As our children grow into teenagers and adults, the line between parent and friend blurs. Many articles have been written about what happens when a parent is more of a friend than an authority figure. As James Lehman said in his article, Your Child Is Not Your “Friend”, “Parents and children are genetically geared to love each other, and it’s a beautiful thing to behold.” In the article Should parents be friends with their kids?, when discussing mothers Gwen Dewar, Ph.D. said, “She is first and foremost a mother to her kids.”
But children can become a parent’s friend when they’re older. What age? That depends on the child. If a child who is fifteen years old is as mature as a twenty year old, then a parent can start toward a friendship. However there are twenty year olds who need more supervision that a thirteen year old. Even though a child may be an adult, it doesn’t make them mature enough to handle their side of parent/child friendship.
Knowing when to begin building the friendship is difficult for some parents. But the answer is simple. The day the child is born. This does mean the parent and child become friends immediately. It means the parent needs to start the foundation. A parent teaches their child many of life basics, but they have to remember to teach their children how to be a good friend also.
A child isn’t ready to start their way toward a parent/child friendship until their in high school. As mature as a middle school student may be, they still need more guidance. But deciding when they’ve reached the friend stage is difficult. A suggestion is the friendship thermometer. Think of it as a donation indicator. You know the thermometer-looking drawing places hang on a wall to show how close they are to reaching their donation goal. However, this is a mental image stored in the parents’ brain. When the child does something mature, move the indicator up. When the child does something immature, move it down. The higher the mercury goes, the more the child is ready to become friends with the parent. Just remember to not move it too quickly. Be realistic. The most important thing to remember when using the friendship thermometer is to never let it be one hundred percent filled-in. No matter how old our children get, they still need parenting on occasion.