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Can parents be pals with their adult kids?

A woman and her son go tobogganing in a park in England.
A woman and her son go tobogganing in a park in England.

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Parents everywhere have probably come across the saying, “Be a parent, not a friend.”

While maintaining authority with young kids may be difficult if you’re trying to be their pal, many parents and adult children today are forming much friendlier relationships than previous generations.

But should every parent-child relationship look like an episode of the “Gilmore Girls?”

It’s possible, but there are some caveats. Parents who divulge too much to their adult children aren’t helping the bonding process. And time spent with adult kids may be more limited than parents would like, due to children’s spouses and work commitments.

While reciprocity may look different in a parent-child friendship, that doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be done.

Do you think parent-adult child friendships work? What is your experience being friends with your parent/child like?


Joshua Coleman, Ph.D., psychologist and Senior Fellow, Council on Contemporary Families and author of the book “When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don’t Get Along” (Harper Collins, 2008)