As you do that be prepared that your adult child may make decisions that are contradictory to your values and beliefs-the ones they grew up with in your house. At these times it is okay to remind them of your values, while affirming that you realize it is their choice. The most important thing is to validate your unconditional love for them regardless of their decision and despite any consequences that may occur. An example might be that your child decides to live with their boyfriend or girlfriend prior to marriage. This is not a behavior that you value, which you made clear as they were growing up, but for whatever reason they chose that path.
As a parent the first thing to do is to think about your response before you react. Your child knows your feelings on the subject and they are waiting for you to overreact. Although your first thoughts may be that you won’t help them move, won’t ever come to their house or won’t acknowledge them as a couple, consider holding back those reactions and responding more positively. You can still tell them why you are strongly in favor of marriage, but then follow it up with an acknowledgement that this is their decision and you still love them. Loving them may not be rescuing them from consequences but it certainly includes kindness and not rejection.
That’s the tight rope you have to walk. You may have thought it would get easier as they got older but in reality that is far from the truth. You have to find a way to express your disagreement, remind them of the values you taught them while at the same time convey your unconditional love. This is not the time to remind them how you sacrificed for them all these years and how could they do this to you. That puts them on the defensive and communicates that your love was conditional all along.
Developing a relationship with your now adult child will take equal amounts of diplomacy patience and understanding. It will mean swallowing words that are best unspoken, refraining from giving advice when independence needs to be learned, and loving deeply despite the circumstances. If you can do this, then when the decisions your child make fall apart and leave them with difficult consequences, they will remember through it all your unconditional love and encouragement. Much like your feet appreciate a good pair of shoes with good support and without restriction, your child will appreciate your continued support without constraint and loaded with unconditional love.
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