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Hard to Swallow Advice, but Family Support and Understanding Matter at Any Age

June 23, 2019

With the harsh truth of familial abandonment heart-brokenly played out on the pages of the novel, Where the Crawdads Sing, ever still fresh in my mind's eye since I read it, this is wonderful regular advice to parents about how not to treat your adult child, from Psychology Today--in more typical situations than the novel portrayed (i.e. in the novel, a mother and father abandoned a young daughter who was forced to live alone in a cabin in the marshlands with no money, no food, except for what she was forced to fish for or what she was able to buy from working the land and the system; still showing up for school, mostly):

 

O.k. I digress. Hard to swallow advice to a parent of adult children:

 

1. You insist on being right. 

 

We all have different stories about the past, even ones we shared. But as long as you insist on your version, they don’t have a right to theirs. Accept their stories as being true for them.

 

2. You don’t know who they are now. 

 

Life has taught them lessons you don’t know. They’re not the same people they were as children, even if you think they are. Don‘t assume that you still know what they think and feel.

 

3. You've locked them into outgrown childhood roles. She was a spendthrift, he was a ne’er do well, she was the good girl, he was the peacemaker. [She was the distracted, dizzy one who had the temper (which she got from you)].

 

But now the dizzy daughter manages a million-dollar budget; or maybe [the son] has a responsible job, [the other daughter's] a complete mess, and [your other son] gets in the thick of every family fight. Give them a chance to show you who they are now — you might be surprised.

 

Think about your adult children; don’t assume they don’t need your parenting, don’t withdraw, don’t stop visiting and paying attention to them because you feel it should be the other way around. That they should call you, or visit, or that you aren’t getting enough attention. Don’t judge them. Your age may have you forgetting that they do call and visit.

 

Think about how you would like to be treated—but also how they want to be treated. Consider what they’ve been saying, or are saying to you now as your adult children. Try to look within, become a better parent. It can happen at any age and have the satisfying boomerang effect that will make the whole family the better for it. Relationships should be reciprocal.

 

On the flip side, Psychology Today also notes that, today, there is an epidemic of parents being cut off by adult children, rather than parents abandoning them. They note that over the years there are so many differences of opinions, especially when the children are sprouting wings and trying to find their way and that some parents might tend to be dissatisfied and complain to the extent that they exacerbate the situation. The relationship falters as a result of their distancing behavior. When my younger son was in Europe, I was so worried about him that I became a mother stalker!  Looking at Snapchat constantly to track his whereabouts (and his safety); wondering why he spent a whole day not moving from his boat Air BNB in Oxford, England (he was sleeping off the effects of a London pub crawl). 

 

How many novels and movies are out there about dysfunctional families and estranged relationships? Quite a few.

 

Here are a few of some good dysfunctional family movies: 1) Dan in Real Life (loved this movie with Steve Carell); 2) Little Miss Sunshine; 3) The Way Way Back (filmed in my town and neighboring towns along the southeastern Massachusetts coast, my favorite); 4) The Savages (with my favorite Laura Linney) and 5) Running with Scissors (a novel that I read that was made into a movie). Oh, and recently the movie that portrayed the real life tribulations of Tonya Harding and her mother played deliciously well by Allison Janney.

 

The lessons, I think, we can all take away from this is that family relationships can be complicated and do require nurturing as much as the old-fashioned hybrid rose in your garden (it's in my book, Unrest!!! :))  Let me give proper credit to the articles I've read and am referring to: the first one has a strong title!!

 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/between-the-lines/201711/10-reasons-why-your-grown-kids-hate-you

 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/matter-personality/201411/parents-cut-adult-children-clueless?page=1

 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/domestic-intelligence/201512/the-persistent-pain-family-estrangement

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