Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Posts tagged ‘adult children’

Adult Children Dealing With Toxic Parents

SOURCE:  Based on an article at Psychology Today/Karyl McBride, Ph.D

Recognizing, understanding and overcoming the debilitating impact of maternal narcissism.

The most frequently asked question from adult children of narcissistic parents is whether or not to remain in contact with that parent and/or the rest of the dysfunctional family nest.

It goes deep and is difficult to know what’s best.

Your family roots, your very beginnings, and subsequent history are all a significant part of you. We are who we are based on where we’ve been. Juggling decisions for sound mental health can be packed with arduous cognitive and emotional machinations that create distress. Sometimes these imminent decisions become paramount to every day life. Our hearts can be wrapped with it. The question and the struggle are not to be underestimated.

In loving recovery with self, decisions can be made that feel right to the heart. Without recovery work, however, those decisions may steer in wrong directions. If you simply detach and remove yourself from your narcissistic parent without doing your own work, you will not diminish your pain and your true self cannot emerge to the peacefulness that you desire. As Dr. Murray Bowen reminds us in Family Therapy in Clinical Practice, “Less-differentiated people are moved about like pawns by emotional tensions. Better-differentiated people are less vulnerable to tension.” If you take yourself out of the situation without completing your internal growth, you have accomplished less and can remain troubled.

It is important for adult children of narcissistic parents to know that there are truly some parents who are too toxic and are what I call the “untreatables.” If someone is abusive and cruel and continues to be without remorse or empathy, it cannot be healthy for anyone to be around that person. That’s ok and important to know. Full-blown narcissists do not change, do not realize the need to change, are not accountable or receptive to input from their children.

Because narcissism is a spectrum disorder on a continuum, there are many people who have narcissistic traits but are not full blown narcissists. Many of these people can move in therapeutic directions if they choose. Your decision regarding contact with the toxic untreatable or the highly-traited narcissist can best be made by working your own recovery and taking adequate time to allow the healing to happen. When developing my five-step recovery model, I found that the decisions about contact should not be made until step four. That means you are working acceptance, grief, separation, and building a stronger sense of self before deciding what kind of contact you will continue to have with your narcissistic parent. The five-step model can be found in Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers and is too complicated to fully explain in a blog post.

In short, however, I usually recommend taking a temporary separation to work your own recovery first. This means you simply explain a need for some space from the parent so you can sort out the issues and keep the clear focus on self. When you get to step four, you will know if it is best to make a decision of Therapeutic Resolution, No Contact, or Civil Connection with that parent.

Let’s take a look at each possible decision.

Therapeutic Resolution:
Some parents with less narcissistic traits are open to family therapy and this can be very effective with the right therapist. It can only be done if the parent is accountable and wants to work through family issues and childhood pain. For those who are lucky to have parents like this, a seasoned family therapist can provide wonderful healing for the entire family.

No Contact:
The decision to go “No Contact” is a big one but is made when the parent is too toxic and never accountable and continues to be abusive to the adult child. It’s a sad but necessary solution in many cases. This decision can only be made in sound mind when the adult child has really worked the internal recovery model. Without this internal healing, guilt may be over-burdensome to the adult child and pain not diminished. Sometimes, with recovery, the decision becomes a desire for a civil connect instead.

Civil Connection:
A decision to have a civil connection is really the most common. This is an educated place where the adult child knows and accepts that the connection with the narcissistic parent will not be an emotional bond or relationship. It will be civil, polite, light, and not emotionally close. Because of the internal work done by the adult child, this place of understanding allows the superficial relationship to be ok without expectations. Because the adult child has completed separation, acceptance and grief, and has developed sound boundaries, it is possible then to be “apart of and apart from” at the same time. It is possible to keep your solid sense of self and not get sucked into the family dysfunction that has not changed.

If you are struggling with contact decisions regarding your narcissistic parent or family, please know that recovery does work and makes it all so much easier.  We are accountable for our own growth and it takes time and effort to accomplish. As the late child psychiatrist, Margaret Mahler points out, “Insofar as the infant’s development of the sense of self takes place in the context of the dependency on the mother, the sense of self that results will bear the imprint of her caregiving.” That imprint of maternal or paternal narcissism can be re-drawn when the authentic self is brought to the surface and given proper nourishment for re-parenting and growth.

What could be more important? This newfound self is what we joyfully give back in the form of true love. The legacy of distorted love is then uprooted and authentic unconditional compassion takes its place. I remain a “hopeaholic” for the sisterhood and brotherhood out there.

Love restored that begins within is worth the journey.

6 Ways Parents Can Have a Better Relationship with Adult Children

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud/Dr. John Townsend

Very few parent-child relationships make it out of the teenage and young adult years without some battle scars.

We all have them!

This being said, there’s often some work that can be done to strengthen and/or repair even the strongest relationships between grown-up kids and their parents. Other than giving love, moral support and being an ally, one of the best things parents can do is to allow their adult kids to set up their own boundaries within the relationship. This is a time of profound emotional, spiritual and overall life development for young people, and finding your ‘sea-legs’ in the rocky waters of adulthood can mean temporarily pushing away from those closest to you. I’ve mentioned it before, as a parent you can say the same things to your kids over and over yet they never listen, but the minute an aunt, uncle or family friend mentions it to them all of a sudden they think it’s genius advice.

We just have to be there, waiting, respectful of our adult child’s autonomy, agency and hard work. It can be difficult to hold back, but letting them come back to you on their own terms is a way of acknowledging their adult freedom.

The rewards are things like having a front row seat to our children’s adult lives. There will be ups and downs and spectacular adventures, just as there has been in our own lives. If our adult children have grandkids, that can add a whole different and incredible range of emotions and possible futures. Some kids need more help raising their children than others, and some just need a babysitter from time to time. Being a grandparent is about the connection between you and your grandchild, and that is its own special relationship separate from your parent-child relationship.

There are some simple steps we can follow to help our relationships with our adult children:

Apologize – If you have been playing the parent too much, go to your adult child and tell her you have been too much like a parent and not enough like a friend. Tell her you are sorry for any problems this has caused. Then tell her that you would like to establish a new kind of relationship, and talk about how to do that.

Treat Your Adult Child As An Equal – Stop talking “down” to your child as if he were still ten years old. Assume that he is an equal and do not maintain the “one-up” position.

Assume Competence – Stop and think before you suggest what she “should” do. Does your comment assume that she is a big person now? Or does it suggest that only Mom or Dad knows how to live?

Respect Separation – “Leaving and cleaving” involves both space and freedom. Watch out for intruding or being hurt when your child is living out his right independence as an adult. He has a life now that has many parts that do not include you anymore, and you should have a life also.

Respect Freedom – A free adult makes choices of her own. Certainly you can have opinions about your friends’ choices, and you are free to voice them at times. But after you do, your friends are free to do what they want. Remember that you adult child is also free to make her own choices.

Live in Acceptance – Watch for guilt messages in your communications. If you are judging your adult child in guilt or shame or condemning ways, you are still playing the parent.

Tips for Giving Advice to Your Adult Children

SOURCE:  Mark Merrill

For years, I’ve marveled at how good my mom is at giving advice.  She has a knack for knowing when, and how, to do so.

And as my kids have entered adulthood, I’m even more impressed by her example.  But it can be so hard, with all my years of experiences and hard knocks, to keep my parental opinions to myself.

Giving advice well starts with knowing when the conditions are right for our older children to hear, and really think about, our advice.  Giving advice well also requires some artful actions.  Here are some tips to consider:

The Best Times to be Giving Advice:

  • Give advice when you’ve been asked for your advice.  I’ve noticed through the years that my mom, as well as my dad and Susan’s parents, were patient with their advice. And that patience made me more willing and interested in seeking their advice. For the most part, they only gave advice when they were asked to do so, plain and simple.
  • Give advice when you recognize something that could potentially harm them physically, emotionally or spiritually, and you’re not sure they see it. Generally speaking, my mom keeps her thoughts to herself and lets us work through things on our own.  But when she believes she sees a landmine in our lives that we might be blind to, she isn’t afraid to speak up.  She risks being viewed as nosy because she cares more about us than about her own feelings.
  • Give advice when you are in a frame of mind to be gentle with your advice. Whether I asked for my mom’s advice or not, she has always been gentle in her delivery. She understands that a parent should want not only to be effective in expressing advice but in getting that advice to be grasped. If you are in a highly emotionally-charged state of mind, that’s not the best time to share your advice.  Be sure you can maintain control of your emotions.  Wait for a better time, with a cooler head, rather than forcing the issue.

  The Best Ways to be Giving Advice:

  • Give advice by being clear about the difference between opinions and facts. When you give advice, you can use both facts and opinions. Either way, let your child know whether your statement is fact or just your opinion based on your wisdom and experience.
  • Give advice by thoroughly listening to them. Don’t just wait for their lips to stop moving so you know when to shower them with your insights. Listen well and repeat back to them what you heard them say. Being a great listener is key to your relationships.  And as your kids get older, they need to know they can just express themselves without getting lectured.
  • Give advice by asking thought-provoking questions instead of making blanket statements. When giving advice, my mom always uses great questions to get me to think, which inspires me to use a sort of “Socratic method” with my kids, even when they were younger.  I like to ask them questions that stimulate their critical thinking and leads them to the conclusion I had in mind in the first place. When they get more active in the discussion and do some thinking as well, they’re more likely to receive your advice.

The 9 Unwritten Rules of Grandparenting

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Kristen Sturt/Grandparents.com

Abide by these handy guidelines, and your grandparenting experience will always be a breeze.

Rule #1: You’re responsible for staying in touch.

Whether they’re halfway through college or just starting kindergarten, one of the biggest complaints we hear about grandchildren is that they just don’t reach out. It’s a kid thing, not necessarily exclusive to the current generation. Either way, the onus is on you to stay in touch.

“The ticket to keeping ties with your grandchild strong is maintaining open lines of communication,” says writer Jodi M. Webb. To do that, you need to reach out to kids in ways they’ll respond to. Learn to text! Communicate on social media! Make the occasional phone call! Ask about their interests, and try to keep things light and loving.

Rule #2: The favorite grandparent is the one who is the most fun.

They might not admit it to your face, but secretly, grandkids have a favorite grandparent. (Admit it: You did, too.) The favorites are willing to try new things, suggest kid-friendly activities, and go with the flow. They’re the ones who laugh freely and hug closely, who—cliché as it is—have the most cookies on-hand.

Rule #3: Offended? You gotta move on.

At some point, when it comes to your grandkids, you’re gonna feel left out, guilty, confused, frustrated, or worse. Your son and DIL might not invite you for Thanksgiving. Your grandson might disrespect you. Your granddaughter might forget your birthday! (Oy. That kid.) In these inevitable instances, you can air your feelings and even expect an apology. But unless it’s something irreversibly hurtful, you can’t harp. Grudges damage relationships. Forgiveness and communication strengthens them. Go high and be the bigger person.

Rule #4: Pitch in up front.

Grandbabies are a blessing, not to mention a ton of work, and new parents may need help during those first hectic months. (You did, right?) If your kids are amenable, lend a hand any way you can:cleaning, cooking, babysitting, etc. It’s a great way to get off on the right foot with your family, and—bonus!—you’re sure to get quality time with your new favorite infant.

Rule #5: Share the grandkids with others.

When a grandchild is born, you want that baby all to yourself, and probably always will. But there are other grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and more to think about. Sharing can be hard. Head off problems by planning ahead and keeping lines of communication open. Try creating ground rules when appropriate (take turns visiting, switch holidays yearly, etc.), and be welcoming, flexible, and understanding. Oh, and wine helps, too.

Rule #6: Bite your tongue.

Disagree with your grandson’s sleep schedule? Think your daughter is too strict with sweets? Unless you’re asked directly or believe your grandbaby is in danger, keep your child-rearing opinions to yourself. Too often, a grandparent’s unsolicited advice comes off as veiled criticism, which can breed resentment and drive a wedge between family members. If you need to vent, your partner, friends, and coworkers are ready and waiting.

Rule #7: Act like your grandchildren are always watching (because they are).

“Saying we want good behavior from children can be vague for them, especially when they are young,” says children’s advocate Kathy Motlagh. In other words, if you want well-behaved grandkids with good values, talking isn’t enough; you have to practice what you preach. Model kindness and respect through your everyday actions. Resist impulses driven by anger and fear. Be the good in the world, and those babies will follow your example.

Rule #8: Get the gear.

To paraphrase a famed author, it is a truth universally acknowledged that grandparents in possession of good fortune must spend a little on stuff for visiting grandchildren. When the grandkids are young, a few books, toys, diapers, activities, bottles, and dishes are simple enough to acquire and store, and ensure parents don’t have to haul extra belongings. If overnight stays are in your future, you might consider a highchair, small stroller, or even a crib. Space and income will play a factor in your equipment list, but really, any effort will be appreciated.

Rule #9: There are no rules.

Grandparenting changes from generation to generation; you’re different from your grandparents, and your grandchildren will differ greatly from their own grandchildren. And while experience and history offer some guidance, all we can ultimately do is confront the challenges in front of us at any given time. Heed good advice, do your best, and love and enjoy your grandkids. It’s all anyone can ask for.

Marriage Q&A: Choosing To Live With A Very Difficult Spouse

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Leslie Vernick

How Do I Live With A Basically Good Man Who Is A Tyrant?

QuestionMy husband is basically a good man.   He is a school teacher and the music director/organist of our Church.  He can be patient, kind, loving and always deeply spiritual.  He can also be demanding, tyrannical and irrational.

He blames everyone and anyone for any problems that arise. It is a knee-jerk reaction to even the slightest, most inconsequential of events. If one of our children falls down, his first reaction is to scream an “I told you so” at them- never is his first reaction one of concern for their well-being or safety.  He expects our older children- living away from our home with lives of their own- to always be at his beck and call.  If he wants them to do something for him, it does not matter that they have jobs, plans, etc.  He refuses to be told no.  And, everyone cow-tows to him just to keep him on an even keel and avoid the rants and literal rages that he has demonstrated.

While he is a school teacher, his passion is the piano and he is an accomplished pianist and composer- just not as revered and accomplished as he would like to be.  Whose fault is that?  His parents. His father for having a health crisis when he was younger or his mother for not knowing or doing enough to promote his career.  The children and I are also to blame because he has to work a “meaningless” job to put food on the table.

He takes no responsibility for any failure, real or imagined, in his life.  He doesn’t seem to have any concept that not everyone’s life revolves around him and that people are allowed their own lives and opinions.  He is negative in all aspects of his life- except, of course, if it relates to music.   While I could write pages about this aspect of his personality, suffice it to say that he will always see the dark cloud around the silver lining.   He is also very vocal about his negative thoughts and when he’s challenged, he plays the victim and accuses the challenger of attacking him.  It’s to the point where conversation with him is seldom initiated because we all know what his reaction will be.  Want his opinion?  Just think of the most irrational response, and go with that.

He is like a petulant two-year-old who demands his own way and nothing is ever right for him.  Even if you do something considerate to try and make life easier for him or take care of something that he hadn’t time to do, his reaction is never one of gratitude- there is always, always, always a negative reaction.  Things are still done or taken care of for him, but it’s never brought up to him and, if he does notice, it’s never mentioned.

While we all love him, he is driving a wide and very deep wedge between himself and the rest of our family.  It is very difficult to live with someone when you are walking on eggshells at all times.  I am not looking to leave him or my marriage.  I am looking for help in how to live with him and how to help my children live with him.  I do not want my children to grow up like their father.

Answer:  I feel a little confused. You say that your husband is basically a good man, patient, kind, loving and always deeply spiritual.  Then you go on for several paragraphs listing all the ways he is not patient, loving, good or spiritual.  Perhaps what you mean is that your husband can be charming and act loving when everything is going his way and everyone meets his needs and expectations in exactly the way he wants.  When that doesn’t happen, (which is real life) watch out!

Now your question, how do you live with someone like that and how do you help your children live with someone like that?  The best answer I can offer you is you can only live with this (if you choose to) with a good support system and lots of grace and truth, with no expectations of a meaningful relationship or mutual give and take.

I am reluctant to put a label on anyone but your description of your husband’s behavior is typical of someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  A craving for admiration, an attitude of entitlement and lack of empathy for anyone else’s needs are usually the big red flags.   You can google it and read more information on it if you want to see if it fits.

Let’s start with grace. In order to live with someone like this you will need to learn to lean hard into God’s loving grace, knowing that when your husband doesn’t treat you well or love you like you wished he did, you are still deeply loved and valued by God.  You will need God’s grace to continually forgive your husband and keep a clean slate of the wrongs he does against you so that you don’t become hardened by bitterness and resentment. Your husband will never apologize or take responsibility for the wrong’s he’s done which makes it that much harder to forgive and let things go so your strength must come from outside yourself. It can only be from God.

You will need God’s grace to biblically love your husband when you feel like screaming at him and grace to not repay evil for evil. Jesus calls us to love our enemies but we rarely have to live with our enemies day in and day out.  To live in a relatively conflict-free relationship with your husband you will need to accept that you will always be more the giver. God sees how much you give whether or not your husband notices or appreciates it.  You will need His eternal perspective on your marital loneliness and suffering because you will feel unheard, unloved and unvalued much of the time, which may tempt you to seek other male companionship.

You will need grace to not judge your husband and have contempt for him as a man or as a person, even though truth tells you his attitudes and actions are sinful.  Grace keeps us humble, reminding us that we too are sinful and have our own brokenness.  Grace keeps us mindful of the logs in our own eyes before trying to remove the speck in our spouse’s.

You will also need to stay focused on God’s truth to stay healthy emotionally, spiritually and mentally.  Your husband blames and shames everyone around him and it’s tempting to believe his harsh words.  Don’t do it. Listen to what God says about who you are and not your husband’s words.  You will need God’s truth to explain to yourself and even your children that sometimes their father acts selfishly and it’s not wrong of them to say “no” or to ask him to consider their needs, and not just think of his own (Philippians 2:4).

Truth will help you know when boundaries are important and how to set them. For example, when he begins his angry tirade you might stop talking, turn around and walk away. If he continues, leave the house.  When you return you can say something like, “I can’t listen to you when you scream at me. You would do the same if I talked to you that way”  Keep it short and simple.  Or “I don’t want to feel angry and hateful toward you so I’m leaving until you can cool down.”  Then do it.

You will also need truth to guide you when to confront your husband’s sinful behavior and how.  There may be a strategic or teachable moment where you could say something that may cause him to press pause and think about his actions and you want to look for those moments and ask God to give you an anointed tongue.

We are to speak the truth in love to one another but it’s tempting to either to placate this kind of person or eventually get sick of it and blow up, only to later feel guilty, regretting your reaction which only adds more fuel to his fire.  Wear truth as a necklace and she will teach you when the time is right to speak. Hard words need not be harsh words.

For example, when he’s inconsiderate of your needs or your schedule, you could say, “I know this is important to you, but this is important to me so I have to do this first.”  Your goal in this kind of statement is to remind him that you are a separate PERSON with your own needs, feelings and thoughts.  You are not just a slave or a robot or a “wife” but a person and even if he doesn’t value you, you are going to value yourself.

You said you don’t’ want your children growing up to be like their father.  Children do learn a lot from their parents, but their father isn’t their only influencer.  You have a huge impact on your children and the way you interact with their father will say a lot to them about not only who he is, but who you are.  If you act as if he’s right and he’s entitled to act this way, they get the picture that men (fathers, husbands) get to have their way all the time that’s “normal”.  Therefore it’s important to speak truthfully to your children about things such as, “I think sometimes your father can be self-absorbed and not realize that you have your own plans. It’s okay to remind him that you can’t always accommodate him and stick to what you need to do for yourself.”

You say your husband is deeply spiritual. Galatians 5:16-26 speaks about the person who lives in the spirit and one who lives in the flesh.  Perhaps in a moment when your husband seems open or more in tune with God, you could ask him which one he inhabits most often?  Or when he is most negative or critical say, “You don’t seem to experience God’s joy or peace very much.  Why do you think that is?”  Your words will have little impact on him but God tells us that His words are powerful and don’t return void. They have the power to cut right to the heart (Hebrews 4:12). Ask God to use His Word, even those in the lyrics of the music he plays each week at church, to cause him to see the truth about why he is so critical, so miserable and so unhappy.

Lastly, don’t forget you do need good relationships, even if it’s not in your marriage. Seek out healthy girlfriends that can encourage you, love on you, pray for you and hold you accountable to be the kind of person you want to be while living in this difficult marriage.

Good Families May Produce Prodigal Children: What Gives?

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  D.A. Carson [April 3, 2014 post]

The proverb “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Prov. 22:6) is so well known that it cries out for comment.

Recall that a proverb is neither case law nor unqualified promise (review meditation for March 22).

When children go wrong, very often the careful observer can spot familial reasons that have contributed to the rebellion. But this is not always the case.

Sometimes young people from evidently wonderful families kick the traces. Some return years later; some never do. Good families may produce prodigal sons.

This proverb must not be treated as if it were a promise that fails periodically. Rather, it is a proverb: it tells how God has structured reality, and what we should do to conform to it.

This is the principle of how families work; it includes no footnotes and mentions no exceptions.

Adult Children: Dealing With Defiance

SOURCE:  Chuck Swindoll/Insight for Living

Regarding:  Deuteronomy 21:18–21

Defiance and stress are inseparable co-conspirators. Together, they scheme to steal your peace of mind.

Although the term defiance does not appear in Scripture, acts and attitudes of defiance often do. No matter what the term, the scene is never pretty.

The same is true in life today . . . but the tragedy is that defiance is frequently permitted and sometimes totally ignored, leaving others in the wake of its serious consequences. Talk about stress fractures!

God never overlooks or winks at defiance. He deals with it, and we are to take our cues from our Lord.

Let’s take a quick look at God’s attitude, His abhorrence of rebellious acts.

Please consider Deuteronomy 21:18–21. Even though this event occurred in the days when the severity of punishment was much greater than today, it nevertheless reveals how strongly the Lord feels about defiance.

I take it, from the way this narrative unfolds, that the person in question is a young man—old enough to live outside the home, but perhaps not quite ready for that. He’s living under the roof of his parents but has been demonstrating insubordinate independence. His lifestyle reveals an unbending determination to have his own way.

“If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his hometown. They shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear of it and fear.”

I remember the first time I read that passage; I was a teenager! In fact, I was getting pretty big for my britches. I thought about those words till very late in the evening, believe me. I can still remember the chill that ran down my back when I realized how seriously God feels about defiance. I was also grateful that I was not living under the Law! The Lord made no provision for domestic insolence, even when the child living at home was approaching adulthood.

Defiance is never excusable, never of little concern.

Before proceeding, perhaps I should clarify that this passage is not suggesting that parents have the right to be despotic dictators in the home, mistreating and manipulating their children. No! Please observe that the parents mentioned in Deuteronomy 21 apparently had attempted to work with their son—to no avail. He defied their authority. He refused to cooperate, to curtail his habit of getting drunk, to restrain himself in other things as well. This young man was turning the home into a “hell on earth.” He left the parents with no alternative other than to call on city authorities to help, which still occurs today.

Take time to observe, parents!

The peace, the moral standards, and the joy of your home are not to be sacrificed on the altar of indulgence. Defiance will send stress fractures through the structure of a home just as it will ruin a life. If you do not deal with it, who will? Believe me, the teacher at school or the minister at church cannot take the place of the parent at home.

In the days of Samuel, there once lived a self-willed king named Saul. On one occasion King Saul did his own thing, in defiance of God’s instructions through the prophet-judge Samuel. The prophet was dispatched by the Lord to face the king. Saul excused himself, backpedaled, rationalized, and even denied being defiant. Finally, Samuel had had enough. He looked straight at Saul, pointed that long, bony finger of his and said, “Rebellion is as the sin of divination . . . and idolatry.”

That’s quite a statement! The Living Bible captures the thought in this paraphrase:

For rebellion is as bad as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as bad as worshiping idols. (1 Samuel 15:23a TLB)

The next time you’re tempted to pass over defiance, remember that analogy.

 

Grand-parenting: The 10 Things You Don’t Say to Parents But Should

  • Here are ten things to say to your adult children that will support them as they grow into the role of parent, just as you adjust to being the grandparent

  • Take a positive spin

    The shift from being the parent to becoming a grandparent takes a major adjustment most of us never anticipate. It’s so easy to offer advice based on our years of experience raising children. It’s so easy to see what our adult children don’t. But we can get so focused on giving advice and telling them what they’re doing wrong, that we forget to tell them what they’re doing right. There’s nothing like positive reinforcement.

  • iStockphoto

    I respect how you’re raising your kids.

    You may not do things the way I did, but it’s a different world today, especially given the state of the economy and all the pressures on young families. (Now could you please stop making fun of me for not being able to buckle the kids into their car seats or collapse the stroller!)
  • iStockphoto

    Please, let me do the dishes!

    Or the laundry! Or change the baby’s diaper, then make dinner! I’m here to help!
  • iStockphoto

    Don’t worry; you’re wonderful parents.

    We all make mistakes sometimes—as I know only too well. So what if you let your daughter eat cupcakes for dinner every now and then? There were times when I let you run barefoot in the freezing cold and eat ice cream for breakfast—and you should have heard my mother! (And, true story, once I put fresh kibble in my son’s bowl in an attempt to cure his habit of eating out of the dog’s dish. It worked.)
  • iStockphoto

    Your children are wonderful.

    All kids go through difficult stages—you did, and look how fantastic you turned out!
  • iStockphoto

    I’m here if you need me.

    I realize that you’re up on all the latest information about childhood safety, diet, education, and health, which is different than back in my day. I trust that if you want my advice or opinion, you’ll ask for it.
  • iStockphoto

    All parents feel insecure sometimes …

    … especially with their first child. Parenting is an art that can only be learned on the job, no matter how many books you read or experts you consult. You know your child better than anyone. Just know that I’m here for you and if you ever want the benefit of my experience, say the word.
  • iStockphoto

    I promise to follow your rules …

    … as much as humanly possible. That means, I’ll feed the kids according to your instructions, limit the treats, make sure they do their homework, then get them to bed on time. And I absolutely swear I won’t start feeding the baby solids without your permission.
  • iStockphoto

    I support your decisions.

    You’re an intelligent, responsible adult with a good head on your shoulders, and I know that you think everything through carefully. If you want my opinion, I know you’ll ask for it. (You cannot repeat this often enough.)
  • iStockphoto

    It’s a privilege …

    … and an honor to be allowed to spend time with your children, because I know how much you love them and want to protect them. Thank you for putting your faith and trust in me.
  • iStockphoto

    I know I’m no longer the boss.

    It is strange, especially at first, to be the grandparent and not the parent. The truth is, becoming a grandparent takes almost as much on-the-job training as becoming a parent. Please forgive my mistakes and know that I’m doing my best to support you and love your children.————————————————————————————————————————————SOURCE:  Grandparents.com

    Barbara Graham, a Grandparents.com columnist, is the editor of the anthology, Eye of My Heart: 27 Writers Reveal the Hidden Pleasures and Perils of Being a Grandmother.

Q&A: Setting Boundaries With an Adult Daughter

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question: My adult daughter has moved back home after making a mess out of her life. I think I’ve enabled her to be too dependent on me and now she is acting like an angry teenager instead of a responsible adult. What can I do to help her?

Answer: I hear this so often. Well-meaning parents have crippled their children by not teaching them how to stand on their own two feet. My definition of a good parent is that you work yourself out of your job. In other words, your kids don’t need you in order to function anymore. With that said, you can’t change your daughter. But you can identify and own your problem.

What is that? You have given too much. You’ve been too nice and that may be one reason she is not taking responsibility for her own life. Unfortunately, this kind of unhealthy relationship fosters a love/hate relationship between you and your child. She loves you and is dependent on you and hates you for always being right and having to “need” you.

To change this dynamic, you will need to figure out why you have been overindulgent with your child for so long. Are you afraid to say no? Are you anxious that if she doesn’t need you, she won’t have a relationship with you? Do you pity her and believe she can’t do it without you? This is an important step so that you don’t revert back to rescuing her when things get hard for her.

Second, you need to evaluate what is in her best interest. I know you love your child, but godly love acts in the beloved’s best interests, not just what feels good. I’m sure you didn’t give your child candy for breakfast, lunch and dinner, even if she screamed for it because you know that wasn’t good for her. It is the same principle here. To change things, you will have to say no to her requests for help, not to be mean, but because it is good for her to learn to figure out some things for herself.

Third, you need to let her know how you are changing. I talk about this in section two of my book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship in detail.

Let me give you a sample speak up dialogue that you may want to share or write to your daughter.

I love you. You are my child and nothing will ever change my love for you. But I realize now that I haven’t always given you what you needed most. I have given you lots of things, probably too much, but I have not given you the confidence that you can manage your life just fine without me. I fear you have grown too dependent on me to solve your problems, to rescue you from your financial woes, and to provide your living space, when at this age, you should be doing these things on your own.

I will take responsibility for my part. I now see that by giving in to you, I didn’t help you grow up. I know you are in a tight spot right now and have moved back home but I want you to know that this is only a temporary solution. I expect you to get a job, work hard and save money toward moving out on your own. You will need to pay room and board while you’re here so that you learn that you have to be responsible for your bills and your life.

I want to have a good relationship with you, and we will not have one if I treat you like a child and you behave as one. I want us to respect and care for each other as adults.

If you haven’t done step 1 and 2 first, it will be hard for you to stick with your resolve. Make a plan as to how you will respond when she cries, complains, criticizes you, or doesn’t pay her room and board. Remember, you can’t make her be responsible or mature at this point in her life. That is her job. However, you can create an atmosphere where it is more likely that she will make those choices.

Q & A: Honoring dysfunctional parents when there is no reconciliation

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

This week’s question: I am 37 years old, happily married with three children living in a different state than my parents live. Bottom line, I’ve never had a healthy relationship with my mom – but last year we went through some terrible episodes to the point that my sister and I were concerned about her mental health and asked her to get help (she does have a history of prescription drug abuse).

Of course this only made her angry and she got very defensive. We begged my father to intervene and get help for her but instead he defended her, enabled her, and made excuses for her to the extreme. He ended up losing his job because of their behavior. His refusal to do anything about the destruction she was causing was perhaps the most hurtful thing. She was clearly unstable. Why couldn’t he see that? Wasn’t his relationship with my sister and me worth fighting for?

Having read about boundaries, I chose not to respond to her spiteful calls, emails and letters, except to say, “This is not Okay.” Or “You can’t talk to me like that and expect to have a good relationship with me or my family.” I prayed, I sought the advice of my pastor and with the support of my husband, we asked my parents to leave us completely alone until we were ready to initiate contact. They were reluctant at first but eventually did stop contacting us.

My plan was to begin a 3 week partial fast in January to discern God’s will on the best way to reestablish some sort of relationship with my parents, working toward forgiveness and trying to figure out how to “honor” them despite all the hurt they caused. I envisioned a calm confrontation regarding the way they had damaged our relationship, hoping that they’d see the damage they’d done.

Then the day before the fast, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. It is a pretty treatable form of cancer, but believing it was the right thing to do, I flew out to see them and spent a tense weekend with them. I bought groceries, cooked meals and tried to honor them without saying many words. I came home feeling worse.

So here I am. I’m angry at my parents for all the horrible things they did last year. I’m angry that they now act like nothing ever happened. I feel like I can’t discuss my hurt with them now because my dad is getting chemo and my mom is stressed out with that.

Would it be cruel to add a confrontation to what they’re currently dealing with? I am angry with myself because I have very little compassion toward them regarding the cancer (and I am a pretty compassionate person). I do call and check on them once or twice a week, but our conversations are brief and superficial. I email them photos of the children. When is it going to be okay for me to talk to them about what they did? I can’t pretend like everything is fine, but I also feel like I can’t talk with them about why things aren’t fine….so how do I move forward.

Answer: I’m sorry that you are experiencing this. It is so hard when we want to do the right thing but yet we have no opportunity to address, heal and reconcile a broken relationship.

I think it would be helpful to you if you differentiated honoring your parents from having a healthy or close relationship with them. You may have to settle for the former while letting go of the latter. You indicate that you’ve never had a healthy relationship with your mom so I’m curious why are you expecting things to change now? You envisioned sitting down with them both and having this constructive conversation over what happened last year but do you really think that’s going to happen? Do you have any history of those kinds of honest conversations with your mom or mom and dad before? Or is this understandable, but wishful thinking on your part?

You said that you never noticed how unhealthy your dad was until this latest episode when you expected that he would stick up for you and your sister and instead he sided with your mother, even to his own job loss. That deeply disappointed you but my guess is that if you look over your childhood; your father has probably always been passive and deferred to your mother’s emotional state. Again why did you expect something different this time?

So the question you’re asking is: can or should you bring up this messy relationship stuff right now? My advice would be no. Going through cancer and chemo is stressful enough and it may very well be that the stress from last year of trying to manage your mother the best he knew how has already taken its toll on your dad’s immune system. I remember speaking to a man recently at a conference I was teaching and he said he didn’t realize he was in an emotionally destructive marriage until he got cancer. His body couldn’t take the stress anymore. But his cancer woke him up.

So reconciling with them in the way you want – to have an honest conversation with them in which they would hear your anger and hurt about what they did last year and apologize to you may not be possible right now, maybe not ever. So where does that leave you? Can you honor your parents through your ministry to them – just like you did with meals, phone calls, photos of the kids and have no expectations of close fellowship or relationship? I think that is possible if you do your homework.

So I recommend that you talk with someone about your anger and hurts, you definitely need to process them so you can let them go (for your sake) and forgive your parents (for your sake) while praying that someday you can fully reconcile. I’d encourage you to minister to them as you are able and honor them as your parents even if you don’t’ like them or trust them right now.

If at some point they notice that you are not overly friendly with them and they bring it up, then that would be the time to invite them into a conversation about why. You might say something like this:

“I appreciate that you’ve asked me and it’s because of what happened last year. I know you’ve been under a lot of stress with the cancer diagnosis and treatment. I love you and I’ve not wanted to upset you or bring it up but It was very hurtful to me. If you’re ready to talk about it, I’d be more than willing to do that so that we can heal our relationship.”

That short statement puts your toe in the pond of relational honesty and invites them to have a respectful but difficult conversation about what happened. Their response will let you know whether it will be a good idea to proceed or not. For example, if they show any remorse or regret over last year and say something to that effect, then you can move forward and share your feelings – constructively.
However if they get defensive, blaming or shaming when you say you were hurt by last year’s stuff, don’t go there. You are just opening yourself up for more of the same.

But I’d encourage you to pray, prepare and practice what you want to say to them so that if the door opens, you can walk through it and say what you need to in the best possible way, so that as much as possible, you’ve done all you can do to be at peace with your parents.

For more help in preparing that kind of talk, see my book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship.

READY FOR THE “SECOND HALF” OF MARRIAGE?

SOURCE: Adapted from The Second Half of Marriage by David/Claudia Arp

Are you in the second half of marriage?  Check out these symptoms:

*You have teenagers who will soon leave the nest.

*Your own parents are aging.

*You were recently invited to a 25th high school reunion.

*You exercise more and burn fewer calories doing it.

*You just received an invitation to join AARP.

*By the time you get your spouse’s attention, you’ve forgotten what you were going to say.

If you identify with these symptoms, you are in or are approaching the second half of marriage. The first half of marriage involved launching your union and surviving the active parenting years.  For some, menopause and the adolescent years may hit simultaneously, making the challenge in the second half of marriage even greater.

The transition into the second half of marriage is a crisis time for many couples.  The current trend of long-term marriages breaking up in record numbers is alarming.   Why the jump in divorces for this age group?  Could it be that as people begin to realize they are going to live longer, they don’t want to spend the rest of their life in an unhappy and unfulfilled marriage?  While many long-term marriages avoid divorce, other second-half issues can produce much stress.  The children grow up and leave home; our parents age and die; we may add a few pounds and more bulges; we may have less energy and move slower; one’s career may be winding down (while the spouse’s career is taking off); we begin to realize how fast life goes by and that if we are going to make changes, we’d better hurry, because we don’t have a lot of time left.

Marital researchers have discovered that for couples who hang together through the midlife transition, marital satisfaction begins to rise again and stays that way – if couples risk growing in their relationship.  The second half of marriage gives you the opportunity to reinvent your marriage, to make mid-course adjustments, and to reconnect with one another in a more meaningful way.  Healthy long-term marriages have staying power, because they are held together from within.

The following eight challenges describe the areas that if worked on will enrich your marriage for the second half.

The Eight Challenges for the Second Half of Marriage:

1.  Let go of past marital disappointments, forgive each other, and commit to making the rest of your marriage the best.

2.  Create a marriage that is partner-focused rather than child/career-focused.

3.  Maintain an effective communication system that allows you to express your deepest feelings, joys, and concerns.

4.  Use anger and conflict in a creative way to build your relationship.

5.  Build a deeper friendship and enjoy your spouse.

6.  Renew romance and restore a pleasurable sexual relationship.

7.  Adjust to changing roles with aging parents and adult children.

8.  Evaluate where you are on your spiritual pilgrimage, grow closer to each other and to God, and together serve others.

Challenge 1Let go of past marital disappointments – forgive each other – commit to making the rest of your marriage the best.

A.  Identify grievances.  Actually make a list.  This list is personal – not necessarily to be shared with your spouse.

B.  Evaluate the grievances you listed.  Which ones can easily be forgiven?  Which need to be discussed?  Which do you need professional help with to overcome?

C. Decide to forgive.  Are you willing to forgive your spouse for the items you listed?  Forgiveness begins with a simple decision – an act of the will.

D.  Let go.  Ceremoniously let go of the little grievances you listed.  Perhaps you will want to burn them or bury them.

E.  Change your responses now that you’ve forgiven your spouse.  Try replacing any future negative response to a situation with a loving encouragement for your spouse.

F.  List the things you will do in the second half of marriage:

*We will release and let go of our missed dreams and disappointments with each other, with our children, with our parents, and with ourselves;

*We will accept each other as a package deal;

*We will forgive and ask forgiveness when needed;

*We will renew our commitment to each other and to growing together in the second half of our marriage.

Challenge 2. Create a marriage that is partner-focused rather than child/career-focused.

A. Recognize that we grow at different rates, roles may switch, and rules may change.

*Many wives may become more focused and assertive and are eager to try their professional wings – especially if the first half of marriage was dedicated to parenting children.  Many men may decide to slow down and enjoy life a little bit more.

B. Recognize the need to become closer companions.

*Many couples facing the second half of marriage have little shared privacy because lives have been consumed by children and careers. As important as children, parents, friends, jobs, and hobbies may be, strive to make the marriage more important.  Develop a concept of “we-ness” and look for ways to develop it.

C. Make a commitment to personal growth, to developing an effective communication system, and to learn how to make creative use of conflict.

Challenge 3Maintain an effective communication system that allows you to express your deepest feelings, joys, and concerns.

A. Avoid negative patterns of communicating – Consider doing what is positive and works.

*Negative pattern 1 – Avoider-Confronter Couple.  The avoider often retreats into his or her own world.  He/she prefers to ignore problems and let them slide.  For the most part, avoiders are uncomfortable talking about their feelings.  The confronter has no trouble expressing her or her feelings.

*Negative pattern 2 – Conflict-Avoiding Couple.  Conflict-avoiding couples may work well together in many areas, such as building careers or parenting.  However, they lack close personal relationship.  When it comes to deep, intimate conversation or dealing with personal issues, they are distant from one another.  Instead of dealing with negative feelings, they stuff them inside.

*Negative pattern 3 – Conflict-Confronting Couple.  The conflict-confronting couple has no lack of communication, however, much of it is negative and hurtful.  Instead of dealing with conflict, they vent frustrations to the point that effective communication is stifled.

*Positive pattern – Interpersonally Competent Couple.  This involves working on developing  new and better ways to communicate and learning to use conflict constructively. Avoid what doesn’t work, and seek out more of what works better through reading, counseling, workshops.

Challenge 4Use anger and conflict in a creative way to build your relationship.

A. Understand that conflict and anger are givens in any marriage, but if we learn the skills for dealing with them, we can build rather than destroy our relationship.

*Analyze your own anger.  Ask yourself, “What am I really angry about? What is the problem, and whose problem is it?  How can I sort out who is responsible for what? How can I learn to express my anger in a way that will not leave me feeling helpless and powerless?  How can I clearly communicate my position without becoming defensive or attacking?

*Together as a couple make an anger contract.  This is a protective way to confront anger as a couple. Make your anger contract at a time when you are not angry!

First, agree to tell each other when you first realize you are getting angry. Second, renounce the “right” to vent your anger on your spouse.  Third, ask for your spouse’s help in dealing with whatever is causing the anger.

B. Marriage turbulence can even be healthy.  A solid marriage relationship provides “a safe place to resolve honest conflict and process your anger. It can help your marriage grow.”

Challenge 5. Build a deeper friendship and enjoy your spouse.

A. Building a long-term friendship in the second half of marriage is influenced by many things including health issues.

*Take care of yourself.  Invest in your health.

*Pace yourself.  Is it realistic to try to maintain the same pace of ten years ago?

*Build relationships and maintain them.  Build friendships outside your extended family to maintain a good support system.

*Stretch your boundaries.  Try new things or a new approach to “old” things.

*Stay involved with life.  Actively search for your passion.  Continue to learn and grow.

*Hang in there.  Avoid making drastic decisions when you’re feeling down.

B.  Plan for fun and have fun.

*Picnic in the park date.

*“I’m too tired date.” Grab some takeout food and avoid the phone/answer

machine/email/texts.

*Photo date. Set the timer on the camera and take some couple pictures.

*Gourmet-cooking date.  Plan the menu, do the shopping, and cook dinner – together!

*Highway date. Go exploring within a fifty-mile radius of home.

*Workout date.  Take a walk together or exercise together.

*Home Depot date.  Go to a home improvement store and plan and scheme your next improvement project.

*Window-shopping date.  Go window-shopping…maybe when the stores are closed.

*Airport date. Sit in the air terminal and watch the people come and go.

*Proposal date.  Go to a public place and ask your mate to marry you again.

Challenge 6Renew romance and restore a pleasurable sexual relationship.

A.  According to researchers, the hardest part of maintaining love and closeness is learning how to keep intimacy alive through the years of a marriage – especially the second half.

B.  Marriages grow in stages.  In the first decade couples learn about each other.  Children come along and test the limits of our energy.  The second decade of marriage entails fighting off boredom.  But, it’s in the third decade that things can really change.  Sex is an important aspect of marriage, but it is an area many couples are hesitant to talk about.  It is important as we face the empty nest years that we reexamine our attitude and bravely talk with our partner about our love life.  Also, as we reach midlife and beyond, we need to understand how our bodies change as we age – physically, psychologically, and hormonally.

*Reset the pace.  A man’s response time slows down as he ages. Instead of worrying about it, relax and enjoy it.  Think of the sexual relationship in the second half as a delightful stroll, not a sprint.

*Take action.  While younger men are stimulated by what they see, by age forty or fifty, men may be more stimulated by touching and caressing.

*Balance the seesaw.  Stop boredom by having both partners be the initiator from time to time.

*Dare to experiment. Because response times may be different or longer, this is a great time to experiment remembering “getting there can be half the fun.”

*Achieve more from less.  Find whatever frequency works best for your.  Let your lovemaking be anticipated and savored, and make the quality of the sexual experience your focus.

C.  Rekindling romance doesn’t just happen.  It takes some effort.  Couples can read books and talk together about how to “spice up” their love life.

D.  If because of severe health or other issues, the sexual relationship is difficult, talk to a physician or counselor to bring in other resources and perspective.

Challenge 7. Adjust to changing roles with aging parents and adult children.

A.  Being caught between teenage or adult children and aging parents is a dilemma many second half couples face.  The challenge is, how can you keep your marriage the anchor relationship while relating to other family members on both ends of the “family seesaw”?  Whatever your situation, your relationship with your elderly parents affects your marriage.  Whether the effect is positive or negative depends more on you than on the situation.

B.  Typical problems that prevent a healthy relationship with aging parents:

*Lack of trust. If parents have little trust and respect for their adult children, it will be hard to have a close relationship.  Not all elderly parent-adult children relationships are close.  Accepting those things you cannot change will help you to change the things you can.

*Lack of adult status. Ever feel as if you’re still a kid in your parents’ eyes?  And whenever you’re around your elderly parents, you react much as you did when you were growing up in their home?  You may not be able to change your parents’ view of you, but you can make a choice to treat your adult children differently.

*Denial.  Lack of open communication with your aging parents will make helping them more difficult.  Also, should memory losses occur and physical changes take place, elderly parents may deny that they need any help.  This leaves the adult child in a frustrating place.

*Excessive demands and manipulation. Along with a demanding parent can be the one who is manipulative.  With outside resources such as reading and counsel, it is important that we learn how to deal with issues of false guilt, not feeling responsible for what we can’t control, and maintaining a healthy, balanced life of our own.

C.  As we honor and care for our parents, we should not put them above our spouse.  At the same time, whatever our situation with our parents, we should try to build positive bridges with them.

D.  Dealing with adult children.  The transition into adult relationships with our children and their spouses can be a difficult challenge and if not well-managed can greatly affect our own marriage.  We need to be willing to let go and respect our adult children’s boundaries.  An unwillingness to let go is closely related to lack of adult status and lack of trust.  The question is, are we willing to let go – to release our children into adulthood and let them lead their own lives?  Building healthy, trusting relationships with your adult children can enrich the second half of your marriage.  and when your children marry, develop a relationship with each couple.

Visit but don’t stay too long.  Let them parent their own children.  Try not to give advice. Build a relationship with each grandchild.  Whatever your family background and whatever relationship you have today with your own parents, remember that you can build a healthy bridge to your own children and grandchildren.

Challenge 8Evaluate where you are on your spiritual pilgrimage, grow closer to each other and God, and together serve others.

A.  Consider what are your basic beliefs about what elevates your own marriage.

*God brought us together in the first place.

*Our continuing life together is part of God’s divine purpose.

*We have a witness to bear together.

*A shared life must have a sacrificial quality.

*A Christian marriage must find spiritual expression.

B.  It is God who can give us new passion for our spouse.  He is the one who can enable us to have an open and honest relationship and to construct a quality marital relationship.

C.  As each spouse grows in his or her spiritual pilgrimage:

*Accept where both you and your spouse are on that journey.

*Don’t force or coerce your spouse to attend or do something with you that you know he or she won’t enjoy.

*Be teachable and willing to learn.

*Promote spiritual closeness and unity through simple couple devotions and/or praying together.  Start with just 10 minutes a day.

D.  Consider serving others.

*Reflect His image together to others in a hurting world.

*Be beacons that give light to others and create a thirst for healthy marriage relationships.

*Reflect on these questions –

-What is something about which we are both passionate?

-If we have adult children (or will have), how can we be role models for them?

-What are some ways in which we can serve others together?

The Eight Challenges for the Second Half of Marriage

1.  Let go of past marital disappointments, forgive each other, and commit to making the rest of your marriage the best.

2.  Create a marriage that is partner-focused rather than child/career-focused.

3.  Maintain an effective communication system that allows you to express your deepest feelings, joys, and concerns.

4.  Use anger and conflict in a creative way to build your relationship.

5.  Build a deeper friendship and enjoy your spouse.

6.  Renew romance and restore a pleasurable sexual relationship.

7.  Adjust to changing roles with aging parents and adult children.

8.  Evaluate where you are on your spiritual pilgrimage, grow closer to each other and to God, and together serve others.

Tag Cloud