Setting Relationship Goals with your Adult Children

Do you set New Year’s goals?

Gonna lose weight?

Gonna earn more money?

Set a goal to improve your relationship with your adult children. Here are four simple tips: 

  • Setting relationship goals with our adult children is not a one size fits all proposition. The way I treat my eldest son is very different from the way I treat my youngest daughter. However, I can improve both relationships. I need to set goals to connect with both of them in 2019. Thinking of their love languages helps me connect uniquely with that adult child. 
    • We often speak our own love language to our adult children and can’t figure out why don’t feel loved. Be curious in knowing their love language. (See my previous blog posts on that topic explaining each love language and how to speak it to your adult child!)
    • As parents to adult children we leave the past in the past. Regardless of how rebellious they were as teens or the crazy antics they performed as adolescents–we approach them as adults now.
  • Time ALONE with our adult children pays big dividends in terms of insight and info. Although as teens they may have run from us, while pursuing other relationships, as they mature they want more time with us. And what do we do with the time? We listen–more curiosity needed. We remove the judgmental filters that cause us to think, “Well, that’s dumb. Why do you think that?” I often told my teen daughters, “You are not held accountable for what you DO NOT SAY!” I take my own advice often now.
  • Can you be interested in what they are interested in? Can you listen to them talking about what they are engaged with now? One of our daughters is in school so Ted and I are back in school. One son loves to talk about cars–so we listen about cars.  Building a relationship means building interest in their interest.
    • We tune in to their intellectual and emotional wavelength. We engage them in THEIR LIFE not ours. We must get to know THEM.  Recently someone gave me the great compliment, “You are a student of your kids.” Yep, I work at knowing them. 
  • Noah St. John suggests, we ask to improve the relationship with two questions, “On the scale of one to ten where do you see our relationship?” When the person answers anything less than 10 your next question is, “What can I do to make our relationship a 10?” Then LISTEN and take action on what your adult child suggests.

We CAN improve our relationship with our adult children. Like ALL goals this one will take a PLAN and WORK! But what is more important? As we all know, the most important things in life are not things at all. 

Happy New Year.

What are some goals you have for your relationship with your adult children this year? I would love to hear them! Drop them in the comments below!


A Habit of Gratitude

It is impossible to overstate the importance of developing good habits. In children, good habits develop their character. 
Parents of young kids work on teaching the habits of hygiene and good manners.
But perhaps the most important habit we can teach our children is the habit of gratitude. Gratitude enlarges the brain and develops empathy for others. Gratitude reflects a heart of understanding towards others. Gratitude enlarges the number of friends one has—because grateful people are happy people. In his book The Happiness Advantage Shawn Achor recommends that folks keep a gratitude journal. Achor is one of more than a dozen authors who recommend this practice for keeping us on track with a grateful heart. Today book stores and office supply stores stock a variety of cute gratitude journals—but what other ways can we model gratitude for our kids and others in our lives?
When my children were small one ‘game’ we played was a “go-around” in the car while everyone yelled one thing they were grateful for that day. We started the list with ‘A’ and tried to keep it going till we got to ‘Z’ and someone had to be grateful for the ever- present zebra.
Did this one habit change the lives of my adult children? Well, it helped! I can safely affirm that claim. While some sour-faced toddlers grew into temperamental preteens and moody adolescents, my clan— for the most part— learned to handle emotions with a more steady and calm assurance that
situations change and generally, with work, circumstances improve. 
When we first moved to Houston, Ted was pursuing a doctorate.  Times were tight. Our daughter was going to public school which meant LUNCH MONEY!!! Naturally, before sending our first grader off to school we often had to play “find the change in the couch cushions.” Not only was this a great way to avoid negative thinking during that time but it taught her that there could be FUN in the hard times! A side benefit: now that she is a mom of six children, she has mastered that game with her own kiddos years later!
Did we accomplish this grateful thinking 100% of the time— no. I lean toward the pessimistic side of the street while Ted resides permanently on the sunny side of life.
Reaping the benefits of gratitude today, I see my happy grandchildren often writing “thank you” notes in whatever imaginary handwriting they employ for the day.  They have been thankful for snails, frisbees, friends, and chocolate chips.  A recent conversation went like this…
Me, “ Thank you for the sweet note. Can you read it to me?”
Darling grandchild, “This says thank you for the cookie.”
Me, “What cookie?”
“The one you are going to give me, Silly.”
Gratitude has its pay off! 

Why Do I Have to Practice Parenting?

We practice law. We practice medicine. Who practices parenting?

We practice law. We practice medicine. Shouldn’t we practice parenting?

FamilyEaster2017Practice parenting. That is what you are going to go with?”

My poor husband was baffled. After 15 months of talking about reopening my blog to discuss the phenomenon of being the parent to ALL adult children he was sure I would have a better title that PRACTICE!!

“Why do you have to practice this? You have been a mom for almost 40 years. Aren’t you a pro already?”

As a matter of fact, I am a pro. Dictionary.com defines  a professional is someone who is engaged in a profession. (Don’t you love when the definition tells you nothing?) But the word profession is defined as an occupation, especially one that requires PROLONGED training! (Emphasis all mine!).

I have been a parent over three decades and I have been ‘in training’ every day.

Check that one! I am a pro!

But the word practice is used to mean the carrying out or exercise of a profession. Of course you have most often heard this in the use of a law practice of the practice of medicine. Obviously we would all love to read a physician’s post after 35 years of treating the common cold on how to avoid the germs and make the illness pass more quickly, right? If an attorney who have been practicing a quarter of a century posts on how to draw up the unbreakable contract you would read that, right? Sure! 

So here I am: professional parent (because of the INTENSE and EXTENSIVE  training) and I am putting out my shingle to say: Welcome to my practice! 

Lots of us think we are still in the business of practicing— like Little League baseball: show up every day from 3-5 and take a swing and a miss until you get it right. Hence, my tagline: everything worth doing is worth practicing. That should let the readier know: I am still swinging and missing at being a parent to adults…but I am willing for you to grab a seat and watch me swing.

What I REALLY want from the readership is a lot of armchair coaches who can comment on how to better swing at how to celebrate your grown kids when they do something GREAT, like have a birthday! I hope to get coaching advice on posts about when to give advice to your kids and when to take the advice they are giving you.

My goal is that PRACTICE PARENTING can be both a sounding board for when we royally mess this up and an advice column when we truly want and need help. 





Setting Boundaries: Money

When is it right to give my Adult Children money?

Is it ALWAYS wrong to pay their rent?

Should I pay for a divorce to help get them out of a bad situation?

When will I know I have given too much to my Adult Children?

What if giving gifts is their love language? Then shouldn’t I give money to my Adult Children?

 Why would you give money to your Adult Children? 

Everybody needs help from time to time. I remember when we were adopting two of our children. The attorney’s fees and expenses were adding up. As my stress level increased the bank balance decreased. One day my dad came to visit and left a “welcome to the family” gift for my kids. I was in my mid-30s and had been married for more than a decade. I wasn’t reckless with cash and my husband had a good job–but what a nice surprise.

Life happens. Sometimes our adult children have a life or health challenge. They can’t work and need help with rent, groceries, necessities. How would you feel about helping out?

Or maybe they need help with a new project or venture. Several of our adult children own their own businesses and getting off the ground can be expensive. That seems more of an investment than a hand out, right?

What are some of the limits you have on giving your adult children money? Never? Only for education or business ventures? Would you help with the down payment on a house? Or do you do it like a “dividend pay out: If we have extra we give it to the kids?

Many of our Adult Children have a great education. They also experienced more opportunity than has ever been possible for young adults before in America. Most of us, as parents, made sure that they were smothered in possibilities we never had.

The result: too often our AC now believe that they cannot move forward unless they have ALL the opportunities, education, possibilities to take on a new venture.  They refuse to take risks out of fear of failure or perfectionism.  Their lack of initiative might put them in a financial bind and they end up needing us to bail them out–with cash! 

We have said YES! to some of the requests for financial help with our kids. As I think of those times I am so glad we said yes. The benefits far out weigh the cash expense.

And there have been those times we did not hesitate to say “no, not this time.” I have no regrets about those times either. If we had given the requested help I believe that we would have resented it and felt used.

It takes lots of wisdom and discernment to know where to set the boundary in giving money to our adult children.

There don’t seem to be any hard and fast rules about when to say “yes” and when to say “no!” to our kids about money. But communication rules do dictate that every family needs to have rules and guidelines about loaning, giving, forwarding money to our adult children.

What are your family’s house rules concerning money? I would love to hear from you!

Setting Boundaries: The Principle


Why do we need to set boundaries with our Adult Children?

We barely ever see them, shouldn’t we just be HAPPY to have them around?

What if they need me and I am not there?


As young children, our kids knew boundaries kept them safe. They ventured as far as the fence in the backyard, or the neighbor’s house, or the next door woods. As long as they knew where the boundary lay, they felt safe to go RIGHT UP to the line. 


Time, such as bedtime, threw up a boundary.  Teeth brushing, story reading, prayer saying all happened BEFORE the appointed hour.


When they became adults, some of our kids lost sight of the boundaries. Staying up all night at college or wandering far from home blurred the lines that once stood as fences around their time and space. Re-enter the life of Mom and Dad.


When adult children return to the nest, clear guidelines make for happy home life. When a young adult is free to roam with no limits on her freedom she begins to feel insignificant to the home life. Often, parents of adult children believe that their adult children want NO BOUNDARIES to the time they can come and go, money they can spend, or space in the home they can take up. However, if a child was raised with legitimate boundaries in the home and no boundaries remain the person experiences diffidence.  A once boustrous, fun-loving human now becomes sullen and depressed. 



 Remember when your teenager would ask you if she could spend the night with a friend or go to a party only to cup her hand over the phone so the friend couldn’t hear and whisper to you, “Say no! I don’t really want to go?”  The same is true now: your adult child returning home might SCREAM “I wanna be free!” And you must hear, “I wanna be free inside the graceful boundaries you set for me.”

What boundaries do you set for your adult children? In the next few weeks we want to talk about boundaries of our time, our money, our space and how all this relates to our Adult Children. I would love to hear some success stories (and even a nightmare or two) of the boundaries you have set with your Adult Children.  

Balance: A Five Minute Blog

I wrote this during the holiday when Kate Motaung challenged our little writers group to write five minutes on BALANCE…

I sat listening to the speaker thinking, “If only that were really possible!” 
As with most women’s talks during Christmas, this Christmas dinner speaker admonished all the mommies in the room to, “Relax! Let the shopping and cooking go and focus on Jesus!” With five kiddos in my house that was such a joke! I wanted that peace and meditation but I knew it could NEVER happen. 



Fast forward 20 years, now the speaker at my women’s group is talking about, “Fill your days with loving activity for others.” Different group—different season—same challenge: FOCUS. Although most of my friends have grown children (this is not the same as empty nest!) they still complain of lack of time to spend in prayer and “Jesus focus.”

The problem is not our time: the problem is our focus. 


Back 20 years. I remember hearing that woman at that Christmas dinner, and seeing that, despite the fact that she had twins and lived on a farm, she found time to spend with Jesus. I didn’t know how He could answer, but I prayed that God would make it happen the next day.

Be careful what you pray for! 

The next day I only had 26 items on my “to do” list before 6 p.m. when we had to attend another Christmas party. After putting the third load of laundry in my washing machine I turned to run make the cookies to take to the party and… the door was locked. No joke. I banged on the door but… I had an OLD WASHER that sounded like a 747 was landing in the laundry room. The kids were upstairs doing their chores and … yep.

I was stuck.


My personality style would normally kick and claw my way out, but instead… I sat down on laundry piles numbered 4-10 and … laughed. REALLY. OUT LOUDLY.

God had locked me in my laundry room so I would pray. 
And I did.

This isn’t me nor what I looked like at all…but we need to give this give a laugh! Or an “amen.”

Cookies are nice. Kids need clothes. Everybody has to bathe. But JESUS is worth the time. 

Advent is over now, but in 2019 I am hoping He doesn’t have to lock me in the laundry to get my attention.


Two of my goals:

!. Focus on Jesus first thing in the morning–whether than means five minutes or 50 minutes.

2. Make my choices on what will please Him–and honor my husband and adult children.

What are some of your FOCUS goals for 2019? I would love to hear.


No Pity-Parties

When we become sentimental and nostalgic, we move into a new realm of self-pity. AVOID THIS!

We can choose our attitudes, which will drive our actions. During this holiday season our attitudes can unify us and bring peace.  This series of posts work on putting more “happy” in our “happy holidays.”


Happiness begins with what we CANNOT ATTEND During the Holiday

a Pity-Party for one...


Why can’t it be the way it was?

Why did I spend so many years cooking and shopping and wrapping gifts to end up alone on Christmas?

How could they have forgotten me? 

Having spent 35 years as a parent, I have experienced a few SAD holidays. Some years the depression and sadness felt like a weighted blanket on my chest. My poor family endured  the years when my sadness turned to anger…and those I loved fell in the wake of that storm. 


Is depression real?  Absolutely.

Is sorrow engulfing? You bet. 

Can we make it through…I believe so. 

Through lots of prayers, counseling, talking, and BEING REAL I have learned I can admit when:




 Years ago when I opened up and told a friend, “I give up. I can’t do Christmas this year. I am sad and over my head with grief and now I need to fulfill the kids’ expectations. I just can’t do it.” 

My sweet friend replied, “I thought you were trying to reduce the expectations you set for every one else?  Why are are showing them they can keep setting unreal expectations from you?” She paused and added, “That isn’t very good parenting, is it?” 

That little bit of sarcastic humor reminded me that I DID NOT have to pretend to be happy, but I was not ALLOWED to throw a pity-party either.

 That year I learned three tips on surviving the holiday without lying about my emotional state or throwing a pity-party.  

1. If someone asked “how are you?”  in a manner that meant, “I am trying to be polite on my way to the buffet,” I simply said, “fine.” This was not lying because from his perspective I was just fine. (Not bleeding on the carpet or about to stab anyone = Just fine, thank you.) However, when a dear friend asked me, “Is it hard this year?” I honestly stated, “Harder than I thought it would be.” Then I HONESTLY finished with a statement like, “But the sun will come out tomorrow!” or “There are PLENTY of things for me to be happy about, though.”

     2.  When we are sad, just like in yoga, we have to”set our intention” every morning.  During that dark holiday, before I got out of bed I set my mind to focus on some previous holiday that brought out a smile.  I looked through scrapbooks and old Facebook posts to find a year with merry and bright memories and that was my “intention” for the day.

3. I prayed. This sounds like a no-brainer but at first this activity felt like an aerobic exercise wearing heavy army boots. In the beginning I was just as mad at or disappointed with God as I was anyone else. I dreaded pouring my heart out to Him since I knew He knew better than I did exactly how I felt. And then, one day it happened: instead of repelled by the idea to divulge all my sorrow and self-pity, the prayer felt like– breathing.  I couldn’t stop myself and I realized I was not nearly as sorry as I had been only days before. 

During this time, I saw a counselor who continually guided me back to a path where I left self-pity behind.  Sure, some days were abominable and lonely, but together we devised ways for me to focus on the HAPPY of the holiday and the GOOD of good wishes. 

We may not be able to cancel the pity-party on our own–but we can refuse to send out invitations to everyone we meet.

Then we find there are other parties, lots of other parties, that are more fun to throw and to attend. 

Do you have ways of coping with sadness during the holidays?  I would love for you share your suggestions below.














Lowering Expectations

One sure way to increase happiness this holiday is to lower the expectations you have for others to perform.

Relationships can make any holiday tough, especially when your Adult Children are juggling their time between you, other relatives, and their new adult friends.

When we are tempted to self-pity or sadness about our lack of time with our adult children we have to remember:

We can choose our attitudes, which will drive our actions during this holiday season to be more peaceful and unifying.


This is fourth in a series on: Putting More Happy in our Holidays! 

The goal this week:

acceptance vs. expectation.


If you had a time machine, what is the one suggestion you would go back and share with your 30-year-old self? 

My first answer to that question is EASY:


The memories that make me cringe are ALWAYS the ones where I allowed my emotions to get away from me because I had set the expectations TOO HIGH!


As a  high achieving family, our STRIVE for Excellence sometimes spilled over into our holiday planning.  OF COURSE, we thought we could make a four hour car trip, visit three sets of parents and grandparents, feed the kids WAY too much sugar and expect them to act like ANGELS in front of the relatives!

Naturally, I thought I could keep the girls up cooking until midnight, the boys up to the same hour loading the presents and expect everyone to roll out of bed with a happy face the next morning to start the trip to the grandparents.

Sarcasm can’t even make those disastrous holidays sound better: they were nightmares waiting to happen. 

The phrase, “shoot yourself in the foot” was invented for me during the busy overachieving years. 

I had to learn the harsh truth: I was going to disappoint someone during the holiday. Aunt Betty would surely not understand if we didn’t make it to the Christmas party two hours away during the work week. But otherwise, I was REALLY disappointing my kids and husband by being such a GROUCH! 

And now…I have to give grace to my 30-year-children like I wanted someone to give grace to my 30-year-old self.


Although I would love to bake cookies with, wrap gifts with, and basically just BE WITH my adult children for hours during the holiday, I cannot expect all this from them. 

I have to be realistic and extend the kind of grace to them that I needed: I must want them to enjoy the time we have together without compromising their own holiday happiness!

If I can focus on the child(ren) right in front of me (and not the ones who are absent) and enjoy every moment I am with that child, then I can let the unmet expectations melt like snow on a sunny day.

AND we will ALL have a happier holiday.

Juggling Family During the Holidays!


Relationships can make any holiday tough. Especially when your Adult Children are juggling their time between you, other relatives, and their new adult friends. We can choose our attitudes, which will drive our actions during this holiday season to be more peaceful and unifying. Let’s work together to put more “happy” in our “happy holidays.”


Juggle commitments–not relationships

I don’t think it is fair that they never spend Christmas with us. They always go to her family!

Why should we have to share them during the holidays? The other side of the family never even visits them.

I can’t believe she is spending Christmas with her friends instead of her family! What did we do wrong? 

Often heard over Christmas ham and potatoes

For young families, Christmas holidays are SO SHORT and the opportunities so numerous our calendars and schedules are full before we REALLY get time to think, “How do I want to spend this time?” 

I remember when Ted and I had young children and he served in a growing suburban church. Every Sunday School class had a Christmas party starting December 1 and filled the calendar until December 22! Some nights there were two or three events to attend including Christmas pageants and children’s choir performances. It was no wonder that by the time Christmas Eve came around one or all of the family had the flu! 

Some days we can’t  remember the days that we BEGGEd for a quite moment! 

As the children grew and started having parties and events of their own, our life reached a normal rhythm where we could survive without a trip to the ER. Now, we may even have four or five nights in a row with no obligations.

Yippee! More time to do the kinds of things we dream of for the holiday–cocoa and Christmas carols. Maybe even a Hallmark movie! But does that sentiment make you nostalgic? Are you longing for the “good old days” that almost made you crazy?

Are you longing to be the only one planning your children’s holiday plans?

Recently, I confessed to my husband that I wanted to wave my wand and have all the kids home for Christmas without  any “sharing.” 

“You mean like you did at Thanksgiving?” He is such a smart-mouth. Yes, exactly like I did at Thanksgiving!  (That wasn’t even TOTALLY accurate, two of the eight kids couldn’t return this year!)

Time to be an adult about our adult children

Of course, we can’t REALLY be greedy with our married children–their “other family” deserves to enjoy them at the holiday as well–at least that is how we want to be logical and ADULT in our thinking!

We are blessed to have adult children that others WANT to be around.

The friends and extended family can’t wait to be with our kids because they are so relaxed and comfortable to be around. Our adult kids make others feel better just by walking in the room–of course people want them for the holiday. 

This year I am going to juggle my schedule. I am going to juggle shopping, parties, cooking, and decorating. And when I MUST  juggle my people, I am going to CELEBRATE them for the amazing humans they are when I get to see them.

Obviously, pecan pie can’t cure everything–but it is a good start! 

And when I think about not having them as often as I wish–I am going to eat enough pecan pie to wash that bitter taste out of my mouth and spirit !