Coping with adult children

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Permissions : This work is protected by copyright and may be linked to without seeking permission. Permission must be received for subsequent distribution in print or electronically. Please contact mpub-help umich. For more information, read Michigan Publishing's access and usage policy. As adult children return home, families are increasingly challenged to develop new ways of relating to each other. This paper presents a value-driven framework for families facing this challenge. Respect and honesty are presented as core values to guide this negotiation.

Courtesy, warmth and structure are posited as key tools for making respect and honesty work, thus preserving and potentially enhancing the quality of family relationships. Special considerations when children are involved are also Coping with adult children. Key Words: Sandwich generation, adult children, family relations, values in psychotherapy. We Americans are generally unprepared to deal with issues raised by the rapidly-growing phenomenon of adult children returning to the family home.

Although extended family households are common around the world, modern American culture has been characterized by nuclear family households, with young adult children expected to leave and Coping with adult children a separate residence. Parents of young adult children, as they reach late middle age, often hope that this period of their lives will be one relatively free from the personal and financial responsibility of caring for the needs of another generation.

If they enjoy good health and financial security, they may find themselves with more time and energy to spend on hobbies and on reconnecting as a couple — if they remain a couple after years of putting personal and marital needs second to children's needs. The recent increase in the of adult children returning home, with or without children of their own, to live with their parents, intrudes Coping with adult children this rosy picture.

An additional threat to the independence of late middle age may arise from obligations to take increasing responsibility for aging parents, "sandwiching" the late middle aged adult between the needs of the generations above and below them. The return of young adult children to their parents' homes has presented new challenges to many families as they are faced with the necessity of renegotiating family tasks and roles. Family members who felt comfortable enough when it was clear which family members were the adults in charge and which members were the children, with lower power and authority, may become confused when the "children" are adults and, most especially, if they are also parents.

The purpose of this paper is to present a value-driven framework and some specific guidelines for helping families in this situation to develop strategies that may work for them as they negotiate the potentially treacherous, yet possibly rewarding, challenge of living in an extended family. Two core values must function together at the heart of any relationship if it is to be successful over time: respect and honesty.

Respect implies a willingness to understand that the other person in the relationship Coping with adult children truly a full person with feelings, thoughts, abilities, values and rights of his or her own. Respect carries within it a willingness to check one's own appetites, desires, and actions and the possibility of modifying gratification of these if they intrude upon the other or, at least, of negotiating a compromise.

Respect in a relationship suggests that one is willing to grant to the other esteem, attention, consideration, and privacy. Respect implies that difficulties or confusion will be handled by seeking information and attempting to solve problems, rather than by secrecy, gossip, and "mind reading. In a respectful relationship, neither person will tolerate abuse or degradation of or by the other. In psychological terms, respect implies boundaries: You are you; I am I.

We are different and separate. We can learn to be together without losing our sense of self. I have my thoughts, feeling and desires; you have yours. Differences enrich our relationship and do not necessarily imply that either of us is "right" or "wrong. Honesty goes hand-in-hand with respect. To be dishonest with others is to treat them with disrespect. Honesty can be painful; it is most painful when we realize we have deceived ourselves.

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Being internally truthful, however, is a prerequisite to being honest with others. To value honesty is to dedicate oneself to continuing self-examination. There are constant opportunities in relationships to be insensitively flip, to be thoughtlessly clever or funny at the expense of others, to be cruelly righteous or judgmental, to be intolerantly sure of the one right answer, to hurt others with a display of power for fun, to "win" in a way that makes others lose.

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Giving in to these momentary temptations can destroy respect, shaming and harming others. When repeated too often and repaired too infrequently, these words and actions can crumble the fragile trust on which the relationships we care most about are built. In those moments when we stop to be honest with ourselves, we know this, and we realize that humility and care must be at the core of what we may too easily, and wrongly, label as honesty.

We therapists, sad to say, must take part of the responsibility as a profession for having promoted the abuse and misunderstanding of the role of honesty in the life of relationships. The excesses of "letting it all hang out," promoted in an historical time period when patients were often unable to speak to important others about the feelings most meaningful to them, have come back to haunt us. True honesty does not encourage us to be cruel to those we love, but bids us to walk softly and speak thoughtfully, albeit courageously, especially when painful feelings and delicate topics must be discussed.

To have honesty without cruelty, we need courtesy. One definition of courtesy is "an expression of respect. Courtesy provides the path for doing this. Courtesy teaches us to be aware and respectful of the feelings and preferences of others, but it does not demand that we abandon our own values, feelings, and needs in the process — in fact, just the opposite — it gives us a respectful way to express these.

When the butter is at the other end of the table, courtesy does not tell us we must do without it. On the contrary, it gives us a polite formula, "Please pass the butter," to which the person sitting nearest Coping with adult children butter must respond. Furthermore, the rules of courtesy teach us that we may not lecture others at the table on whether butter is desirable in the diet. True courtesy is a great respecter of privacy and boundaries. The rules of etiquette, for example, require parents to teach their children politeness by example; therefore, correction of one's own children in the presence of others must be done quietly, without shaming.

Name-calling, "put downs" or other Coping with adult children of humiliating others are out of the question. The rules of etiquette have great value for all those who live, work, or socialize Coping with adult children other people; families with adult children are no exception Martin, Another basic way of being respectful and courteous in relationships is to speak only for oneself, and not for others. Instead of attributing motives, thoughts and feelings to others, seek information directly from them by asking questions.

Look for the best, not the worst in people, especially those you love.

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At the same time, be clear and straightforward in expressing your own ideas and preferences. That way, others do not have to guess and "mind-read. Warmth in relationships is difficult to define or explain, but we know it when we see or hear it — we feel it. Warmth can be conveyed in a tone of voice, a sympathetic face, by positive attention, validating comments, by expressions of delight in the happiness or achievements of others, or sadness at their disappointment or pain. Warmth feels genuine. Parents who are warm are interested in their children's ideas, activities, and feelings.

They are involved in their children's lives and attentive to their experiences. They convey unconditional positive regard for the child's personhood, even when they Coping with adult children of particular behaviors.

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It is difficult to be warm in relationships if one's basic needs are not met or if one is hungry, tired, frightened, or in pain. Therefore, parents who are consistently warm are generally people whose own basic needs are being met, and who are, thus, able to convey to their children a sense of calm confidence. People who are warm seem to have a generosity of spirit which holds the promise of sufficient "affectional supplies" — enough love, kindness, and approval for everyone they care about. Warmth goes beyond courtesy, which can be cold, even while correct.

Research on children's development consistently finds warmth to be one of the major dimensions of parenting associated with good outcomes in children. Structure refers to parenting that Coping with adult children characterized by rules and expectations for the child's behavior.

In structured families, the child knows what the rules are, and parents monitor the child's behavior and enforce their rules over time in a way which the child experiences as consistent. Parenting styles which are high on both warmth and structure are associated with the best child outcomes: Children who are the most prosocial and competent and who have low rates of both externalizing and internalizing problems. In fact, the combination of clear, firm, rules and interpersonal support is an excellent combination for success in any human system, from the Coping with adult children, to the school, to the workplace.

When people know what is expected of them, are taught how to perform the expected tasks, are encouraged to do well, and are rewarded for performing according to expectations, they tend to be both successful and satisfied. Applying the principles stated above to the family with adult children returning home can go a long way toward making the situation more comfortable and less stressful for all concerned. First, all the adults who will be living together need to sit down and discuss "ground rules" for everyday living together, preferably before the final decision to move in is made, but, at the very least, as soon afterward as possible.

This discussion should frankly address the practical, concrete matters of everyday living. How, for example, will finances be handled?

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Is the young adult going to pay rent? How much? With what frequency? When is it due?

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Will the amount of rent be subject to change depending upon the young person's employment status? What about utility bills? It is respectful to all involved to be clear about such important matters. The use of space, equipment, and commodities must be discussed. How will the adults share the common living areas? What if one generation wants to have friends over?

What are the expectations regarding "seeking permission" vs. Should the generation not hosting the gathering expect to be invited as a matter of routine? How will items such as laundry facilities and power tools be shared? What about supplies like food and paper Coping with adult children Noise is another issue which should be discussed. Older people may turn up radio and television to levels painful to younger people who do not have a hearing loss or vice versa ; people from different generations quite often have different tastes in music and television programs.

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What is a fair and workable way to accommodate everyone's needs Coping with adult children desires? Neatness is another potentially "hot" issue. The mother whose child is an adult boarder in her home is especially vulnerable to feeling resentful about messes which seem to convey an expectation that she must either clean up after her adult child or nag him or her to do it. Neither is a good solution. Family members should reach an understanding, early on, regarding the level of neatness they expect from each other on a daily basis — exactly what constitutes cleaning up after oneself in this family?

The question of sharing chores related to the household is also an essential topic of discussion. If everyone is using the toilets, is everyone going to take a turn cleaning them? If not, is there another way to divide the labor that will suit everyone? The division of household chores is a strongly genderized issue in our culture; even with changes, women continue to do more than half of the housework, so the gender of various members of the household is likely to affect this discussion Hochschild, At the same time, generational membership is very influential in determining expectations regarding chore asment, so there is plenty of potential for Coping with adult children over this issue across the generations.

Time and schedules should be discussed up front. Are the older adults going to feel resentful if the young person regularly sleeps in until noon before going out and looking for a job? What do various family members expect in terms of informing each other of their schedules?

Coping with adult children

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When Adult Children Break Your Heart