Setting Boundaries: The Principle

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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?

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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. 

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

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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.

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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. 

PEOPLE DEPEND ON BOUNDARIES TO FEEL SAFE AND FAMILIAR. WHEN THE FAMILIAR IS REMOVED, THE HUMANS WITHOUT BOUNDARIES ARE LEFT LOST AND CONFUSED.

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 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.  

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:

I AM SAD.

I AM NOT DEALING WELL WITH THIS CHANGE IN MY LIFE. 

 

 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:

LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS! 

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 !

Special Holiday Blogs: Gratefulness When Yesterday was Sad

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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.”

Topics include:

  • Exhibiting Gratefulness: Even if  Yesterday was Sad
  • Family Traditions: How to Keep Them when the kids are grown
  • Juggling Family During the Holidays
  • Lowering Expectations During the Holidays
  • Focus on Today: No Holiday Pity-Parties
  • Setting Goals for Being a Better Parent to Your AC

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Exhibiting Gratefulness: Even if  Yesterday was Sad

“There are too many expectations. I can’t take it.”

“We are going to pass on Thanksgiving this year. There isn’t enough time off from work.”

Whatever the reasons your dear one did not attend yesterday’s festivities, the loneliness is real. Trying to avoid sadness, just because the absence was LOGICAL doesn’t heal a wounded heart.  When the pain is emotional and spiritual, only supernatural healing will do.

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Ideas from myself and my friends whose adult children did not share Thanksgiving with them:

  • Make a Thanksgiving scrapbook reminding yourself of all the happy times you WERE together
  • Change your traditions by going to someone else’s home or inviting others who have no family here to share with you
  • Help serve with the Salvation Army or other organization that feeds the homeless
  • Take homemade treats to policemen, firemen, or nurses who are having to work the holiday
  • Invite other couples whose kids are not home for the holiday

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Change is your friend when suffering loneliness and sadness.

Don’t try to keep the same traditions. This intensifies how much you miss your kids.

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Finally, but primarily—PRAY.

Psalm 55:22 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (ESV)

Prayer may not cheer you up at once but prayer can turn your heart and mind around in a way cheerful words and scrapbooks cannot.

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Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (ESV). 

Many times I have been depressed and feeling worse by the minute when a simple prayer of “HELP ME! I can’t do this!” was all God needed to intervene in my sorrow.

Psalm 94:18-19 “When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

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How have you overcome sorrow, anxiety, or depression during the holidays without your Adult Children?

Share below that others may share in your joy.

SURVIVING DISAPPOINTMENTS: REBELLION FROM CHILDREN

This is a series on how to survive the disappointments that come to our adult children. I would love your feedback and insight with ideas on how YOU have survived and helped your children survive. These are the topics in the series:

  • Disappointed by an untrustworthy friend?
  • Disappointed in a job situation?
  • Disappointed in academic possibilities?
  • Disappointed in marriage? 
  • Disappointed with infertility?
  • Disappointed with rebellion from their children?

 

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TODAY: DISAPPOINTED BY THEIR CHILDREN

Recently one of my daughters shared her HUGE concern with me about her middle child’s rebellion. About three weeks before our conversation, the four-year-old began having temper fits and crying melt-downs every day.  Mom’s request to, “wait till after lunch for gum,” was met with over an hour of crying while following Mom from room to room.

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When our children rebelled as teens we took whatever means were available to stop the behavior. Many of us took away privileges and privacy from the would-be rebel. Some of us resorted to counselors and therapists for the period of rebellion, but watching your adult child struggle with her daughter is different:

you don’t control the situation in ANY way.

 

 

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The only thing you can control when your Adult Child’s child is rebelling is your own ATTITUDE…and this is often difficult. 

When another daughter’s 20 year old wrecked havoc in their home by destroying property and refusing to either stay in school or get a job, I was HELPLESS, frustrated, and a bit panicked.  The only thing I could do was set the emotional tone:

  • Model calmness and control
  • Never put down your adult child in her parenting role
  • Do not side with the rebel
  • Don’t give ultimatums or “if that was my child” statements
  • Lead with love and kindness for both parties

Seasons of rebellion, like diapers, can seem endless.

BE PATIENT.

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Pray for long-suffering attitudes of peace and kindness.

Are you dealing with rebellious grandchildren and parents who are clueless and approaching hopelessness?

Drop your comments below and receive our

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“10 Commandments of Overcoming Anger.”

 

 

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Next up: Special Holiday Blogs

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.”

Topics include:

  • Exhibiting Gratefulness: Even if Yesterday was Sad
  • Family Traditions: How to Keep Them when the kids are grown
  • Juggling Family During the Holidays
  • Lowering Expectations During the Holidays
  • Focus on Today: No Holiday Pity-Parties
  • Setting Goals for Being a Better Parent to Your AC

SURVIVING DISAPPOINTMENTS: INFERTILITY

Rachelle sleeping with baby Tate

This is a series on how to survive the disappointments that come to our adult children. I would love your feedback and insight with ideas on how YOU have survived and helped your children survive. These are the topics in the series:

  • Disappointed by an untrustworthy friend?
  • Disappointed in a job situation?
  • Disappointed in academic possibilities?
  • Disappointed in marriage? 
  • Disappointed with infertility?
  • Disappointed with rebellion from their children?

 

TODAY: DISAPPOINTED BY INFERTILITY

 

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Do you see that sweet smile on my girl’s face?  The reward for her six years of waiting is holding tightly to her hand. 

Six year of tests. Six years of supplements. Six years of pain and disappointment. Six years of tears and screams.

Infertility has MANY FORMS!

Once a dear friend of ours struggled for ten years to conceive again after the birth of her first son. When she asked for prayer because of her infertility, a misinformed friend said, “You don’t have infertility! You have a child!”

Rachelle (my daughter above), endured two miscarriages between babies two and three. Then she endured FOUR more baby deaths between Juliet (baby five) and Tatum (the baby in the picture). My heart went through the blender every time I got the call…”there’s no heartbeat,” “the baby didn’t make it,” “things aren’t right.”

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I stood holding the phone with no arms or legs—I couldn’t run from the pain or take up my machete and kill the agony. There were never any answers, only lots of questions:

  • We love each other. We are married. We try to raise our kids in a godly manner. Why would God punish us by taking our baby?
  • Am I doing something wrong?
  • Is my husband at fault?
  • Why does God not want us to have any children?

 

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When there is no answer to a question parents should not offer an answer. 

Our kids don’t need our answers, they need our shoulder and our ears. We need to allow weeping and screaming. 

 

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Don’t be alarmed if their anger is directed at God. Don’t be alarmed if their anger is directed at you. Don’t be alarmed if you feel their anger is out-of-control.

During the angry outbursts, offer your shoulder and your prayers. If the angry outbursts persist for months suggest counseling. Offer to pay for the counselor if money is a challenge.

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If instead of anger your child suffers depression follow the same procedure but insist on counseling–the consequences are MUCH more severe.

The inability to conceive a child morphs other pain. Infertility needs love and support–never condemnation or harshness.

 

 

I would love to hear how you helped your adult children through this terrible disappointment. Please leave your comments below.

 

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Everyone who leaves a comment below will receive a download poster of scriptures for strength and healing.