Center for a Secure Retirement
Strengthening the Parent-Child Relationship in Retirement

Strengthening the Parent-Child Relationship in Retirement

The parent-child relationship evolves with each new phase of life — retirement included. Strengthening your relationship with your adult children can be one of your most important endeavors in retirement. Having solid, loving, open and communicative relationships with your children adds richness to your life, and it's the ultimate milestone of the parent-child relationship journey.

Whether you're reconnecting and renewing relationships with your adult children or you've been close all along, here are some things to consider.

Acknowledge Your New Identity

For you and your adult kids, your transition to retirement might stir up myriad emotions and concerns. This is likely the first time in your adult life that you haven't been in the workforce. Many people's identities are wrapped in their careers; now that you're retired, you might feel adrift. Your adult children, having viewed you through the lens of your career for their entire lives, might feel the same.

Retiring can alter your identity, Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile notes. Take the time you need to restructure and recognize that you're in a new phase of life, then talk about how it might influence your parent-child relationship.

Maintain or Establish Boundaries

As with any successful relationship, your relationship with your adult children benefits from clear boundaries. After all, you're all adults now. Setting healthy boundaries gives you and your kids the freedom to interact and keeps communication flowing.

Common areas or topics helped by clear boundaries include giving and receiving unsolicited advice, unannounced visits, overdependence from adult children, and any area of interpersonal interaction that helps maintain a sense of control for you and your kids.

Make Time to Connect

Before you retired, you might have been too busy to connect with your children over shared passions or interests. Retirement might just give you schedule flexibility for the first time in a while, so what better way to spend your newfound free time than with your adult kids?

Consider your retirement an opportunity to restart your relationship with your adult children, and find ways to bond socially and emotionally. Your adult kids might have the busier schedules these days, but finding time to spend time together is worth it.

Tell Your Kids That You Love Them

Saying "I love you" sounds simple, but it can be hard to do in a parent-child relationship. Some therapists work with adults who still struggle with the fact that they never felt loved and never heard a parent tell them they loved them. You might think that your children know that you love them, but saying it more frequently now can be life-changing for both of you.

Tips for Grandparents

Not every retiree has grandchildren. But if you do, your interaction with your grandchildren will directly affect your relationship with your adult kids — and vice versa. Having a good relationship with your grandchildren can bring health, mental and social benefits, but grandparents can get too involved and offer advice and ideas that their adult children don't want. Be open with your adult children and talk about how to best move forward and keep everyone comfortable and on the same page. Nothing damages the parent-child relationship more than when one or both sides feel undermined.

Sit down and chat with your adult children about what your retirement means to them. It will get the conversation going and give you a window into what may help you connect on a deeper level as you move forward in this phase of life.

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