy to simply go about your own life and think it's best if you just let them live theirs without interrupting with calls. Or maybe you are too busy. Wait — this is your child! You don't need to call every day, and maybe not even every week. But surely once a month would be the longest to go without letting your children know you are thinking of them. They need a call. They need to hear your voice and know you are thinking about them.

  • 2. You don't visit them

  • When kids live far away, visits may be difficult — especially if you are elderly or in poor health. It also may be costly. You might need to figure out a way that is affordable. If you don't dare drive, try Amtrak. It costs half the price of an airline ticket. Call your children and let them know you'd like to come for a visit and ask them when the best time would be, and how long works for them. Then make it happen. Or sometimes the best way to handle a visit is to invite them to come to you. Let them know you want to see them in person, even if it's only for a few days. Or if they're nearby, invite them over for meals. Make it pleasant so they'll want to do it again.

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  • 3. You don't celebrate their birthdays

  • Surely a parent will never forget the memory of bringing their child into the world. Remind them of what a happy moment it was for you to have him or her born into your family. Talk about the cute things they did as a child. Keep the memories alive. This can be done with a birthday card and/or gifts. Gifts don't have to be expensive to mean something to the child. It might be a picture with you both in it, framed in a simple frame, or a gift card to their favorite restaurant. The important thing is to remember them on their birthday. It means you were happy they were born — and that feels so good to a child.

  • 4. You don't seem to care what's going on in their lives

  • If you don't ask, they may get the idea that you don't care about what's happening to them. You don't need to know every single detail, but you ought to know what they are doing for a job, for fun and what they are doing with their own children, if they have any. Ask questions like, "What do you enjoy about your job?", "What's happening with the kids?", "How is your wife/husband doing?", "What have you done lately that was fun?", "How is your health?" Be interested in what's going on in their lives, without prying for details that may be private. Care enough to ask.

  • 5. You're critical of them and complain too much

  • No child wants to feel like they never quite measure up. See the good in them. If you continually tell them what you think they "should" be doing, then change that. Talk about your interests and what you are doing with your time. Keep it informative, pleasant and brief. If you have health issues they need to know about, inform them, but don't dwell on it. Remember they mostly want you to be interested in what they're doing, without criticism. Accept that and be grateful they want to share their lives with you.

  • If you are doing any of these five things, it's not too late to change. Let your adult children know you love them. Live a life that will make them miss you when you are gone. That's the happiest way to live.

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Gary Lundberg is a licensed marriage and family therapist. Joy is a writer. Together they author books on relationships.

Website: http://garyjoylundberg.com

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