This is a contributed post by Shelby Spear.
As a momma of two boys, 29 and 27, it’s been a steep learning curve in building a healthy relationship with both. I also have a 25-year-old daughter, and our journey has been easier, albeit challenging in its own ways at times.
My oldest son is also married to our lovely daughter-in-love, and they have a beautiful 10-month-old daughter, our first grandchild. My heart is mush, and a polaroid of this moment in time would confirm our family life is good and abundant in every way.
The road to a healthy relationship with our grown sons can be long and windy.
The truth is life wasn’t always bliss for our family of five. In fact, it was deeply painful, unnerving, chaotic, disheartening, frightening, and angsty for a good stretch.
This was partly because I lost my way for a time, partly because my kids lost their way, and somewhat because my husband and I had some very painful seasons where we were underwater gasping for air.
But our family mostly struggled because I didn’t know what the heck I was doing.
Do any of us?
And it wasn’t my cluelessness that caused the suffering. It was because I berated myself for being clueless and ‘screwing things up.’ As if the guilt I swallowed for doing my best with what I knew would somehow make what I didn’t do on purpose feel better. The guilt caused more suffering, more confusion, more anxiety to get it right, more mess.
Do you see the madness here?
The pressure to get everything right in motherhood is challenging.
I don’t know about you, but I was on a mission to achieve perfection in motherhood.
Somehow, I thought I could waltz into this gig and figure everything out without any training, self-awareness, emotional intelligence, or experience.
As a mere 27-year-old with three kids, still adjusting to adulting, let alone mothering, I was hellbent on making sure my kids never had to endure any of the painful things I experienced as a child.
My biggest obsession was being everything my parents were not.
Welp. That didn’t happen.
What did happen was a whole lot of learning and unlearning. Motherhood is the most epic personal development tool on the planet. The OG of self-discovery. And here are a few things I learned along the way that helped nurture my relationships with my boys (and my daughter).
Nine Tips that Helped Me Have a Solid Relationship with My Grown Son
In the end, my kids have made me a better human. That’s the greatest gift I didn’t see coming as a young mom. I’ve learned to give myself a tremendous amount of grace and even more to my kids. We are all finding our way and doing the best we can.
Many mothers mention that having a relationship with your grown kids, especially your grown son, can be challenging. Here is what has worked for our family.
1. Work on yourself, work on yourself, work on yourself
Did I mention work on yourself? Here’s the thing. What you can control in life and motherhood is you and only you.
Be the change you want to see in your relationship with your son. Put in the work to understand your thoughts and what your emotions are telling you. Question the stories you are speaking and the limiting beliefs you are clinging to.
How do you behave when you believe certain things? Is the story you are telling about this or that even true? How do you know for certain? Is the narrative serving you? Serving your son?
Heal what hurts inside. Get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right and cultivate a life that is peaceful, loving, fun, and filled with gratitude. Here is a passion project
I created with a massive toolbox of free resources I’ve benefited from over the past 17 years of my healing and transformation journey. Use it. Share it with your family. Peaceful Change Begins With Me
2. Give your son space and be a safe space
Our adolescent boys need space. We serve them well by having no expectations for interaction. When they want to engage, be welcoming and available. Listen. Love. Lead from the heart. Sometimes we can build trust and connection by offering up something unique to do together. My oldest son and I used to cook together—and still do. Now, my grown son loves to cook and makes delicious meals for his family.
3. Encourage, encourage, encourage
Boys need to feel empowered as much as girls. They need to know it’s okay (and necessary) to express emotions. They need to know it’s okay to make mistakes and that there are no failures, only learnings. Encourage your son in every way and build him up.
4. Refrain from judgment and criticism
Any casting of I’m guilty/you’re guilty is always Ego at work. When we judge, it is a projection of something we are hiding within ourselves. And knowing how quick we are to self-critique and lay on the guilt in our own life, we can be assured our boys are doing enough self-bashing on their own. They don’t need to hear from us what they are doing ‘wrong’ or where they are ‘lacking.’ Point out what is going right in their world. Focus on the positives and lead with an unconditional belief in their goodness.
5. Don’t take things personally
Remember that his behaviors are his work; your reaction is your work.
What our boys think of us at any moment is their business. Who knows what map of the world is filtering their view. We don’t even know what distorts many of our perceptions. If we default to loving them as is, no exception, they will learn to trust the relationship.
This isn’t a call to be a doormat or a pushover. But if you need to point out something, comment on the behavior, not the person. “I love you and value you tremendously. Sometimes your attitude feels disrespectful. Just wanted to share how I am feeling. I’ll work on my reactions, and maybe you could think about how you communicate. Fair enough?”
6. Decide now that you will never take sides in his future relationship(s)
This is a big one, especially because so many mothers have a push and pull with their son’s partner.
The best foundation you can form is one of neutrality. Taking his side or his partner’s doesn’t serve either person. Listen with love and remind your son he is the alchemist of his life, and all solutions are within him.
7. Zippy the lippy about all things adulting unless asked!
This is a gem from my good friend Lisa Leshaw. We don’t need to offer unsolicited advice.
If anything, we are trying to bolster our boy’s inner navigation system, so they trust their own true north and don’t need to rely on us.
When asked, it’s fair game, but what we offer is still only a possible solution or a suggestion. We don’t always know best. Our Ego will insist we do, but don’t listen to her. Listen to your Soul. She’s much softer and kinder. She doesn’t need to be ‘right’ and only wants to be a loving mirror to help guide.
8. Always see the highest version of your son, even when he’s acting in a way that’s upsetting
Layer down into the LOVE he is made of in every moment. Your son is not his body, his emotions, or his thoughts. His personality doesn’t define him. Nor does his role or relationship in the family. He is his own person, and LOVE is his true identity. How he chooses to express his uniqueness is up to him.
As parents, we don’t have a say in how our kid’s gifts and talents will be played out. What matters most is their essence, what defines them at the core—LOVE. That never changes. It is absolute. Consciously choose to see that in every moment, especially during challenging and emotionally charged conversations. When we see beneath the noise, we can respond from a place of peace. When we are in a state of fear and anxiety about all the things not going well in our relationship or the choices our kids are making, we transmit this negative energy onto our kids. They can feel our angst.
Send nothing but peaceful vibes. It’s healthy for you and your son. Seeing his highest good and highest potential helps you and him when your son is learning hard lessons from life.
9. Have a daily mantra of how can I serve?
No, this does not mean cleaning their rooms each day or catering to their every whim.
What do we want most for our kids?
For them to be healthy, happy, and whole? To have self-love? Passion? Purpose? Peace? Then be all of those things and model what a loving relationship looks like. That’s how we serve best.
And also ask how you can help. Do what you can. If your son doesn’t want your help, that’s fine. But being at peace within and content with loving him exactly as he is goes a forever way.
It’s never to late to change the relationship with your kids
When I changed me, everything changed in my relationship with my boys. Like night and day. Before I took responsibility, I expected my boys to change. I thought they should be a certain way. I expected them to do this or that. I worried, vexed, and battled.
When we externalize all our suffering, don’t take personal responsibility for our well-being, and need our kids to fill a void or be a certain way, we suffer when they don’t meet our needs. There is no freedom for them or us in this—only more suffering.
I let go of everything. All the shoulds. All the expectations. I became obsessed with being the best version of me for all three of my kids.
I choose to see the best in them, but also in me.
When things get crunchy inside me, I do the work on myself and keep loving them like crazy. I never make them wrong. I don’t make me wrong, either. I know I have to grow and evolve. I do my best with what I know until I know better.
Grace. Love. Forgiveness. Repeat.
Life is a beautiful journey when we have this mindset and don’t expect others to fuel our happiness. When we aren’t living with a scarcity mindset and focusing on what’s missing. When we don’t need to control and finally accept that control of the external is an illusion. What we can control is ourselves.
Becoming the healthiest version of ourselves affects change in the whole system. As within, so without.
Like this post? You may also like to read Soul Shift, The Wery Human’s Guide to Getting Unstuck and Reclaiming Your Path to Joy by Rachel Macy Stafford (aka, The Hands Free Mama)
Are you in the thick of raising your tweens and teens? You may like this book by Whitney Fleming, the co-owner of Parenting Teens & Tweens: Loving Hard When They’re Hard to Love: Essays about Raising Teens in Today’s Complex, Chaotic World.
Parenting Teens and Tweens is hard. You may find these other popular posts useful:
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