You are still a parent, even when your children are over 18. Sometimes, this is the hardest time–for the parents. Your young adult children are doing what you raised them to do: be independent adults. Still, it can be hard to get enough time with your children when they live far away. These are different kinds of long-distance relationships. Here are tips from Dr. Margaret Rutherford on how to maintain a long-distance relationship with your adult children.
I haven’t lived in my hometown since I was 17 years old. My family and I shared “long distance love.”
There were many special occasions that they celebrated without me. And they weren’t able to come to things that meant a lot to me.
That comes with distance. Everyone is living busy lives, hundreds of miles apart.
These days, our son is living 1, 543.1 miles away from us, following the same path his mother did. He’s been in LA a little over a year, and only talks about coming home for holidays. He wants to travel, see the world when he’s not working himself silly. No longer does the seduction of homemade meatballs entice him.
So I’m pulling out similar skills I’ve used almost all my life. I don’t want the potential emptiness of long distance loving to sour my relationship with my son.
What are these skills? How to manage happy, warm, loving relationships with people I don’t see very often.
How can we do that with the most success?
1) Let the time you have together be whatever it shapes up to be.
Don’t try to force things too much. “We’ve got to have the perfect weekend because it’s been so long since we’ve seen each other!”. Or the infamous – “I have to cook all his favorite things.” If your now adult child is enjoying a visit home, try not to cram too much in, or have too many people drop by. Prioritize what’s most important but be flexible about the rest. Enjoy the time.
If you’re visiting their world, their life continues around them. They may have to run errands, work, or do normal stuff. It doesn’t have to be Disneyland. You’ll remember the laughter, and the errands. Plus, when you do normal things, you may have a better concept of what their life is like, and be able to visualize it when you’re back home. That can be very comforting.
2) Many celebrations can happen any day.
Some families create incredible Cirque du Soleil-like twists and turns to try to accommodate one another. Certainly, once in a while, it’s truly important. If you’re receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, I get it. Or becoming an Eagle Scout. Or graduating from college. Or playing a incredible violin solo in the orchestra.
Some things happen once. And once only.
But… some families make every event important. There’s nothing that can be missed.
When there are many miles between you, it is much easier to realize that holidays, birthdays, special days can be celebrated on the day that you can be together. It’s the togetherness that matters.
3) Try not to compare yourself to others.
There aren’t any TV shows where we watch mom and daughter text for an hour. That would be boring.
No. We watch Modern Family or even one of those Housewives of Some City show. They are bickering and laughing with each other – together. Maybe your best friend has her daughter living two blocks down and picks her grandkids up from school. Your daughter is in North Dakota, expecting her first child, and you fear you can’t even get there.
So it’s hard not to compare, and to wish that our family members were closer. The distance may be a choice. It may not be. But it’s a fact. So you deal with it and avoid bitterness. You make the best of what you have.
Here’s where jealousy can also take hold. Maybe an aunt and uncle live closer to your child, and often have him over. If your adult child is married, perhaps in-laws will get to be with the couple far more than you. This kind of jealousy can seep into comments, and poison your relationship. If you find that you’re obsessing about somehow losing your place with your family, please work on your own sense of worth and security. There’s always enough love to go around.
4) Use technology to your advantage.
The marvelous thing about technology today is the incredible variety of communication you can have with someone. From a text or Snapchat, to a letter or a Candygram, it all says that you’re thinking of one another – and the distance means nothing. You can video a hello, a sunset, or spring flowers coming up in the garden. You can get creative.
If you don’t know how, or if you’re nervous around gadgets, ask someone to teach you. Your adult children, and their children, are tech-savvy. You’ll fit into their world much more readily if you join in the fun. Certainly, if you want, write them a letter every now and then. It will be a keepsake.
If you’re proactive, you’ll enjoy as much time with loved ones as possible.
Focusing on what you have control over will empower you, not discourage you.
You’ll always be mom, or dad, or grandma. There’s no amount of distance that can take that away.
Click here for “Marriage Is Not For Chickens,” the new gift book by Dr. Margaret! It’s perfect for engagements, anniversaries, weddings, or for the person you love!
You can hear more about relationships and many other topics by listening to Dr. Margaret’s new podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford.
Read more from her on Midlife Boulevard: Parenting Never Ends, and How to Talk to Your Adult Children,
Wednesday 26th of July 2017
Good advice! I try to practice all of them. Lived 2000 miles away from my family as a single parent and now my only kid and her family live 8000 miles away. I would stress using technology to your advantage (you can keep up real relationships with your grandkids via Skype!) and also your point about not trying to make everything perfect and cram too much in. Just relax and enjoy the little things!
Wednesday 26th of July 2017
Love the title of the article. I'm the author of Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, one Empty Nest - a book about how our family got its bearings as one after the other our four close kids left home for distant locations. https://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712