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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Musings of a parent of adult kids

Parents of Married Sons and Daughters
I have been mulling this matter over for years and decided to blog about being a parent of married kids. Perhaps it will serve as a help for some of you who are about to become parents of married sons or daughters.
When our sons and daughters reside at home, we know them and they know us – or at least that’s how it should be. When they go off to college, this relationship can get strained for a number of reasons – one being that the attached parent can’t let go. These types of parents are known as helicopter parents and they continue to hover and protect long after having lost “control” over what their son or daughter is doing. Sometimes the offspring rebel against this hovering; other times the “kids” put up with it, and still other parents learn to detach appropriately over time.
I have found it difficult to detach for a few reasons. The primary one being that I practiced attachment parenting when the kids needed it most – so that seems commendable right? But caution because I believe it makes it more difficult eventually to detach properly from our adult kids. Attachment parenting creates a very close emotional bond between mother and child allowing them to eventually become secure and independent. That process invites our teens to naturally stretch that bond as they explore the bigger world that is inviting and enticing. On the other hand, the attachment parents tend to stay in the attachment mode for years after their kids reach young adulthood because we are programmed to protect, insulate, and nurture out own – even when it becomes imperative to learn to detach.
After all the kids are no longer just our kids… they eventually become someone’s husband or wife and their own kids’ parents. And then the sons and daughters marry and that new unit develops its own personality, likes, dislikes, and vision. So what do older parents do with their family vision that may or may not be in sync with their newlyweds’ visions? Throw them out, discard them? Is that why so many older parents seem to chuck the family thing and move far away to Florida or Arizona? Is it easier to be far away than to stay close to kids who don’t want a close, emotional bond with their parents? How do we parent these new parents? How do we detach without appearing cold and reserved? How do they detach without dishonoring the fourth commandment?
And what can be done when our older kids marry and chose to “favor” the other set of family over our own? After talking to many families over the years, I have to conclude that nearly every family has to deal with this additional problem.
I would recommend the following to young people and older parents.
1. First and foremost, recognize that we must share our kids with the world and others - and we need to teach our kids to balance these relationships out fairly as well. Secondly we must teach our kids to continue to be considerate of us – and others – even long after they no longer “need us” in a fair and just manner that honors the fourth commandment .
2. Sit down and have a pow-wow about each others’ expectations- yours and theirs - long before the wedding.
3. After grandkids are born, find out your kids’ expectations of you as grandparent.
4. Finally, recognize that even after having these discussions, the “best laid plans of mice and men” can still get muddled so always try and communicate openly and plainly.
5. We can’t – and shouldn’t want to - buy our adult kids’ affection, connections, and interests.
6. Let go even when detachment is difficult. Recognize that it is just one more step we will all need to take in order to be able to leave our earthly life behind willingly in order to embrace a permanent attachment that will be authentic, heavenly and grace-filled. One that will never more be marred by miscommunication, hurts, favoritism, rejection, or other human mistakes.
7. Offer up any hurt that comes from detaching from our kids.

I will write more about this subject in the months and weeks ahead.