Little Children, Little Problems
During my children’s teenage years, I was given a poster that read, “Just when I knew all of life’s answers, they changed the questions.” To me, it was a good summary of the ever-morphing adventure called parenthood.
As much as I loved that stage, I relished the idea that one day the strenuous work of training kids would be done and I could simply enjoy adult-to-adult friendships with them. And I do. But I also readily admit how naïve I was to assume the hard work would, in fact, end. Why should interactions with grown kids be stress-free when all other meaningful relationships—spouse, friend, coworker, relative—involve interpersonal challenges? Considering how deeply we care about our sons and daughters, their families, and their work situations, it’s easy to see that with adult children, the stakes are, in many ways, higher. Or, as my own mother still says, “Little children, little problems . . .”
There’s another complicating factor for parents today: times really have changed since we were that age, so our experiences and values may have little in common with the next generation’s. In their book How to Really Love Your Adult Child, Drs. Ross Campbell and Gary Chapman point out that until the 1960s, the path to adulthood was relatively predictable and stable, involving school, job, marriage, and settling near extended family. But the intervening 50 years have brought widespread evolution on so many fronts—marital commitment, drug use, sexual behavior, social consciousness, worship choices, work ethic, technology—that conventional wisdom may seem irrelevant.
The writers encourage parents to “listen to [children’s] ideas, consider their points of view, and affirm their logic and perspectives” where possible, while bringing up their own concerns. Since the outcome is greatly affected by mom and dad’s attitude, remember that staying pleasant does not mean you condone wrong behavior.
And while adult children should be given freedom to make their own decisions, the authors caution that rescuing them from unpleasant fallout can short-circuit the maturing process. A more helpful and “redemptive” approach is to offer emotional support by walking alongside the child through those painful consequences.
In preparing to interview Dr. Chapman, I confess that baffling personal situations proved an inspiration for much of what I wanted to ask. However, one suggested question from the book’s publicity material aroused my curiosity: “What do you think our adult children want from us more than anything else?” So I asked the author, who is also a pastor/marriage and family counselor with 40 years’ experience. His reply? “I think they want a sense of love and security. They want to know that ‘if my life falls apart, I can go home. Momma will be there and Daddy will be there.’”
Some things never change.
http://www.intouch.org/magazine/content/topic/little_children_little_problems. Used by permission of In Touch magazine. For practical suggestions, read the rest of the interview with Gary Chapman.
“How can we best love our adult children”. http://www.intouch.org/magazine/content/topic/how_can_we_best_love_our_adult_children#
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