Losing weight often tops a New Year’s resolution list. But suppose that directive is aimed at your adult child? Does a parent need to remind a child that she’s overweight? The media, the mirror, the department store, the gym all send her—or him–that message. Parents should be very careful how the approach this difficult topic, according to experts interviewed in USA Today’s “Weight is heavy topic to discuss with grown children.”
So how to handle? Some suggestions before you say anything, according to columnist Kim Painter:
- Consider your motives. Are you really worried about your child’s health?
- Consider the facts. Is your child obese, or just 5 or 10 pounds over some ideal weight?
- Be a role model, not a nag. When your kids visit, serve healthful meals. If they live nearby, offer to cook for them sometimes. Invite them to walk, swim or bike with you
- Keep expectations low. It’s unlikely a word from you will be the thing that inspires weight loss
“What was he thinking?” How many times did you ask yourself that question when your young adult did something stupid–yes stupid–like driving back to college with no cash and the gas meter hovering on empty? Well, it’s not completely his fault, at least according to a round-up on the latest research on the adolescent brain in a Newsweek’s “The Kids Can’t Help It.”
One Harvard study found that young brains are only about 80 percent developed at the end of adolescence. It’s not until the mid-20s, and possibly later, that the brain is firing on all circuits. According to the article:
And one of the last parts to mature is the frontal lobe, a large area responsible for modulating reward, planning, impulsiveness, attention, acceptable social behavior, and other roles that are known as executive functions.
It’s thanks in part to the frontal lobe that we are able to schedule our time with any sort of efficiency, plan in advance to arrange for a designated driver on a night out (or stop drinking before one is over the legal limit), and restrain ourselves from getting into fights any time we get involved in an argument.
Perhaps it’s time for a holiday hand-off? The winter holidays are over but Superbowl Sunday, St. Patrick’s Day, Passover and Easter are not far off. Must mom always play the host position? In “The Keeper of Christmas,” the Minneapolis Star-Tribune noted:
Being the keeper of a family’s traditions is an honor, but can also be a source of tension if it isn’t a shared responsibility.
Not only does being the chief cook and bottle washer exhaust mom (you!) but in the long term it doesn’t always bbind the famiy together which is the reason many women are willing to be glue. What happens when you become unglued, whether by choice or circumstance? Does the tradition die out oif mom’s not running the show and doing all the work? So play quarterback and hand off–rather than run with–the ball. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help or to suggest that adult children bring their own versions of a treasured recipes. In the Star-Tribune piece, Bill Doherty, a University of Minnesota professor of family and social science, notes:
The happiest tradition keepers are those who involve others in the workload. Share some of the decision-making. You don’t have to do it like the queen.
Perhaps your adult child wants to make a new recipe or do something radical like have the holiday in her tiny apartment. As Martha Stewart would say, that’s a good thing!
In a related New York Times’ piece, “Changing the Family Traditions” Linda George, associate director of the Center for Study of Aging and Human Development at Duke University, reminds us why we hold these family events:
At the holidays you want to create a feeling, an emotion, an atmosphere. But it doesn’t mean you have to do things exactly the way they’ve been done in the past. It’s the feelings that are important, not the details that elicit those feelings.
What would your adult children tell you if they were completely open and honest? Community service social worker Wendy Garson relates “Pearls of wisdom from adult children to their parents,” gathered in her counseling work. Several of the insightful comments:
- Sometimes problems (whether they are yours or your child’s) are really just challenges. Yes, how you view your “problems” does make a difference.
- Children are always busy. That doesn’t mean that they won’t make time for you, but it does mean you have to ask if it hasn’t been offered.
- Life is not a competition. Everyone has a plate full of different ingredients. Your plate is no better or worse than your neighbor’s or your children’s; it is just different.
- Family cannot take the place of friends. You are truly blessed if you have both, and neither should be taken for granted.
There seems to be endless “Advice for living with the Boomerang generation” but this piece from the Dayton Daily News includes some no-nonsense pointers from Gail Parent, co-author of “How to Raise Your Adult Children: Because Big Kids Have Even Bigger Problem”
- Encourage your kid to just work for money. They need to at least have pocket money while they search for a “real” job.
- Sit down and discuss what you expect from them in terms of financial or other contributions.
- You have to be very clear what you’ll tolerate in terms of having friends/significant others over, going out, drinking, etc. But understand that they are going to have a social life.
- Above all else remember that it’s your home. Your child needs to respect that.
Grandparenting: With little prompting, most grandparents will happily share tales about their tiny tots. Pulitzer-Prize-winning author David Maraniss is no exception and in a New York Times blog post, “Being a Grandparent is Better,” he likens the experience the production of a Broadway play—Lombardi—based on his book on the legendary coach. Now that’s a unique metaphor!
One of my books happens to be source material for a play that is running on Broadway now, and when people ask me how it feels, I compare it to being a grandparent. “It is all joy and not much responsibility, but in some sense it couldn’t exist without me,” I say. And that is the truth of the situation. We love our children unconditionally, but it is impossible for there not to be complications, large or small. The love for grandchildren is no deeper, yet somehow it seems purer, probably because it is free from the daily ups and downs of family life. We can bop in and out at our discretion.
Just as every generation reinvents parenting, every older generation discovers the unexpected joy of grandparenting. When I am in my office trying to write, brooding over a sentence or a paragraph or the shape of a chapter, absolutely nothing in the world lifts me more than getting an e-mail attachment from New Jersey or Tennessee with the latest picture of Heidi, Ava or Eliza.
It’s one of those dreaded announcements: “Mom, we’re getting divorced.” Parents struggle with how to react, from suggesting counseling to giving unneeded—and unheeded–advice. However it’s hard to stay uninvolved, especially if there are grandchildren.
In “A Grandmother Struggles with Divorce” Marsha Temlock, author of “Your Child’s Divorce: What to Expect – What You Can Do,” writes:
When a child gets married, parents assume their parenting role is over. But because divorce does not exist in a vacuum, their role may be helping their adult child, ex-law and grandchildren get back on track.
This grandmother may not necessarily agree with her son’s decision, but she got off on the right foot by saying, “I love you. What can I do to help?”
What a grandparent can offer is an emotional haven for a child. In “How the Grandparents Can Help the Child” author and psychologist Judith Wallerstein relates anecdotes about both grade schoolers and teenagers who found a grandparent gave the unwavering attention and support needed when parents divorced. Ms. Wallerstein writes:
The helpful grandparent is the child’s ally and the child treasures that confidence. The unique contribution of this relationship is in providing an unwavering, neutral, caring presence for the child of divorce who is required to adjust to multiple changes in her family and new environments during her growing up years.