“If someone knows you worry about them, they may see it as an expression of love and caring, but at the same time they can feel irritated and annoyed by it,” according to Dr. Hay in the report of a study published in the December issue of the journal Personal Relationships.
The more parents and adult children worry about one another and discuss those worries, the more negatively they can view the relationship.
“In a sense it’s socially and emotionally supportive to worry and share your concerns, but you need to do it in a way that doesn’t make the other person feel that you perceive them to be incapable of managing their own affairs,” she said. “Perhaps they feel like you are undermining their autonomy, and maintaining autonomy is important in parent-adult child ties.”
Parents worry about their children largely as a continuation of patterns that developed early in the relationship, Hay believes. “When children are young and parents are responsible for so much of their life, they probably worry about a variety of things, which is not likely to just suddenly stop once their children become adults,” she said.
Indeed, while the focus of adult children’s worries overwhelmingly centers on their parents’ health, parents had many diverse worries, the study found. They talked about their children’s health, but they also mentioned finances, relationship issues and problems in balancing work and family, Hay said.
A small proportion of adults brought up more global concerns, such as today’s world being a dangerous place, Hay said. The majority of parents discussed anxieties that were specific to their own situation, though, such as their child having an unsafe job, she said.
What can you do if you have adult children to keep your relationship positive?
Here are some ideas...
* Avoid saying you worry, say something like..."I love you and I'm concerned that you're working late. Can we talk about it and find a solution? Maybe you can get a colleague to walk you to your car? Is that feasable?"
*Couch the concern as something normal and that can be discussed, e.g., "I'm concerned about your relationship with Sarah. You told me she's still married. I wonder how you feel about that."
*Give the message that anything can be discussed in a respectful and reasonable way, e.g., "I know you haven't been eating right lately. Can we talk about that in a calm way? What about we set aside an hour on Tuesday? That will give us both time to think about it."
Source: University of Florida (2008, March 18). Excess Worrying Can Harm Parents' Relationships With Grown Children. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 23, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2008/03/080317151646.htm