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Getting Along with Adult Children

Dear Safe Haven Community,

We will present a series of blogs on bridging the gap between parents and their adult children. We believe this is a very important topic for families today.

“We’d love to have you join us" is a common invitation parents give their grown children. Seemingly innocent enough, but a trigger for many young couples and parents I counsel.

Parents are proud to watch their children grow up and finally be launched into adulthood, watch them set up their own household, marry and start having children. Navigating through these changes is often difficult between helicopter parents and their grown children. Parents have to let go and respect their adult children’s new household, while learning how to stay connected.

Helicopter parents have spent almost 2 decades involved in every aspect of their children’s lives.

Definition of a Helicopter Parent: A parent who takes an overprotective or excessive interest in the life of their child or children.

HP’s often view their children graduating from college, marrying and having children as expanding their own family (rather than launching their children to establish their own households) and expect everyone to continue to make the family of origin home compound home base. And be just as eager to continue having their parents just as involved as they were during the youth soccer glory days.

A big struggle parents and their grown children have is knowing the healthy balance between independence and connection. Young adults often struggle with how to carve out their own life while staying connected with parents.

I hear many young married couples feeling the guilt over wanting to spend weekends, birthdays and even certain holidays with their newly formed family or friends. And their parents take it as rejection and do not always understand why they wouldn’t want to spend these special days with their parents! “But we always get together on your birthday, why would you want to go be with your friends instead?”

Key to making this transition work so we all feel loved, valued and connected is to first understand each other’s perspective. And that is the purpose of this blog series. To help helicopter parents to understand their adult children’s perspective and vice versa.

Here are some tips for increasing understanding and finding balance for us helicopter parents:

  • Grieve and Adjust to the new season. Once so involved with every aspect of your child’s life, you have done your job, and launched your children into adulthood.

  • Allow them to establish their own home, rituals, traditions and schedules.

  • Wait for your children to invite you into their routine, traditions and schedule.

  • Support your children’s new independence. Instead of expecting them to come over because that is what we have always done as a family, ask them what new traditions they are establishing and how they would like you involved. “How often would you like to have family dinners?” And don’t guilt them, nor entice them (if we offer a trip to Hawaii they will all come).

  • Come alongside your adult children in a new way. It is just as difficult for them to establish their new family as it is for you for you to find your new role and place. Life has changed for both of you.

For adult children: Find your balance. It won’t work for long to give in, and cutting off never does anyone any good. Find a way to launch, leave home while staying connected.

Stay tuned for our next blog for part 2 of how to launch and start your own family and life while staying connected with your parents and family.

Until then, as far as it depends upon you, try get along with everyone. Remember we all want to be valued, and feel that we belong.

Your adult children still need to hear the words, “I love you and am proud of you. You are doing so well, how can I come alongside you and support you in life.”

Growing together,


Sharon May, Ph.D.

P.S. If you and your family need a little bit of help adjusting, healing or connecting in a different way, I encourage you to consider coming to a Safe Haven Family Intensive.

For 2 1/2 days your family will have a chance to be heard, understand the family dynamics and begin to heal and foster a safe haven family.

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