Renegotiating Family Relationships

Part 5 of ‘The Return of the Missionary’ Series

This post can be applied to any parent who has a child entering their adult years. As I have discovered with all my daughters, the mere fact that they turn 18 or 21, does not mean they will turn into adults overnight. It is a process of negotiation and renegotiation as parent and child. Indeed, for some families it may be a case of the child wanting to remain as a child; reluctant to have to start making adult decisions.

But for those who do serve missions, this process of change will often occur while they are away. For many parents this then requires a sudden re-adjustment of the terms of their relationship with their child once their missionary returns.

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Renegotiating family relationships.

From Dave and Wendy Ulrich

Generally, children leave for missions and adults return. This means that everyone has to adjust to a new, adult-adult relationship. As parents, it helps if we will lovingly initiate conversations about our ability or willingness to provide financial support, our need for help with household responsibilities, and our hopes for our new relationship rather than imposing rules. Your child is now an adult who has been living independently for some time, and who has dreams, skills, needs for independence, and ideas that may differ from yours. Be patient with the over-idealism that missionaries often cling to in the ambiguity of a new life. It is not easy to go from having the answers to loving the questions, and some make this transition more easily than others. Also, almost every mission and every first year home has sensitive or unresolved issues. Work to ask questions in ways that invite honest answers, and be careful not to let pride in your missionary’s accomplishments leave them afraid to disappoint you. Then accept that they still may not tell you everything.

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What do I think?

This is the unknown to me. It is something that I am yet to experience, and therefore is a bit scary. My plans are to tread carefully with my daughter till I get a feel for whether we will need to renegotiate our relationship with her or not. Pre-mission she was never really a child who was champing at the bit to have her freedom, or break free from being the child. To me she was extremely mature before she left, and I feel that we had already established that adult to adult relationship. But I’m not making any assumptions till she is back home.

I would really like some feedback on how other parents have dealt with this renegotiation. Perhaps girls are easier than boys, since they leave on their missions at a later age?

Questions:

1. How do you distinguish between rules that you imposed on your children pre-mission, and general house rules for all to abide by post-mission?

2. What is the kind of language you use with your adult children that may be different from when they were children?

3. Can anyone share a particular experience of how you approached that renegotiation?

**Part 6 of ‘The Return of the Missionary’ looks at Friends and Dating.

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2 thoughts on “Renegotiating Family Relationships

  1. Tracey, I may not comment so much, but am devouring this series.
    January sees our son’s return & even though we have been through this before, it’s surprising the things your posts have reminded & enlightened us about. (That comment about need for private space was a timely reminder – bedroom negotiations happening now. And uni starts 1 week after his return *alarm bells rang when I read the “Excitement and Disorientation” post!)
    Whilst ignorance may be bliss at the time, being prepared is much more comforting when the difficulties arise. The series has prompted some great parental & family discussions & plans which we hope will smooth the transition and bring peace to our family. Thank you!
    Good luck with your homecoming process. I’ll be “listening” to every word!

    • Leah, so good to know that you are enjoying the series. Like you we have had some good discussions about the homecoming…plenty more to come I am sure. It is as much a growing and learning time for us as it is for our missionary. Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂

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