parents to the end

Parenting Adult Children for Your Peace of Mind and Their Accountability

Friday Food for Thought: Great Expectations Part VI

Posted on December 26, 2014 | No Comments

by Linda Herman, LMHC

Today is the last Friday of the year.  For each of the past five Fridays, I have reviewed two of my Twelve Truths for Parents of Adult Children.  I thought the topic quite timely, as each of us moved into the holiday season with our own set of expectations for ourselves and our families. The “truths” are from my book, Parents to the End: How Baby Boomers Can Parent for Peace of Mind, Foster Responsibility in their Adult Children and Keep Their Hard-Earned Money.

Here are the ten truths I have covered thus far:

  1. Love does not conquer all.
  2. Doing more and more for others will not bring love and respect.
  3. Loving and liking your adult child are not the same thing.
  4. It is neither possible nor prudent to treat all your children equally at all times.
  5. Guilt-making does not improve relationships.
  6. Adult children need to feel “heard” before they will listen.
  7. Sometimes the loving thing to do is to let your child experience unpleasant consequences.
  8. You cannot choose your child’s partner.
  9.  Only you can decide how long to “hang in there.”
  10. Disagreement may be a sign of emotional growth.

Here are the final two:

11. What is normal for one family is abnormal for another.

It is just about impossible not to compare your family with someone else’s. But be careful when you do so. Today, especially, there is a variety of family constellations. Besides the literal composition of the family (who specifically is part of your family), there are differing family styles. Is your family loud, or might yours be soft-spoken? Does everyone know everyone else’s business, or do family members keep personal details to themselves? Your own personality may fit in well with your family’s general style, or you may feel that yours stands out.

As I say in my book, “…variations (in family types) are natural and expected. The more important consideration is how the family is working for its members….Attuned parents will try to meet the needs of each child, even when those needs and preferences differ from their own.” As your own children have grown up, they have both the opportunity and responsibility to create their own style of family.  Do your best to honor their choices, assuming they are reasonably healthy.

12. Sometimes the route to increased closeness lies in tolerating separateness.

This may be the most difficult truth to understand; it seems contradictory.  How can moving apart be the way to get closer?  I spend considerable time in Parents to the End discussing the themes of separation and individuation. These developmental phenomena appear periodically in one’s lifetime:  toddlerhood, the teen years, young adulthood. During these periods, children have a growing sense of themselves as separate from their parents.  This is normal and necessary for young people, but can be uncomfortable for both parent and child. It may mean emotional distance for a time in the teens and early adulthood, as the young person matures and becomes fully his/her own person.  Friction may increase. Usually this is temporary.

However, we have to let go of our children for them to return to us.  We have to learn to tolerate and respect differing views and opinions, with the expectation that this respect is mutual.  If you and your child are unable have the kind of relationship you want, find people with whom you can forge meaningful  connections. You deserve it.



I wish you the best as you reflect on your  holiday experiences. May 2015 bring you peace and happiness.

Note: This series has been quite popular. If you have a topic that you’d like to see explored in some depth, please email me at



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