Issues and helpful ideas

THE STAGES OF PARENTING

family stages tryptich

PARENTING BIRTH TO 18 YEARS
Initially, parenting our children involves nurturing, protecting and guiding. During this time children are dependent, parents are the center of their child's world. This diminishes as our children get older.
PARENTING AGE 18 AND BEYOND
When our children become adults, a life transition for both the adult child and the parents, this new chapter creates changes for the family that can be exciting, bewildering, and even unexpectedly and painfully disappointing.
"BEYOND" - LEARNING TO "NON PARENT" YOUR ADULT CHILD
Learning to cope with the normal feelings of separation and loss at these transitional times, and accepting our children as "imperfect" adults is essential. As therapists we have worked with families where painful alienation exists. Our goal in this program is to prevent such alienation and still build gratifying relationships.
"...Reframing the concept of parenting was so helpful"
Seminar participant
"...It was so validating to realize that we need to adjust our expectations"
Support group particpant

TWO DRAMATIC PARENTING TRANSITION TIMES: IDEAS TO CONSIDER.

SO YOUR KID IS OFF TO COLLEGE

College coed with book

This is an anxiety provoking time for both parents and their grown child. The "nurturing and protecting" part of parenting becomes ambiguous. Your work as a parent is not done---YOUR IDENTITY AS A PARENT IS CHANGING. Though your child will still be financially dependent, you will not have the same control as before. Your anxiety about them being properly cared for is in conflict with the NEED FOR THEM TO HAVE EXPERIENCES THAT WILL HELP THEM BECOME SELF SUFFICIENT ADULTS. It will be hard to let go.

You still have valuable parenting to do. It's just different. Spend time reflecting on what your needs and interests are. Distinguish them from what are your college child's needs and interests. Know your limits. Consider the following to begin to re orient your "parenting".

  • How far away will they be?
  • How often will you be seeing each other?
  • How much "in person TLC" will you be able to provide?
  • What useful non-academic learning opportunities will be available for your child? For instance, organizing their dorm room just with their roommate provides a valuable chance to learn independent cooperative decision making.
  • Encourage them to discover and use campus resources.

Talking about money is mandatory, and listen to them about their concerns. Also, discuss your expectations and limits about what you can afford, how much and what you will pay for, and what they can contribute. Giving an open ended credit card (even if you can afford it) is a disaster waiting to happen. Boundaries provide a sense of security.

Remember, your goal is for them to become self sufficient and independent. Encourage their ability to do that. College is the perfect environment to develop these skills.

YOUR KID IS GETTING MARRIED AND A WEDDING IS BEING PLANNED

an engaged couple on the beach

Congratulations, your family is expanding. There are many challenges in connecting with your future son-in-law or daughter-in-law. It is important that you get off to a good start with them and their family.

If you are pleased about your grown child's choice, all this will be easier; but if you're not so happy, the work will be harder. Look for support from close family and friends---people with whom you can be open. ULTIMATELY YOU MUST ACCEPT YOUR CHILD'S CHOICE. YOUR FUTURE AND YOUR FAMILY'S FUTURE RELATIONSHIPS DEPEND ON IT.

You are now faced with wedding plans. Even when it's a joyous occasion it's a time of high stress and often much anxiety. THERE MAY BE DISAPPOINTMENTS OVER WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL AND WHAT YOU DO NOT HAVE THE POWER TO CONTROL. You can decide on how much money you want to contribute. If you are "giving" the wedding think carefully about what you can afford. Helpful issues to reflect on:

  • What "strings" are attached to what you are contributing?
  • Consider what agreements need to be made (such as how the guest list will be determined).
  • Additional expenses will come up such as the rehearsal dinner, brunch, travel.
  • Will you share costs?
  • Can you pay for it without resentment or regret?

Often differing assumptions are made about who is doing what, so a lot of conversations and negotiations need to take place to assure better cooperation and the joy of the occasion. Remember, you are transitioning to a new family life, your goal is for your adult child's wedding and marriage to be a success.