You know, if you’re facing the situation that your child is not as interested as they once were in relationship with you, you’re not as prominent in that relational value list that they carry around inside of their brain and they’re spending more time outside of the house or away from you; and you wonder, “What can I do to continue to maintain relationship with my children,” my whole answer to that question would depend on the age of a child.
If you have a 13-year old that’s now cutting you off and finding reasons to not be around the house, I would see that as a very serious thing. That child is not capable of independence. They need several years of very careful parenting still to prepare them for their launch. I would ask the question, “Why does this child not want to be around? Why is this child cutting me off? What do we need to restore and rebuild? This child needs me, needs to be comfortable in relationship to me, needs to know I love him, needs to know I would never do anything that would hurt him or her.”
Now, it’s very, very different if you’re looking at a 22- or 23-year old. We’ve been through this four times as parents because our children are older. You go through those moments where you’re not the center of your child’s life anymore. They’re not going to come home every night as they once did. They may be living somewhere else or maybe in the midst of their launch and they have new relationships and new responsibilities that take them away. Listen. There’s a way in which the job of the parents is to work yourself out the job. That’s a good thing. That is a person making a responsible launch into adulthood. It’s a natural thing to have happen.
Now, you want to maintain a relationship with your child. You want to be an adviser and a counselor and a mentor. You want to have a community of love with them and so, you have to ask yourself, “Given the natural ways that our lives intersect and they’re not there anymore, how can I continue to have a robust and healthy relationship with my child?”
The distance that you’re experiencing with your child and the way that you respond to it is very much attached to the age of that child. Older children, they’re making their launch, that’s a natural thing. For a younger child, something that should concern you is going on that you need to unpack because that child needs you.