Want a Better Relationship with Your Adult Kid?

Do you wish you had a better relationship with your adult kid? 

What would it take to make it better?

If you answered something like: 

If she would be nicer to me, if he would call more often, if they would make better choices or settle down or work harder or drink less or or or… then I would feel better about them, then we could have a better relationship.

A lot of people will agree with you, and commiserate with you… because you are powerless to do anything, the relationship is out of your hands. You are at the mercy of your kid’s behavior. It is a very painful place to be. 

But is that the way it has to be? 

Here is what I believe is true: 

You, and I, and everyone, cannot make other people behave differently than they do. Even our kids.

People get to be and do what they choose.

When we set rules, expectations, “shoulds” for others, we often end up feeling disappointed, angry or hurt.

How we feel is because of how we are thinking. We think we feel hurt because our son didn’t call, but if it wasn’t for our thought “he should call” we wouldn’t be feeling hurt. 

It seems like a nice thought, a reasonable expectation: my son should call. A kid should call his mother. 

But let’s look at the reality: when we have that thought about our kid, we feel disappointed and hurt, and then how do we behave? Most likely we complain, we pout, we decide to “show him” by not calling him, or maybe we call and chew him out… And what is the result of all that?

Can you see where that reasonable thought turns out to be a kind of poison? 

So what can we do differently? 

We can start trying out different ways of thinking about our kid. So he’s not big on calling- what if we worked on making that okay. Not making it mean he is selfish or doesn’t love us. Or that we are a bad mom or have a bad relationship. But maybe instead, thinking, he is living his life, as we all are. What else? Busy, doing things, taking care of stuff, minding his business, being a grownup, just being himself. I’ve raised an independent man, living his own life.

Can you feel the relief, the easing off? 

Ultimately, our relationships with our kids are based on what we choose to think about them. Our thoughts, the emotions they generate, and the way we behave are what end up creating the relationship. 

So… what kind of relationship will you create?

Endless Amazing Colors

Today I made lunch from kr@ft mac ’n’ cheese, a can of tuna and a basket of spinach just picked from our garden. It was orange and green, delicious and comforting. 

Why share this? Well, I’ve been thinking how much we sort ourselves and others into us and them, pc and not, snowflake and not, mask wearers vs non mask wearers, etc. In the news, on facebook, in conversations. We complain that others’ words and actions create division (presidents for example) but we are all doing it, absolutely including myself too. It feels good for a moment to land a dart, expose “stupidity,” feel smart and righteous… but then I am left feeling either more pissy, or just exhausted and petty. 

In any case, more separate and alienated.

And my lunch? It seemed to me to represent something. I guess I saw my lunch as a crossover: Permaculture meets mainstream. Farmer’s market meets Walmart.

Point being, we are all unique, and our lives colorful collections of what works and makes sense for us. And shifting and changing all the time. We are not Two Countries. We are not two different kinds of people. When we think divisively, we create more division.

People are, life is, ideas are, much more gray than black and white. And by gray I also mean brown, blue, green, purple, cinnamon, marigold, chartreuse, aqua, golden, rust, peach… there is no end to the amazing colors in our world. 

So I’ll be fuchsia and you be whatever color pleases you. And our lunch can be orange and green.

Real Life Coaching

I have a client I’ll call Lora, who has an adult son I’ll call Chad. (Note: My coaching sessions are always confidential. Express permission has been given by this client to use the following, with some details changed in addition to the names.)

Lora had always worried Chad wasn’t capable of taking care of himself, of being responsible, of making good choices. They had a pattern: Chad would call and tell Lora his problems, Lora would rush in to fix the problems and rescue Chad, and then he would end up being mad at her.

At some point, awhile back, Lora had recognized the futility of this. She decided to stop “helping” Chad in this way, and to instead trust that he knew best how to live his life.

Last weekend Chad called and told Lora he’d just spent the last of his money. Lora knew not to try to rescue Chad, and she knew she didn’t want to criticize or scold him. Bit she felt frustrated and upset, got off the phone quickly, and felt depressed for the next few days. She had a lot of “noise in her head” with thoughts like:

Chad’s not managing his money and his life

Chad’s in trouble, and I want to help him but I can’t

Lora had successfully avoided taking on Chad’s work. Now she was ready to take on her own work, and consciously look at what was going on within herself. Lora had worked through much of her relationship with her son over the past couple of years, so this session was mostly about remembering and realigning with the conscious decisions she had made for herself.

As we talked about her recent conversation with Chad, here is a look at how her thoughts developed:

I know how stuck he feels and how bad that feels

This is his life, it was always supposed to be his life

It’s okay if it’s hard for me, if I feel sad

I understand that it’s hard for Chad

I love him

I want to believe in him

I want to believe he is capable, that he can handle his life

I can hold space for him to be himself

I was struck by how beautifully Lora came around to discover for herself what she now could offer Chad. When she stops viewing him as unable and incapable, there is nothing to fix, no one to rescue.

I want to be clear: it isn’t necessary for Lora to see evidence of Chad’s success at financial planning, for example, in order to believe in him, to believe he is capable, to believe that he can handle his life, on his own terms. 

Like all humans, Chad is learning life by living it. On the job training. He may be struggling with one or more of life’s issues now, and maybe he will his whole life, but it is his life to work with all these things we have to deal with on planet Earth. 

And Lora gets to love him, enjoy him, practice holding space for him, practice believing in him and his amazing unique existence. She gets to support and appreciate and be interested in how he figures it out. She gets to feel the relief of letting go of judgement and frustration, of the need to fix and rescue.

She gets to just love her son.

Choosing Love

Is there someone you are “supposed to” love – but who you find it hard to feel loving toward? Your son or daughter, your spouse, a sister or parent?

You think: if they were more considerate, if they would tell the truth, stop drinking, be more responsible, did what they were supposed to do, if they just appreciated all you do… it would be so much easier to love them.

Dear friends: do you know you can just decide to love them, exactly as they are right now?  Instead of resentment, judgement, disappointment, you could feel love.

This doesn’t mean that you have to approve of everything they do.

This doesn’t mean that you have to let yourself be treated poorly.

It doesn’t mean that you have to spend more time with them or even stay married to them.

It just means that you get to feel love. It’s a gift that you can give yourself. It feels amazing to set down resentment, a huge relief to let go of judgement. You can stop trying to control others, stop reacting to them, and just let them be as they are.

How to do this? 

Own your feelings. Understand that you (never anyone else, no matter what they do) are responsible for how you feel.

Stop focusing on the behaviors and qualities you have been letting bother you. There are many other qualities. Open yourself to seeing them. Open yourself to the fullness, the mystery, the humanness of your child (husband, brother, etc.).

Consider that you may not be seeing the whole picture. That no one can ever completely know another person’s experience. That where each of us is right now is temporary. There are always countless possibilities. And, that other people get to live their own lives in their own way. Just as you do.

Choose loving thoughts. It may help to scope out, focus on the bigger picture: All beings are worthy of love. We are all humans, doing the best we can, from where we stand. I chose love because it feels better than resentment. I chose to add more love to the world.

Practice creating and feeling the physical sensation of love, on purpose. For a few minutes, sit quietly with closed eyes. Breathe deeply and evenly, in and out, centering your attention in your body. Feel your chest expand and contract. Imagine breathing in love, breathing out resentment, hurt, judgement. Let your in breath fill your limbs, your throat, your face. Let the warmth, expansiveness, stillness, and energy fill you and soften you. As thoughts and feelings rise up, gently notice them, and return to your breath. When able, on your out breath begin to imagine the feelings of love flowing out of you into the space around you, into the world. 

Allow the love and compassion to encompass yourself as well. Know your own worthiness and value. Respect yourself. Take good care of yourself. Speak your truth, as best you can. If you need to set boundaries, have them address your actions, what you are willing to be around, how you will behave- as opposed to rules of how others should be or behave.

When we stop thinking that love is something that needs to be earned, when we unhitch our love from all conditions, we can practice unconditional love. We can chose this because it stops us from creating unnecessary suffering, for ourselves, for our loved ones, for the world.  We can do it because it just feels good. Because it brings us freedom and grace. 

We can chose love on purpose because it aligns us with the best, truest, deepest part of ourselves. 

Knot or Not?

Sometimes we feel stuck in an impossible situation. We have all kinds of explanations and evidence. We feel trapped. We see no way out.

The feeling of being trapped is real.

Are we actually trapped? 

We say: I can’t do that because of all these things. He will always, she won’t let, they’d never stand for it. I can’t leave, I can’t change, I can’t do or be or have what I want. It’s impossible, unthinkable.

What if we step back, and separate the facts from the story we tell about them?  

What if we take out the adjectives and adverbs, and let each element stand on it’s own? No embellishment, no commentary. No story.

What if we take out the shoulds and shouldn’ts, the have tos and the can’ts, the always and the nevers?

What if we take out all that we think others will do, what others will think?

Can we loosen the knot, open up a little space, and when we are ready, tell a new story?

Thanksgiving Planning (hold the Martha Stewart)

Do you have a college student coming home for Thanksgiving?

Are you making big plans for the holiday?

Are you thinking everything should be extra perfect for this special homecoming?

It might seem really important to plan the perfect homecoming Thanksgiving celebration to welcome your child home… but can I throw out a few things to consider?

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that Thanksgiving weekend is one of the most highly traveled times of the year, and that the weather can be unpredictable and changeable in late November. Whether flying, driving, or coming home by bus or train, there can be delays, cancellations, missed connections, heavy traffic, and difficult road conditions.

Emotions may be running high: kids homesick, parents missing kids. You may not have seen each other in a couple of months. Many first year college students are also keen to see their high school friends who will also be home for the holiday. 

Family traditions for Thanksgiving often include elaborate and lengthy cooking plans, large family gatherings, extra leaves in the dining table, tablecloths and candles.

All this happens in a very short time window, potentially made shorter by travel glitches.

You might look for ways to simplify this year: the menu, the guest list, the preparations.

But more importantly, you might consider all the above factors I mentioned in this way:

Here is what is NOT within your control:

Things. Other people. What they do and say and think. How they feel. Weather. Traffic. Sometimes: how the turkey turns out, or the pumpkin pie.

Here is what IS within your control:

How you respond. What you think, and how you therefore feel. What you value. How you act. How flexible or open you are or aren’t. How much humor you can find in life. How much of life you welcome and embrace. How much you allow everybody to be who they are. How much love and compassion you created for yourself and others.

Your Thanksgiving planning? See it as a perfect opportunity, like every other moment in your life, to practice how you want to live your life. 

Why Your Kids Don’t Text You Back

Here’s a question I hear a lot, from moms with kids away at college:

Why can’t s/he just text me back? 

Sometimes followed by: I sent her three texts today and she hasn’t replied to any of them! 

Or: he knows how I worry when I don’t hear back.

I can’t answer the question exactly, but I’ll take a stab at it:

She’s in class and has her phone off.

He’s late to meet friends for lunch and is running across campus.

She’s in the library, reading a novel for her American Lit class.

He is doing research for a history paper.

She’s sleeping in as she was up all night with a friend who’s having a hard time.

She is worried about her midterms next week and doesn’t feel like talking.

He is typing up his Geography notes.

She’s trying to figure out her schedule for next semester.

He’s in his Sociology professor office, discussing today’s class.

He’s struggling with a math problem.

She’s working on ideas for her business marketing class project.

S/he forgot to charge her phone.

He’s going for a run.

She is getting dressed to go out with her roommates. 

She’s looking for the R.A. because she locked her keys in her room.

In other words, they’re busy. Even if it’s busy hanging out with friends having a beer. They will get back to you when they have time, when they feel moved to, when they have something to say. 

Moms, I know you love them and are thinking about them and want to stay connected. Your kids know that too. And by not replying to every text, they are saying, as gently as they can: okay, Mom, that’s too much. I love you, but I need to be me, outside of who I am to you right now.

Your kids are creating their lives, independent of their family. Making new connections. It’s hard, it’s exciting, it takes focus… and it’s important. It’s healthy and appropriate.

What’s healthy and appropriate for you is to take care of yourself. Your thoughts, your feelings, your worries, your needs. 

And for you to live your own life. This is a perfect time for you to be redirecting all that wonderful loving mama-attention toward yourself. 

If you need ideas or support, I’ve got you. Click here to schedule a free, introductory, 30 minute call with me.