The first in our new Dear DIY Woman series, in response to a question from one of our regular readers.
Dear DIY Woman,
Any suggestions about how to stay connected to young adult children? It feels like obligation to family is out of style, or is that just me seeing it from the other side now? Are freedom and connection binary opposites?
Thank you for suggesting the Dear DIY Woman advice column. I love giving gratuitous advice and will do my best to justify your faith in my wisdom. And be assured, it IS born of pain.
Here are three things to avoid at all costs when dealing with young adult children:
To be lame is to be damned.
The odd mum joke around the dinner table is one thing but publicly embarrassing your offspring is another. Social media is a veritable hotbed of lameness. Your young adult children are utterly humourless where their social media is concerned.
If, in a moment of madness, you request their friendship on social media and are accepted (I’m told it can happen), resist all temptation to make ‘funny’ comments on their pages. I also advise against ‘friending’ your children’s friends. I made that mistake immediately after the wedding of my son, for ease of photo exchange. My Facebook page became a forum for inappropriate commentary and questionable jokes guaranteed to test familial bonds. For everyone’s sake jump off that train before you are pushed. It won’t end well.
If you insist on living on the edge, exercise caution when posting anything about your children, no matter how hilarious you find it. However, if the joke is just too good to let go – in other words, if you still think it’s worth the fallout after due consideration from all angles – go ahead and do it. It might just pay off.
Nagging is telling your children something twice.
Second only to being lame, nagging is not only a mortal sin, it’s futile. To those, for example, in the habit of lecturing their children every Saturday night on the evils of excessive alcohol consumption, I pose the question:
Are your children aware of your feelings about excessive alcohol consumption?
If the answer is yes, then stop saying it. You have done your job as a responsible parent.. (You might like to back up your words with a few AFDs* every week, but that is entirely up to you.)
Neediness is a very unattractive trait in a parent.
If your young adult children refuse to attend Sunday night roasts with the extended family, ask yourself why you’re insisting on their presence. Is grandma really on her last legs, or are you worried that their absence will reflect badly on you? Or is it simply that you need their moral support because your in-laws are insufferable?
Set them free.
They are adults. On their heads be it. You might even benefit from their example. You can’t choose your relatives, but you can choose your friends. Life is too short, people!
Their decision not to attend family functions does not cast your parenting in a bad light. Indeed, it demonstrates you don’t rely on emotional blackmail in your relationships with your children.
The best way to avoid neediness is to prioritise yourself in your own pecking order. Your children won’t thank you for having no life. No one enjoys the pressure of being the sole focus of the hopes and expectations of others.
Set yourself free
An engaged parent is an interesting parent, or at least a parent with whom young adults don’t mind spending time. Join a book group. Learn Italian. Take up woodworking. By doing something for you, you are telling the world ( and yourself) that you matter. And you do.
And here are three more ideas to help you stay connected:
Plan fun stuff that costs money.
Since the last time I ran away from home, my children and I have started meeting for lunch at a cafe of their choice. It works for everyone. They get a free meal and I get to see they have at least one decent meal every couple of weeks. And I don’t have to cook. Win, win and win!
And fun stuff that saves money.
It doesn’t, however, have to cost money to keep connected with your adult offspring. One of our outings was to the bank, since we all needed tools to manage our meagre finances. We learned about interest rates, I-savers, reward savers and what we stood to earn each month in terms of actual dollars by investing our money wisely. Good times! And I did shout them a coffee afterwards.
Young adults like to be treated as adults.
Our children live down to our expectations. In other words, if we don’t trust them to act responsibly, they won’t disappoint us. They benefit by being given the tools to manage their lives, but neither need nor welcome having all the answers supplied by their parents. That way lies resentment. Give them advice when asked, but let them make their own decisions and their own mistakes.If you are concerned for their welfare, don’t be afraid to ask them how they’re travelling. It will open up a conversation if they’re ready for it, or pave the way for one if they’re not. Because one day you will ask the question at just the right moment.
If you love somebody, set them free.
If you have a question for Dear DIY Woman, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or via the comments below.
*Alcohol Free Days