WebMD BlogsRelationships

Being a Parent Is a Lifelong Job

Father with adult sons
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD - Blogs
By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhDPsychologistApril 17, 2019
From the WebMD Archives

When we become parents, our lives are forever changed –  by our love for our children and also by the accompanying responsibilities of raising them. Just as we shape our children, our children shape us as well.

It’s easy to see the effect our children have on our lives in the early years. We’re exhausted from a lack of sleep and the endless tasks of feeding, chauffeuring, disciplining, and comforting them. And, on the other hand, we’re full of pride at their accomplishments and feel joy watching them play.

Though the physical demands of parenting ease up once our kids grow into mature adults, research shows that our children continue to affect our lives and happiness even when they are well out of the nest. A study by Dr. Fingerman and her colleagues found that parents’ daily moods are significantly affected by regular interactions with their adult children. It revealed that parents with more than one highly successful adult child report have a better sense of well-being. However, just one adult child with significant problems hurt their sense of well-being.

In addition, many parents help their adult children by providing emotional, financial, and practical support. Interestingly, other research by Dr. Fingerman and her colleagues found that while parents generally help all of their children, they tend to give more to children who have greater need and to those who are more successful. The researchers suggested that the parents may give more to their higher achieving children as a way to feel better about themselves and in the hopes of getting more support later in life. In all of these situations, it is clear that parents are significantly affected by their relationships with their adult children.

Even when parents have less contact or are estranged from their adult children, their relationship continues to affect them both. They may be pained by difficulties that they know the other is facing or tensions between them. They may also grieve over a lost connection – or because a close connection never existed. They often struggle with questions of what went wrong or what they did wrong, and they may carry anger that burns inside for years.

The relationship of parents and their children is complicated, and it shifts and changes over the course of life. Though parents see it as their job to shape their children, they are equally affected by their children – an influence that continues to reverberate through the entirety of their lives.

WebMD Blog
© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
Blog Topics:
About the Author
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Dr. Becker-Phelps is a licensed psychologist in NJ and NY, and is on staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset. She is dedicated to helping people understand themselves and what they need to do to become emotionally and psychologically healthy. She accomplishes this through her work as a psychotherapist, speaker and writer. She is the author of Bouncing Back from Rejection and Insecure in Love.

More from the Relationships Blog

  • giving advice

    Think Twice Before You Give Advice

    If only we were as good at solving our own problems as we are at solving other people’s. But like so many great ideas, our solutions for others often become less perfect the more we learn about the problem ...

  • photo of couple arguing in bed

    How to Keep Your Emotions From Overwhelming You

    If you’re someone who gets emotionally overwhelmed, relationship conflict can be difficult to manage. When you get upset with your partner, you don’t handle it well. You are too upset to think clearly. So you ...

View all posts on Relationships

Latest Blog Posts on WebMD

View all blog posts

Important: The opinions expressed in WebMD Blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Blogs are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD Blogs as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.

Read More