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This blog is about---You! Each and every post is about you. Use it to challenge your usual patterns, as a tool for self-discovery, to stimulate your thinking, to learn about yourself and to answer your questions about others.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Adult Kid

As children develop, parents (hopefully) do too.  We begin parenthood with a completely dependent being, another human who comes with all human needs and zero ability to meet any of them.  This tiny person is also a mystery.  From these two experiences we go, in a fast 20 years, to a fully independent individual whom we know well.
As we go along we are doing two things; we are gradually, very gradually allowing and encouraging more and more autonomy in the growing child.  An 18 month old will venture out toward the swings in the playground sandbox, only to come running back to mom or dad to 'touch base' before trying again---maybe going a bit further next time.  A 15 year old is still working on this same process, albeit in a different way.  A teenager can be fiercely resistant to a parent trying to influence her values and the next minute want to cuddle up in a blanket with mom and the TV.
Alongside this developmental line, the child and the parents are in an on-going process of learning who this person is.  As the parent watches for talents, notices interests, and looks for aptitudes, the child is driven by curiosity to explore the world, to try new things , to test himself.
As fully functioning adults, these questions have finally resolved although never completely.  We are capable of continuing to grow and change, to develop new skills and to test ourselves.  Under great enough stress, most adults will wish for mom or dad to 'save the day'.  But, by and large, we function on our own.
However, there is a developmental stage that is quite challenging to most parents and that is how to be with a daughter or son who is a young adult but needs help.  This week, for example, I had a man in the office who was quite distressed by his 21 year old daughter who had returned home and was showing a number of signs of a life not going well.  She had signed a lease with a boyfriend she was unsure of, had suffered some abuse from him, and was drinking a lot.  She looked unhealthy.  The only stable part of her life was her work where she was fulfilling her responsibilities.  She also was inappropriately rough with her boyfriend's child and when her dad tried to intervene, reacted to him in a harsh manner.  The dad was alarmed.
This is a delicate situation.  Even if the young adult child is doing well, it is a challenge to maneuver in the relationship, as the parent the child is trying to grow out of.  When there are serious problems such as this, it is difficult.  And, in addition, each person and each relationship is different.  Some people like straight talk, some are more sensitive and require a  subtle approach.  Therapy is useful because all of the parts of such a situation that are unique can be taken into consideration while a way to help is worked out.

A few general suggestions that will probably apply in most cases:

Try to provide guidance without being intrusive.
Be available but not inquisitive.
Keep your judgments and disappointed feelings to a minimum.
Hold to an ultimate goal of true friendship with your grown child.
Remember that your needs and that of the family as a whole must always be kept in mind.

The author, Gail Sheehy has done some innovative thinking on adult developmental stages.  If this is a timely topic for you, it might be worth your time to look at some of what she's written.

Have you already learned from making your way through this type of challenge in your own family?  Please comment on what your discoveries were.

1 comment:

  1. With the current down economic situation, a lot of young adults - who should be on their own (25 or 26 years old) - are still living with their parents. Let's just say it's sometimes difficult. And hope that things will eventually get better - and they move before they're 40!! K