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The Adult Child–Parent Relationship

The Adult Child–Parent Relationship

A graduate in a yellow robe and graduation cap walks into the distance on a trail, while their parents hold hands in the foreground, watching them walk away.

A Few Comprehensive Student Interviews on Boundaries With Their Parents 

By Jessi Vietz 

The transition of a child leaving for college is usually not easy for anyone involved, but the relationship changes that take place during this time are even harder. Parents have to get used to their kids being independent of them and resist their instincts to control and protect them. The young adults on the other hand typically push for greater freedom from their parents during this time.  

Kiersten Ekkens, senior strategic communications major, said that the power dynamic between her and her parents is built on several boundaries. She is given the freedom to choose her own lifestyle, but as long as she lives at home with them and uses the resources they provide her with she is expected to respect their system of values. [1] 

In her opinion, once children have become effective adults, their parents should no longer have control over the smaller aspects of their children’s lives. However, she thinks that instead of control, parents should be given opportunities for suggestions: “Ultimately, they should respect our decisions even if there are choices that we might make that they struggle to agree with.” [2] 

Kiersten Ekkens is posed at the corner of a brick wall, smiling and looking at the camera.
Kiersten Ekkens stated that when children become effective adults, parents should have suggestions rather than control over decisions. Photo of Kiersten Ekkens by Kiersten Ekkens, accessed on 5/11/22.

When it comes to larger life choices, Ekkens believes that parents should have opportunities to voice their opinions on their children’s choices as long as they remain considerate and respectful of them. She thinks that parents should not have any power over these decisions but can still share their thoughts. [3] 

One of her personal experiences with parental boundaries and dynamic shifts comes from living with her parents all four years of college: “There have been times where my choices are not in line with what my parents would choose. However, we’ve created a dynamic where I respect their house rules and space, for example, using headphones when listening to music they disagree with. And they respect my choices, electronics, and personal space.” [4] 

Kudzai Mhondiwa, junior business in marketing major, said that his parents do not have substantial control over his life due to his legal age of 21 as well as his parents living back in Ireland, “not to mention the 4,000 miles that separates us.” [5] 

Kudzai Mhondiwa is standing in front of blurred greenery, posed towards the camera but with his head looking to the right.
Kudzai Mhondiwa stated that parents should have a say in foundational decisions for your life and give the advice that you need to hear. Photo of Kudzai Mhondiwa by Kudzai Mhondiwa, accessed on 5/12/22.

He believes that in the emerging adulthood stage of life, parents should have influence over their children’s decisions but the micromanagement of smaller decisions their kids make such as piercings and hair color is not necessary. [6] 

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When it comes to larger life decisions, “parents should indeed have a say in your career and partner because these few things are the foundation for your life.” Mhondiwa stated that family above all else will provide you with the advice you need to hear. In his opinion, parents have nothing to gain from their children’s demise. [7] 

In his personal experience, he felt he was bombarded with the standards and provisions that his parents set for him: “The voice in the back of my mind of what my parents would think would ring in the back of my mind with heightened levels of sensitivity where I could’ve easily made irrational decisions.” [8] 

Despite the challenges that come with growing up, Mhondiwa associated his ability to make decisions on his own with pursuing the life he wants for himself. This time in life is a critical period of self-discovery. His advice is to listen to the advice you ought to hear, not just what you want to hear, and it will change your outlook on life. [9] 

References 

  1. Interview with Kiersten Ekkens, on 5/11/22. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Interview with Kudzai Mhondiwa, on 5/12/22. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
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