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100 Tips for Nannies and Families

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When “The Kids” Aren’t “Kids” Anymore

Parents are (or should be) the most adaptive creatures on planet Earth.  Why?  Because they must vary the way that they parent based on the ages, natures, and circumstances of their kids.  Many parents find it difficult to find a new way of relating to their grown “kids”.  How do parents adapt to “letting go” or relating more adult-to-adult rather than parent-to-child with their adult “kids”?  And how can adult “kids” help their parents through this difficult transition?

What Parents Can Do

  • 1. Recognize that your “kids” are adults and therefore entitled to all the benefits thereof. For example, your adult “kids” have the right to self-determine (i.e., make their own choices). Your opinions should be given only when sought by your “kids” or when you see risk of serious harm coming from the decisions that they are contemplating. If you offer opinions or try to steer their decisions on many of their choices, you will be viewed as an over-involved, controlling parent. Further, you may prevent your adult kids from fully adapting to healthy adulthood. While you may think that remaining very involved in your adult “kids’” day-to-day decision-making is a testament to your closeness to your “kids”, it, in fact, may be a testament to your unhealthy relationship with your “kids” . . . and how your “kids” may be failing to adapt to healthy adult life.
  • 2. Think about your own life when you were a young adult and how you wanted to be treated. Did you want your parents second-guessing or over-riding your decisions? If you parents did exhibit those behaviors, how did you feel about it? How did you feel when your parents respected your adulthood? Did one set of parental behaviors make you feel more trusted, more respected?
  • 3. Think about how your behaviors would play out in a newspaper article. For example, what if the newspaper article read, “The thirty-year-old Thomas has resigned his position stating that his mother thought he deserved a more substantial job elsewhere.”

What Adult “Kids” Can Do

  • 1. Recognize that this is a difficult transition for your parents. Be a little understanding of them while still establishing and maintaining your own healthy boundaries.
  • 2. When a violation of boundaries occurs (i.e., your parents try to relate to you as if you are still a “kid”), calmly and kindly speak with your parents about what behaviors you observed (i.e., the boundary violation), what behaviors you expect, what the difference is between the two behaviors, and what that means to you (i.e., recognizing your adulthood, trusting you to make the right choices, and allowing you to fail as all adults do from time to time). You may want to note that it’s ok to fail some times: those moments of failure can be the learning opportunities needed to springboard you to your next success.
  • 3. When/if you make choices that vary substantially from those of your parents (i.e., by choosing a different faith, “coming out”, changing political parties, etc.), your parents may try to redirect your behavior to bring you back into the family’s way of doing things. However, as an adult, you have a right to make your own choices. Therefore, calmly and kindly announce your choice while validating your parents’ right to have made choices that vary from yours. Do not criticize your parents’ choices: only state that your choices are a better fit for you. If your parents begin to argue with you, simply state that the matter is not subject to debate or negotiation. Let your parents know that you need to end the conversation. Lovingly tell them that their approval of you is important to you but is not necessary, as you have made the choices that are right for you and you will proceed with your choices as you deem appropriate.

While many parents find it difficult to find a new way of relating to their grown “kids”, by following the tips above, parents and adult “kids” can ease the transition and form the foundation for a healthy new adult-to-adult manner of relating.

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