Being Kind to Adult Children

“I try being kind to her but she is so mean spirited!”

“Everything I do backfires!”

“Until he learns how to behave as an adult I don’t think he deserves my kindness.”

Parents of Adult Children trying to understand how to be kind to their AC

Donna Cameron in A Year of Living Kindly declares the benefits of behaving kindly toward others including increased oxytocin and serotonin, decreased inflamation, more joy and happiness. She explains the “this answers the “what’s in it for me question.”

But is that all? Recently, I did some research of my own. I asked my adult children, “If you told your spouse ‘ wow, my mom was just really kind to me!’ What would that look like? What are some of the things I might have done?”

Curiosity defines my life these days! I want to know what kindness looks like to EACH of my adult children INDIVIDUALLY. Similar to love languages, acts of kindness might go unnoticed or even act as irritants or aggravants to another kid. Take for example, the gift of a phone call. Two of my kids and a couple of their spouses LOVE a long phone conversation about life that goes down rabbit trails about their daily life. One is a truck driver and the diversion makes long road trips enjoyable. However, my daughter-in-love with two young children and a thriving business believes kindness is a NOT keeping her tied to a phone when she has so much on her plate!

For most of our adult children acts of service: running an errand, sending dinner, providing child care, taking car pool duty, helping with kids’ homework, staying with a sick baby, helping throw a birthday party, all speak KINDNESS.

WHY is that true? Our adult children live in a busy overwhelming season of life. If they are in college they have classes, jobs, and friends to juggle. If they have spouses and children they have relationship mazes to throw into the mix. Usually during this season our children are growing their careers as they are growing their families. Even with no disasters such as illness, flood, fire, or job loss, our adult children have daily and annual challenges. They need kindness in large doses.

In conversations with my adult children, the connection between love language and how they understood kindness was clear. Each adult child saw kindness in the love language they spoke. Most saw kindness in acts of service because they NEED help with their busy lives. Words of affirmation ALWAYS speak volumes of kindness to the ones who are

S-T-R-E-T-C-H-I-N-G to achieve personal and career goals.

However, I believe the “golden ticket” came when when one of my daughters explained why kindness looked like words of affirmation. “When you affirm me in what I am doing you are affirming that my work is worth it. That means that my choices are right. All this extra effort is worth it and ultimately…I am worth it. It always goes back to that, doesn’t it? We always need our Momma to tell us we are worth it!”

They are ALWAYS WORTH IT. How do you show kindness to your Adult Children? I would love to hear from you.

Choosing JOY with our Adult Children

Choosing joy is more than just a cliche to hang on your office wall. JOY is a daily practice for parents who want to attract friends, include their adult children.

“It is obvious I have disappointed her. She is just so hard to be around.”

“We love to go my husband’s parents house because his Dad is positive and great to be around!”

“Cari’s mother always finds a way to make the best of every situation. That is why I go to her for advice.” 

With your adult children are you a hunter or a fisherman? 

When they come to visit do they feel like they have a target on their back reminding them of all the ways they have disappointed you in the past 10 years? Do they run from you because of the constant parenting advise? Does the look in your eye say, “not again?” Are you hunting them down to conquer and hold them captive for their previous failures?

OR 

When your adult kids come over do they find their biggest fan? Do they find someone waiting to see them interested in THEIR interests and THEIR careers? When they arrive are their parents willing to STOP and LISTEN? Is the home of the parents of your adult child ATTRACTIVE to those kids? Is that home a place they want to return to? 

One “bait” to attract adult children (or ANYONE for that matter) IS JOY!!! 

JOY is contagious. 

In every home decor store today we see the cliche plaque, “CHOOSE JOY!” 

In the dark season of my parenting, I always thought, “That is easy for you to say! You are not living through what I am living through!” 

Regardless of what DARK NIGHT you are living through—you owe it to yourself and those you love to find the JOY. It won’t be easy. It is not a three-step process or a cliche you can hang on your wall. 

It is not even one prayer or one meditation. It might take more than one season of yoga or more than 15 therapy sessions. 

It is a thousand choices EVERY DAY. 

Some of my choices looked like this:

  1. Keep a gratitude journal. Every day write down three things I am grateful for. Start with…BREATH…
  2. Take colored index cards and write down happy memories beginning with my childhood and hide them all around my house so that I found them when I was doing daily tasks
  3. Recognize and name my feelings, “This is sorrow—not anger.” “This is what anxiety feels like.” 
  4. Allow myself to feel the pain for a time. Set a time that I would analyze the feeling and write down how this felt so I could examine this pain with a clearer head later.
  5. Investigate the feelings through reading books, talking to others, seeking advice. Seeking my own feelings in my own body (does this hurt in my head, my gut, make my back hurt?)
  6. Non-identification—I never said, “I am a depressed person.” I always said, “I feel depressed.” Don’t let yourself be identified with the negative feelings. *
  7. Writing one good thing that happened that day at the end of every day
  8. Smile in the mirror
  9. Say to my spouse, “Let’s make today a GREAT DAY” every day even when I didn’t know how I could swing that.
  10. Go for a walk outside
  11. Visit a new place even if it is just a new neighbor
  12. Try something for the first time, maybe a recipe
  13. Have a snow cone
  14. Do something that makes you look silly
  15. Read fiction
  16. Tell your kids a story about your childhood-especially if it embarrassing
  17. Tell your grandkids a story about your kids’ childhood especially if it is embarrassing
  18. Tell a joke—even if you are terrible at jokes
  19. Watch a funny movie
  20. Laugh out loud
  • Numbers 3-6 Are known as the RAIN process first introduced by Michele McDonald as RAIN: A Mindful Approach to Working through Difficult Emotions

Although every parents journey to JOY is unique, attraction to JOY is universal. Attempt JOY today. Go FISHING… Stop the hunting.

How do you set the bait for your Adult Children to engage with you? I would love to hear from you? 

Becoming a Ladder Builder for My Adult Kids

Becoming a Ladder Builder for My Adult Kids means seeking the shadow instead of the spotlight. Being comfortable in the shadow becomes the superpower of parents of adult children when we learn to connect in authentic relationships.

“I want her to stand on my shoulders so she can be better at this than I am!”

“When he tells us what he is studying we smile and nod like we understand it!”

“We are grateful to hold the ladder for her to climb!”

Even if your adult child doesn’t desire to achieve success in the same field of work as you did, you can hold the ladder for her success! Often we build a business or a career and love it so much, we are sure our kids will follow in our footsteps only to be disappointed when they choose a completely different path.

Sometimes our disappointment stems from unrealized dreams of our own, or it could be something else–maybe you are thinking, “I know NOTHING about that field! How can I possibly help her or be involved in her life anymore?” Fear of being left out of our adult child’s life often drives us to frustration or a spirit of that hinders instead of helps our adult child. What can we do if our adult child has chosen to excel in a direction we KNOW nothing about but we want to BUILD A LADDER (as John Maxwell or Sam Chand would say) for her to succeed?

Mentorship

If I can’t mentor my girl in her chosen profession, alternately I can find her a mentor in her field. Or, as Maxwell mentions in his book Leadershift, I might find her a mentor in the fields of relationships, attitude, leadership, communication, technology, health and wellness, or spiritual development. Even though we won’t share professional insights and stories, we will always share life! I can always hold the ladder for her to excel in all areas of her personal growth!

Whatever she feels she needs I can seek to supply a mentor–other than myself!!

Don’t Forget the Goal!

Often as parents of Adult Children we forget that the goal is to stay connected in an authentic and connected way. We want to be part of their lives in a meaningful way that build authentic transparent relationships.

Our goal is not to promote our agenda or to complete what we may feel we did not finalize as part of our parenting career.

Being in relationships with our adult children means treating them the way we would want a friend to treat us and the way we want to treat our other friends.

Start by asking yourself a few hard questions:

  • Do you see your kids as adults who are growing and becoming better every day?
  • How can you get out of the way for your kids to thrive?
  • Is it hard for you to move out of the way for your kids to succeed or to fail?
  • Can they always apply what I say to their life in their own way? Do I sometimes give them advice that I feel I needed to say to make myself feel better?
  • How can I hold the ladder in an area that HAS NOTHING to do with me or my agenda but ONLY for building them up?

How are you holding the ladder for your adult Children this week? I would love to hear your insight and opinions.

Credibility with Adult Children

“A leader’s credibility begins with personal success . . . To gain credibility, you must consistently demonstrate three things: initiative, sacrifice and maturity.”

Parents are leaders of our home. Like it or not, our kids follow us. They repeat our words when we are angry as often as they repeat our advice when we are wise–probably more often when we are angry. LIFE ISN’T FAIR.

As a mom-leader, I always thought I needed to take the initiative in showing my kids how to work hard(my chores were accomplished along with everyone else), study hard (I got my doctorate when the youngest two were in high school), and play hard (nobody will ever forget mom’s water skiing accident that dislocated her hip!). Waiting around for my teenagers to do their homework and whining when they didn’t follow through on their assignments seemed crazy to me, even when I heard my friends do it. “Take the initiative!” my Mom told me as a little girl, “don’t let the grass grow under your feet.” I never understood what that phrase meant but I knew it meant I had to keep moving!

Parenting equals sacrifice. From the time they are born we sacrifice. We are always the last one to eat. Why is it that the sleeping baby cannot be roused from slumber until the hot meal is set on the table and then the little darling can’t wait another MINUTE to eat? A mom starts sacrificing sleep before the baby is even born. Dads take second jobs and learn to coach sports they swore they would never touch again just so their little athletes can play. Sacrifice is the middle name of parenting.

Then comes maturity. One of my least-finest (is that a term?) parenting moments came the day before my first born daughter’s wedding rehearsal dinner. I have NO IDEA what we were fighting about but I am sure it was insignificant. However, I was done with the fight and told her so. “I am going to my room! Do not follow me!” Um…I said that. I am the mother. I am the mature one here. I ran up the stairs and yelled for her not to follow me! I slammed the door to my bedroom (A HUGE NO-NO IN OUR HOUSE!) and forgot to lock the door. “I said don’t follow me!” I yelled as Rachelle burst through my door way.

“Mom, you have to talk to me. I am your kid. I am getting married, and you are the mother.”

We both burst into tears and fell into each others’ arms. I sure was gonna miss my girl.

So it wasn’t my most mature moment, but the moments that followed were pretty sweet. Despite my immaturity, my credibility remained in tact: I will be there when you need me- even if you have to chase me up the stairs.

How do you build credibility with your adult children? I would love to hear from you.

Changing addiction, anxiety, and depression through connecting

“I know I can quit when I want to. I am just not ready to quit yet…”

“I feel so ashamed of what I have become. I can’t go home for Christmas this year. I am going to tell my family I have to work…”

“I am not sure when it got so crazy. It has been a long time since I felt in control of my own life…”

Young adults trying to stay ahead of their addictions and anxieties

It’s All About Grace

For years I have struggled to understand addiction. I couldn’t get it. So many live in the shame/blame game of constant hiding and guilt and repeated cycles. To me it seemed the addict would DO ANYTHING to escape that life…SO WHY????

Many theories of addiction exist. Most believe addiction is merely a disease we treat clinically. Timothy McMahan King in his insightful book Addiction Nation: What the Opioid Crisis Reveals About Us details how addiction is disease, culture, context, and pervasive in American society.

Putting it bluntly, Gerald May in Addiction and Grace states, “All people are addicts…To be alive is to be addicted, and to be alive and addicted is to stand in need of grace.”

STANDING IN NEED OF GRACE…this I can wrap my mind around. OF COURSE…

Just like Paul, I constantly do the thing I don’t want to do and it makes me feel miserable. And the very acts I LONG TO DO…promote kindness and selflessness…I fail to do every day. My quick tongue is ALWAYS ahead of my logical thinking brain! I NEED SOME GRACE. ADDICTED TO SARCASM and RUDENESS. And it does bring me anxiety and depression…

So what is the answer?

Quit the Shame Game

Like all addictions, the natural response is SHAME. When I want to hide that is when shame has its most power. When my mouth threatens to tear apart a relationship, just like a drug or alcohol can do, instead of running away I must run TO my home and community of support.

Obviously, connection to community unites when relationships were smashed open through harsh words. But where is the data which concludes that healing could occur when relationships have been pulled asunder through drugs and alcohol through HOME AND COMMUNITY.

DOES IT EXIST…

Yes.

When soldiers returned from the Vietnam War, 43 % reported that they had been using heroin on a regular basis while away. Of the reported users 20% considered themselves addicted to the drug. Believing The United States was entering a new era of addiction crisis, the US government prepared for follow up treatments and regular drug testing for all returning military men. However, after six months home, the new veterans were reported to have returned to their former abstinence of drugs or their former level of drug use before their deployment.

In other words, once home, the heroin did not have the addiction effect it had while in Viet Nam. CONTEXT WAS KEY. The government concluded, “We need to look for at addiction from an angle for which the disease model does not occur.”

There’s No Place Like Home

Researchers like Neil Levy and Bruce Alexander state that addiction is “embedded in a social context.” Rather than a reflection of an aberrant individual, addiction occurs as a response to an untenable situation. Wouldn’t this account for the Vietnam Vets addiction and their ability to quit their heroin use when they returned to their loving environments?

King records several other historical and longitudinal studies which reveal patterns of displacement and cultural disintegration precede substance abuse. What happens when the displacement and disintegration are reversed? OFTEN SO ARE THE ADDICTIONS AND ABUSES…

King, in Addition Nation discusses “a place to call home is a powerful prerequisite in helping people recover.” Home is a place to unpack our past and connect.

Alexander tells the story of the Alkali Lake Band in British Columbia where alcoholism went from nearly 100% to a 98% sobriety rate in seven short years. The culture of the tribe changed when the Chief and his wife and local police committed to principles of Alcoholics Anonymous, reinstituted prohibition on the island, increased access to treatment and committed themselves to old cultural practices in the community. These cultural practices bound the culture together through their uniqueness and identity. Their motto, “culture is treatment” rings true in homes and communities dedicated to openness with unity instead of shame or blame.

What about those who are never able to “return home” to their safe place?

Most adults have two homes: the home we come from and the home we make. Our adult children may struggle to make their own homes safe from stress and trauma. Perhaps this is because they need help in understanding the home they emerged from. Can they distinguish when the confrontations where necessary and where they were emotionally “over the top?” Do they need us to LISTEN to their perspective on those memories?

We can connect to our adult children through authentic revelation of the home they grew up in. Imperfection, doubt, mistakes make up the fabric of our children’s formative years as much as birthday parties, summer camp, and winter vacations. Own the joy and the sorrow. Speak openly about your pain and your glory.

Build a unique identity within your own family. The place called home equates to a place of healing where all members are open to growth and let go of shame and blame. Hear the stories of your adult children… build openness and connection.

Next Week Part Five:

How changing the world through connecting adult children to their parents changes the world: How far can the revolution go?

Change the world of distorted body image, abuse, and abortion

“I don’t see why my parents make such a big deal about my partying now. I’m young! My body will recover when I am older…”

“Why didn’t someone tell me that I would live with the choices I made about my body in my early twenties? Now I have nightmares and can never have children…”

“I guess it boils down to the fact that I think my body carries a moral message–I am a man. End of story”.

Applications from Love thy Body by Nancy Pearcey

As I said last week, we can’t change every situation between every parent and his adult children. No army can win every battle. No team wins every game.

However, this movement of parents of adult children seeking to connect for the sake of unity and authenticity can change MANY disconnections between parents and their adults kids. Parents who actively seek to understand the mystery of body disorientation, physical abuse, abortion, and gender confusion may ask significant questions relating to their young adults who may be probing for answers.

If these parents have read and researched they will be better equipped to deal with the answers that may have previously frightened or even shocked them.

Desiring attachment to their children, parents of adult children pray about situations which wave red flags of body distortion. If we want to be strategically effective engaging our adult children we cannot hide from weighty discussion behind platitudes or ignorance. As C. S. Lewis said, “We must engage about the nature and significance of life itself.”

As parents of adults, don’t be afraid of hard conversations. Listen. Ask questions. As always, explore where your adult children are struggling and don’t be afraid when you are out of your depth.

Honest engagement in discussing our identity with our bodies needs to begin with a worldview or philosophy of what we believe about our bodies. My sounds something like: I am an eternal soul living in a human body which I must nurture and hold sacred because it is a temple created with a Divine purpose. Of course, I am not gonna preach this to my kid, but I must be solid on what I BELIEVE then I can begin questioning what the worldview of a body created for Divine Purposes means TO ME:

  • How does this idea affect MY STANCE on abortion? If bodies are created for purposes then I have no right to destroy a body (mine or anyone else’s because that is destroying something created for God’s purpose).
  • How does the idea of a DIVINE purpose affect MY STANCE on physical abuse in dating relationships? Marriages? Families? Physical abuse injures the instrument created by God to bring about His Divine Purposes. I can never condone physical abuse of any kind. My behavior must always be to TALK, LISTEN, DISCUSS, ENCOURAGE, and find out why someone in my children’s home would feel the need for physical abuse of another human. IT IS NOT MY PLACE TO CONDEMN–it is my place to heal and help. It is my place to be present.
  • How does this idea affect MY STANCE on gender identity? As the mature parent I must determine my worldview on the biblical roles of man and woman and what the roles mean in today’s culture. I must be thoroughly immersed in the biblical worldview which most closely identifies with my spiritual priorities. This might be yours: The biblical teaching that we are created in the image of God means that even though humans are part of nature, we do not find our full identity in nature. We cannot be reduced to merely part of the natural world. Even the features we share with other organisms, such as our sexuality, cannot be fully understood in merely biological terms. Sex is not only about biological drives and needs, whether for pleasure or reproduction, but also about the communion of persons. The communion of male and female is meant to mirror the communion of divine persons within the Trinity. ~Nancy Pearcey Love Thy Body p. 139

In order to change the world in the areas concerning the body, parents of adult children MUST identify what we believe about the BODY… this is not often a topic we discuss…but we SHOULD. These are not topics we should leave off when our kids leave puberty–often they are just beginning to sort out WHO THEY ARE AS SEXUAL BEINGS. BE OPEN TO HEAR AND DISCUSS THESE IDEAS!

Since my children were small children, we have been pro-life advocates. They all grew up knowing my views about life. However, many conversations we could not practice because I could not anticipate. Working backward from the stance of “abortion would be the ultimate physical abuse because it is physical murder of the body,” I could open a dialogue about “where would that start in an idea of the body?”

Where could your dialogue of the body begin in an open honest curious dialogue? Be honest, true, and authentic.

Dogma is NOT the goal here. Opinions, research, ideas, and experiences come into plays in developing the conversations. The more we understand about ALL sides of these issues the better we can relate and connect to our grow-up kids.

You can change the world through the discussion with your adult children. But you have to begin the discussion.

I would love to hear from you concerning books, podcasts, authors, on these important topics.

Coming Next week:

Part Four:

How changing the world through connecting adult children to their parents changes the world of addiction, anxiety, and depression

Part Five:

How changing the world through connecting adult children to their parents changes the world: How far can the revolution go?