The Boring Reason Parents and Adult Children Don’t Get Along

3 min read
Vodafone x Rankin everyone connected/Pexels

Source: Vodafone x Rankin everyone connected/Pexels

The internet is awash in information about parents and adult children who struggle to get along. Reasons for dysfunction include past child abuse, drug addiction, boundary issues, and poor communication. But sometimes, parents and adult children do not get along for a far more boring reason: They have nothing in common.

Struggling to Connect

In some families, family members love the idea of spending time together, but when they do, they struggle to connect. They cannot find common ground. Perhaps the child always held different interests than the parents, but while living under the same roof, daily logistics were enough to make everyone feel connected. Sometimes, a parent or child takes on a new religion, way of life, or passion later in life that becomes so all-encompassing that it leaves little room for other conversation. Sometimes parents and children diverge in their beliefs, political leanings, or socioeconomic status and find little overlap in their realities. And so, when they get together, the family descends into awkward, disconnected silence.

In some families, one member feels closeness while the other feels a superficial connection. I have had adult children tell me that they go through the motions of trying to connect with their parents, but the conversation fails to feel meaningful to them and remains surface-level. Parents, too, may find that when they engage their child about the child’s interests, that child feels closeness, while they feel bored or annoyed at the discussion at hand.

Bridging the Gap

Families can try to bridge the gap if everyone feels motivated to do so. Family members can rack their brains for things to talk about or get excited about together, like starting a book club or having a movie-watching club. They can make a goal to visit all the French restaurants or ice cream parlors in their city. Family members can work harder to show curiosity about each other’s worlds and develop an interest in their child’s or parent’s interests. For some families, these efforts create a feeling of genuine closeness. For others, it feels like a Band-Aid for a deep, underlying wound and only makes the superficiality feel more uncomfortable.

A subtle form of grief emerges at this form of disconnection. With a difficult history, family members can point to a distinct reason that feels valid for not being close. Something as benign as having nothing in common can feel like insufficient reason to be disconnected, though. With more effort, they reason, they can create a richer, more interesting bond. But the reality is that, sometimes, the closeness that each person imagined may not be possible, and engaging with their parent and child on a superficial level is all that’s left.

Sometimes, it’s just hard.

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