Except for the left over matzos and chocolate bunnies, the holidays are just happy memories, or so we hope. Sometimes these family gatherings turn into The Clash of the Titans with parents and adult children butting heads over everything from who’s going where to what’s on the menu.
A new book, “Family Whispering,” offers some perspective that can help us reframe these situations. Melinda Blau, the author, is a familiar name to many of us who used (or bought as gifts) the “Baby Whisperer” series that she co-wrote with the late Tracy Hogg, a renowned nanny. (Their smart advice for new moms was to focus baby care on EASY: eat, activity, sleep, you. Actually not a bad prescription for adult life too! )
We talked to Ms. Blau last week about the new book which, while aimed at younger parents, offers some excellent advice for recovering helicopter parents too. “Family whispering is fundamentally about nudging the parenting pendulum away from child focus to family focus,” she said. To do that, consider the three factors that make each family unique:
- The individuals and what each person brings to the table.
- The relationships and how they relate to one another. For example, in a family of four—two parents and two children—there are six different relationships; all are important.
- The context what each family member must deal with on a day-to-day basis
Those factors are important in smoothing—and soothing–intergenerational relationships. We need to be proactive with our adult children in other ways, Ms. Blau says, to build mutual respect. She recommends:
- Be someone your adult child wants to consult. Learn about the ever-changing parenting trends to discuss, not dispute, them.
- Don’t invade: Resist the temptation to solve problems and offer solutions. Yes, our children might make mistakes but we did too and everyone survived!
- Take the high road: Especially at holidays, it’s easy to start keeping tabs on when is the last time everyone came to your house. Let it go. It’s too easy to start a family war.
- Don’t take it personally when adult children don’t want to talk to you. It’s not always bout you. Maybe there are stresses and situations that have nothing to do with you that are impacting their mood. Give them some breathing space.
Great advice but all easier said than done. Maybe we’ll pick one or two and try it!