Your longing for a warm, close, emotionally safe relationship with your daughter is completely understandable. God designed moms and dads to feel this way about their children, and when the relationship doesn’t turn out as they’d hoped and expected it’s only natural that they should be grieved. At the same time, appropriate boundaries are an absolute necessity in relationships with adult children, especially when those adult children have spouses and families of their own. The challenge you face is to respect those boundaries while remaining available and assuring your daughter of the constancy of your love.
It’s vital to add that those boundaries are in place not merely for your daughter’s sake but for your own protection. Parents in your position often blame themselves and assume full responsibility for any feelings of tension or estrangement that may surface in their interactions with an adult child. This is not necessarily fair or accurate. You need to be very careful, then, to avoid reacting out of fear or false guilt. Respect the boundaries and, as far as possible, learn to relax and take refuge on your side of the fence. Express your love and offer your help as opportunities arise. Extend invitations on appropriate occasions. Cover your daughter and her husband with generous amounts of prayer and seek God’s wisdom and comfort in those moments when you feel overwhelmed or confused. But don’t push or plead or whine. That will only make matters worse.
Remember, nobody is perfect. Every parent makes mistakes. You may have committed all kinds of errors and blunders, but that’s not what makes your daughter who she is. She’s defined by her own choices, not by your shortcomings. This is particularly true in the case of a married daughter whose attitudes and actions are shaped in part by the influence of a spouse. You have to remind yourself that there’s nothing you can do to change that side of the equation. So don’t blame yourself for the decisions of other autonomous adults. If love has been your guide throughout the parenting process – and the very tone of your inquiry leads us to suppose that this is the case – then cut yourself some slack and leave the situation in the Lord’s hands. If you go around carrying a burden of false guilt, that will only hinder you from reflecting God’s love in the most effective way.
If you’d like to discuss these thoughts at greater length, please feel free to give our Counseling department a call.
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