Whose Life Is It Anyway?

How often do we say “When I was your age…” or “If you want my advice…” to our kids? Remember that the world they’ve come of age in is very different from the one we faced when we were younger, so we may not always know best! A key task of postparenthood is turning responsibility for their lives over to them – they’re the ones who’ll have to live with the consequences. These questions help reframe the problem as theirs, not ours:.

.Are you legally, financially or otherwise responsible for their behavior?

. Does their behavior infringe on any of your rights and freedoms?

. Do they have a right to behave as they’re doing, even if you don’t approve?

Q. My daughter and her child moved back home after her divorce last year. She still hasn’t found a job or an apartment. We want to retire, sell our house and travel, but if we do, how and where will they live?

A. Ask her to set a date for her departure. Help her come up with solutions to her own problem; offer to help her resettle elsewhere, even by sharing a house or apartment with another single mother and exchanging childcare or housework in lieu of rent until she finds a job.

Q. Our son dropped out of college and is following his dream – to be a rock and roll star. He has several part-time jobs, lives with roommates who never pay their share of the rent, and isn’t interested in completing his education. What did we do wrong?

A. Your son is managing to support himself while trying our one scenario for his life. He won’t let his roommates take advantage of him forever, and either he’ll make it to the Top 10 or find something else he wants to do. Meanwhile, for your own peace of mind, offer to pay for his health insurance.

Q. My kids are in their 20’s and still not settled in their adult lives. One quit school two years ago to see the world and is still traveling. The others have had a bunch of “McJobs” and can’t decide what to do with their lives. How long will this go on?

A.Today’s young adults are taking 5 to 10 years longer to grow up than we did. The life structure established in their twenties will probably not be their permanent one. Try to listen, not judge; don’t offer advice unless they ask for it; and when they stumble, as they will, try not to say “You should have listened to me.”

By janeellen

Jane Adams PHD Social Psychologist