Asked and Answered:


There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays

While holidays offer a special opportunity to draw grown kids and their families  back to the heart of  shared traditions, they can also be emotionally charged occasions. Young adults come home because they want and need to stay connected to us, but often tension and conflict destroy that loving feeling.  Before you buy the turkey or the brisket, ask yourself these questions:  
  • Does your invitation conflict with their obligations to their in-laws or interfere with traditions they want to establish in their own homes?
  • Do you think of family holidays as a chance to resolve misunderstandings or conflicts with your adult kids?
  • Do you refuse their offers to help, insist on doing things the way you always have, or treat them hey way you did when they were children?
  Q. My kids keep making excuses about why they can't come for Christmas dinner or Passover Seder - it's too far, they can't get away, they promised the in-laws first. What's really going on?   A. If it's really too far or they're too busy, offer to meet them halfway and establish new ways to celebrate together. Or suggest an alternative - Christmas dinner with you on Twelfth Night, Thanksgiving on Saturday instead of Thursday, or an invitation to their in-laws to incorporate their family traditions into your celebration.   Q. Every time our kids and their families are together, there's an explosion! They fight with each other, they fight with us, and everyone ends up with heartburn. What can we do to make it the happy occasion we want it to be?   A. If every holiday ends in disaster, maybe you're seizing this opportunity to get to the bottom of sensitive or troubling issuers, or ambushing your kids by bringing those problems up on what should be a festive or sacred occasion. Don't just sweep those problems under the rug, but make private.. - Read More

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They’re Back in College, But You’re Still Worried

 

My postparent coach phone rings frequently after the holidays are over. The house  isrestored to order, and the kids, their clean laundry, and their second semester tuition check are back on campus. But their worried parents are unsettled by the strangers who just left.

Sometimes it’s because they came home, dropped their bags, and disappeared. All the plans you had for family time vanished in the brief moments when they were actually in residence. They partied all night and slept all day. They were uninterested in the people, activities and traditions they used to enjoy, they answered your questions in monosyllables, if at all, and they spent every waking moment and mealtime on their phones and tablets.

None   of this is unusual behavior…but you expected otherwise, and you’re disappointed. It’s the parents who see more alarming signs of change in their young adult kids who call me the second time for advice.  Often it’s related to evidence or indications of substance use or abuse,  especially binge drinking; dramatic mood swings or depressed emotional affect; a noticeable or extreme loss or gain of weight; or even a complete change of plans – they’re moving out of the dorm and in with strangers, they’re dropping out or uninterested in going back, they’ve mismanaged their money, academic or social life, or failed their own expectations – and yours – for a successful transition to college .

Before you do anything, it’s important to understand whose expectations have been disappointed. If it’s yours, get over it…your kids may be experiencing failure for the first time, but it’s theirs, not yours, and they can’t cope if you help them blame everyone else but themselves for it, or worse, blame yourself. All you can do is tell them what  your specific concerns are – although if  the indications point to a substance abuse problem,  get some expert help in how to bring it up  and expect denial, at least initially. If you’re worried about their physical or emotional health, suggest that they seek help for it, point them to the college counseling office or a medical professional, and keep in touch with them to express your support, your confidence  in their ability to persevere and solve their own problems and dilemmas.  Refrain from anything that could be construed as telling them what to do or judging their performance.  Focus on their strengths and their past successes in overcoming obstacles. Do more listening than talking. And lift the burden of your disappointment in  how they’re navigating this stage of life so they can get on with growing up.



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