Q.Our son is in his late 20s and lives about 30 minutes away from us. We almost never see or hear from him unless we make the attempt to do so ourselves. What can we do to change this situation? Please help.
A. Thank you for your vulnerability. The situation you have described feels like you’ve been waiting for your son to grow up and do more to have a better and closer relationship with you, but your expectations have not been realized.
What you have described is not all that unusual. Much of what you shared has to do with the rituals you and your son have developed over the years about connecting with each other on a regular basis. It may also have something to do with his personality, or the type of environment you have created over the years when you have connected with your son. What we are hearing you say is that your expectations have not been met about how your son should relate to you as he becomes a more mature adult.
Most of us have expectations about how things should be and what people we are in relationship with should be doing. Still, if we could lower our expectations about what is supposed to happen—according to our thinking—and be open to accepting what is, life would be much nicer and happier for you and for your relationship with your son.
If you think about it, you would recognize that your expectations are the culprit for a lot of the stress and grief you may have about many things, including your relationship with your son. Because you expect that your son should call and visit more frequently than he does, you are unhappy and disappointed about what is currently taking place. Also, instead of recognizing that you can change this reality by calling him more often, visiting him regularly, or inviting him to dinner or to some other activity at your home from time to time, you continue to blame him for not growing up, which is causing you stress and frustration because of the current state of affairs.
We are not suggesting that you should dismiss your preference to hear from your son more often or have him visit you more frequently. But, lowering your expectations for the way he should behave doesn’t mean you are lowering your standards about how you believe your son should behave. You are simply choosing to improve the quality of your life by not allowing yourself to be held hostage by your son’s choices. The quicker you let go of this expectation, the better your communication and relationship with your son will become. We encourage you to love your son unconditionally. And if you would like to hear from him more frequently, call him more freguently and create the best environment for your relationship. The Bible says: “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you…” (Matthew 7:12). So, practicing the behavior you would like to see in others—including your son—is a good way to manage your expectations and remain positive about your relationships. You are in our prayers.
Willie Oliver, PhD, CFLE an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, family sociologist and certified family life educator, is director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. OliverW@gc.adventits.org
Elaine Oliver, PhDc, LCPC, CFLE a licensed clinical professional counselor, educational psychologist and certified family life educator, is associate director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. OliverE@gc.adventist.org