If things with children go wrong you can’t take all the blame. If things with children go right, you can’t take all the credit.
Author unknown but stated on more than one occasion by my mother and mother-in-law.
Being a parent of an adult son or daughter is uncharted territory. There is no parents’ manual to tell us what to do or say to adult children. It’s not like dealing with a recalcitrant teenager who needs the house rules enforced. Some are presented with opportunities that we know could be enriched if they followed our advice – no matter how neutral and encouraging we think we sound. Sometimes the children we love and cherish find themselves in very difficult circumstances.
We live in a different world but I do wonder if it was different years ago for our parents? I always had the feeling that we were really launched. But the times and expectations were different. Work opportunities, for example in many ways were better- or seemed better. Children did leave home. The life course was more established providing a set of boundaries that may have been limiting but which offered some direction in terms of the way forward. Perhaps people’s expectations were not as high. But sometimes the difficult issues were stuffed in the closet of silence and young adults suffered quietly or perhaps channelled their rage into all kinds of noxious activities and bad habits.
The good news and the bad news is that we are more involved in our children’s lives than previous generations were. It is wonderful to share a relationship with our adult child which is on a different plane from the one they were on at home. The not so good news is that we are drawn into situations we didn’t count on- an interruption of considerable proportions that distracts and takes us off course. And we are confronted with our own feelings: joy and delight but sometimes disappointment; sometimes sadness; sometimes frustration and anger.
The hard part is that we know deep in our souls that our adult children must ultimately navigate their challenges and opportunities on their own. This is one area in which no one can offer advice. It is truly an “I have not walked in your shoes” kind of situation. The writing of the script for parents is a work in progress and all of it is new. Perhaps the only thing we can do is keep a few things in mind:
- Love unconditionally. Love ultimately conquers all.
- Trust your gut. Do (or not do) what you think is best. That can mean saying no or saying nothing but conveying acceptance- even for those mistakes you knew were going to happen.
- Young adults, like everyone else, are not defined by their problems. We each have different ways of dealing with problems but those problems do not reflect our true core selves.
- Most people, including young adults, usually seek support rather than advice.
- Be grateful for all the great stuff about your son or daughter- there is a lot!
- Reach out to others for the support you need- it is hard to do this alone.
- Take care of yourself- in whatever way works best for you. This is not just about eating right or going to the gym. This is about nurturing ourselves- honouring body, mind, and spirit.
Ultimately the best way to help or stay out of the way (zip the lips) is to take that time to ponder what also works best for us- body and soul -while not abandoning those we love. Even as we watch from a distance as their lives unfold.