Nov 15, 2017

Empty Nesters and their children

According to research, parents are more emotionally invested in the relationship than are children – a generational difference that exists across the lifespan.

While in most cases relationships between young adults and their parents is much healthier when compared to the relationship between parents and their teenage children, these good or cordial parent-adult children relationships, too, go through their share of turbulences.


Friendship, which is supposed to be an important part of the relationship between the parent and their child once they grow up, is often tested. While parents of adults sometimes try to overstep boundaries by being too inquisitive or by giving out unsolicited advice to keep their children out of harm’s way, forgetting that their child has grown. This behaviour can lead to the child feeling inadequate or probed, and is not often received kindly. This can lead to friction.


The children don’t always hold up their end of the bargain either. Adult children are often not sufficiently present in their parents’ lives. Not picking up calls, not showing enough interest in their parents’ lives and not spending time with them are more often than not the key factors why parents feel left out, or unwanted. This leads to them putting more pressure on the kids to stay in touch – which only worsens the situation.


Not only this, the health and quality of the relationship between empty nesters and their children depends on several other factors; including the age of the offspring, the kind of stresses they are putting on their parents, and even gender.


Different types of tensions

The tensions between parent and child change as the child grows and matures. Humans develop the longest and deepest ties with their parents, and like any lengthy relationship, it is bound to have its share of sweet and sour moments, just as it is bound to evolve.


The tensions, as we call them, depend on several factors:


1. Relationship and Individual tensions


Relationship tensions depend on the quality of the relationship. These can be caused due to the nature of the parent-child relationship. The lack or over-presence of one of the individuals in the relationship, the history of the relationship and past conflicts, child rearing, etc.


Individual tensions on the other hand pertain to one of the parties in the relationship. This can be a result of factors including lifestyle, education/job, health, finances, etc.


2. Tensions pertaining to Age and  Gender


Older children face more problems when it comes to communicating with their parents. This can be a result of having their own families and work and having to juggle between the two, resulting in a disconnect with their parents.


Research shows that daughters share a more intense relationship with their parents, leading to stronger bond – and a deeper emotional reaction to conflict when it arises. Sons, in comparison, report less conflict when it comes to emotional tension. Similar has been reported of mothers, who are more involved and active in their children's’ lives than the fathers.


Do both parents and children view these tensions similarly?


Broadly speaking, the answer would be no.


In many instances, like in the case of individual tensions, where the children are leading a certain lifestyle or pursuing a certain career path which is not agreeable to the parents, the parents can feel the tension more intensely as compared to the child.


Similarly, in case of relationship tensions, when it comes to independence in the relationship and giving of advice, children report a higher degree of tension as compared to their parents.


Changing Dynamics


Lifestyles are changing and so are the relationships between adults and their parents. Due to the changing patterns of marriage, growing educational opportunities for both genders, the amount of importance given to career and also, to some extent, the real-estate market, children are opting to stay with their parents for a longer period of time.


According to research published in The Psychologist by Karen Fingerman, a psychology researcher from the University of Texas, today, around  one-third of the young adults in America (aged between 18 and 25) live with their parents.


This has led to the bonds between the parents and their children becoming stronger. They spend enough time with each other to understand circumstances of both parties, and are able to adjust a little more easily.


But living in close proximity brings its own problems, as it does challenge the norm of independence of the children. Parents, in these cases, need to take a lot of care not to overstep boundaries and to understand the needs and requirements of their adult children. It becomes of paramount importance to treat both entities as the responsible adults they are, and not just over-nurturing parents or irresponsible children. This way, a healthy, mature bond can be kindled.


Communication is key. It is the responsibility of both parties to ensure that tensions are diffused and the relationship continues on an even keel. While the parent-child relationship needs a lot of care and understanding from both parties, it is undeniably the most character-shaping and important bond that a human being experiences in his or her lifetime.


Living in Hong Kong, which may be away from your children, present another challenge for empty nesters in looking to fill the void our children left in our social lives. Mozaic Club, offers a variety of different events, activities and travel opportunities for mature HK residents to enjoy together while connecting with new friends.  Check out the Mozaic Social Calendar page for many interesting and engaging events on offer in the coming months.

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