Dear Ann Cannon • My 21-year-old college kid has had to move home because of the pandemic. We have previously had a great relationship. When she is away at school she calls me often, seeks my advice and tells me her woes. I don’t have any rules for her, really. I totally realize she is an adult and has been living on her own.
But, every time I ask her to do something or give her a suggestion, she accuses me of being controlling. For example, she thinks I am being overly critical when I tell her that she needs to rinse the dishes off before she puts them in the dishwasher. I realize we are all under abnormal stress right now. But, she seems so much more self-centered now than she ever was when she lived at home previously. I am honestly astounded that our relationship has slipped so much. Please give me tips on how to parent an adult!
— Silently Seething and Annoyed Mom
Dear Silently Seething Mom • My guess is that you could add your name to a looooong list of also silently seething and annoyed parents who feel the same way you do right now. Bottom line — it can be hard to have children who’ve been living on their own move back in, no matter how much you love them. Hard for you and, frankly, hard for them, too. You all have your own way of doing things, and it’s only natural that you’re going to bump elbows, sometimes over the smallest things.
Your situation is further complicated by the fact that it’s difficult for everyone involved to step away from old parent-and-child roles, especially when you’re all under the same roof again. It gets extra tricky when the adult child in question wants the privileges of being a grownup while unconsciously slipping back into old childhood patterns. Then add a pandemic to the mix, and yeah. You’ve pretty much ended up with a stressful situation. ON STEROIDS.
Anyway. What can you do to help your relationship with your adult daughter?
1. Pick your battles. Sound like a cliché? Sure. But still. Overlook what you can and save your energy, instead, for the things you can’t let go.
2. Spend time away from your daughter — especially when you feel like you’ve had it. Putting a little psychic and physical distance between the two of you will give your relationship some of the space to breathe it had when you were living apart.
3. But also spend time with your daughter doing something together you both enjoy.
4. To the extent it’s possible, think of her as a friend and then treat her that way. Sometimes it’s easier to get along with a friend than with a family member.
5. Keep in mind that this situation is (hopefully) temporary. My guess is that you and your daughter will be able to reestablish the easy relationship you’ve previously enjoyed.
I hope this helps at least a little bit. Hang in there.