Sunday, March 18, 2012
Share the gift of wisdom and life experiences with loved ones
Imagine all of the knowledge and experience a person gains throughout their life as money in a bank account. At the beginning, there is very little, but by the end, there is usually a fortune in lessons learned.
Sharing life’s lessons is one of the greatest gifts parents can bestow on their children, even when the children are adults. Teaching and giving them counsel continues throughout their lives. The learning doesn’t end once they reach eighteen or twenty-one. There is always another valuable bit of information they can benefit from and another opportunity for insights they may have missed.
No two lives within a family will be exactly the same. Siblings may have had the same parents and experiences, but their life choices and paths may be quite unique. Adult children may take different paths or lifestyles than their parents. And there can be situations and circumstances in the children’s lives which mirror the experience of their parents. Common events like marriage, raising a family, and careers- are often shared. But, even in areas of life where parents have little or no experience, guidance and counsel can be important and welcomed.
A few subjects and occurrences can be too uncomfortable for some parents and adult children to discuss. Divorce, substance abuse problems, death of a spouse, loss of a job and financial problems are a few examples of issues that can cause a breakdown in communication due to feelings of discomfort and pain. But, these are examples of important and critical situations which can benefit by sharing life lessons and discussion.
Reaching out and giving advice to adult children is a great gift, but parents must understand that often their children may seem resistant or hesitant to change their opinions. Patience, love, and understanding are important things to embrace at these times. Leaving ego-based emotions out of the picture is critical for there to be successful interaction. Taking things too personally damages the opportunity for conveying the information and the most important part- the experience.
Being open and honest are key aspects in sharing knowledge with adult children. Expecting adult children to share their intimate feelings and fears is only viable if the parent is willing to share information and lessons which are equally personal. No one likes to feel that they are sharing and the other person is not doing the same. Being vulnerable and admitting fears, mistakes and lessons learned is not an easy task. Parents may feel that they are stepping down from a pedestal if they admit to mistakes or failures. In reality, these are exactly the moments when the parent and adult child can gain the most from one another and the lessons.
Discussing feelings of disappointment and loss to an adult child can feel very disconcerting at first- for both parties; but in time and with practice, it will seem less and less uncomfortable. The foundation should already exist, but this is the time where the most beautiful aspects of the relationship can be formed. While parents and children, of any age, are never 100% equal in the relationship dynamic, the intimacy and closeness these interactions create will bring parent and child to a level of closeness that is truly wonderful. The foundation of the relationship which was built in childhood will become a beautiful structure to be enjoyed for the remaining years together.
Keep in mind; one’s children are only truly “children” for the first eighteen years. The remaining years, which can be many, are the ones where the adult child/parent relationship will have the greatest opportunity to evolve into a beautiful, loving, giving, friendship.
Sharing pains and past disappointments with adult children can help to cement the strong bonds which began when they were young and parents seemed invincible. Adult children need to see their parents for the people they are, not the image the parent had when they were young. The image must be replaced with reality. Authenticity is the basis for building and sustaining the truthful and genuine relationship.
As more and more marriages now end in divorce, the parent/child relationship is often the most long-lasting, enduring, relationships of many people’s lives. Exploring, discussing, and sharing the life experiences with adult children is the greatest inheritance they can receive. They can benefit from the hard earned wisdom and the life lessoned their parents learned along the way.
This was orignially written for Examiner.com