If parent and child both want independence and autonomy, why the conflicts?
By Judith E. Lipson, M.A., LPC
There is a process of transition between childhood and adulthood through which children and parents need to progress. The goal is to achieve this with as much ease (for both of you) as possible. Parenting the adolescent is not a hands-off affair and once reaching adulthood, developmental stages don’t end.
According to psychologist Erik Erikson:
ADOLESCENCE: 12-18 = Identity vs. Role Confusion
YOUNG ADULTHOOD: 18-40 = Intimacy vs. Isolation
MIDDLE ADULTHOOD: 40-65 = Generativity vs. Stagnation
LATE ADULTHOOD: 65-Death = Integrity vs. Despair
Developmental timing is a challenge to parenting adolescents and young adults. You are likely assessing your legacies at the time that your most important legacy, your child, has not yet mastered independent living. This makes it difficult to resist the urge to rescue.
PREPARING YOU: This is an important step to allow a relationship with your adult child.
WHO ARE YOU? If your definition of self is limited to parent then you will be reluctant to allow your child to leave the nest. Practice self-care; nurture your self, your friendships and your romantic relationship; increase fulfillment with volunteer work, career or philanthropy; stay connected to your self and your own needs. Remember that it is not your primary self that is parent, it is your primary role.
AVOID THE HELICOPTER PARENT SYNDROME: Don’t hover; avoid rescuing. Don’t contact your child’s college or employer. Don’t interfere with your child’s opportunities for autonomy.
CODEPENDENCY: The trap to avoid. You are here for your child; they are not here for you. Your role is to guide your child and support their life direction. Avoid living vicariously through your child.
COMMUNICATION AND DECISION-MAKING: Can your child comfortably and effectively advocate for her/himself by phone, email and in person. Most kids prefer to communicate via text or web. Create opportunities where your child can, or must, communicate over the phone and in person. Role-play and model so your child learns and practices how it’s done.
LAUNDRY: By high school graduation your child should be taught how to sort clothes and use the washer and dryer as well the laundromat.
COOKING: Be sure that your child can make simple meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This should include stove top, oven and microwave use.
MEAL-PLANNING: Teach your child know how to select nutritious options.
BUDGETING: This is a critical skill. If your child has only relied on you (or your debit/credit card) for purchasing items, then your child will be at a distinct disadvantage as s/he enters college and adulthood. Explain the difference between a want and a need. Teach the importance of not overspending: For a week or a month, your child should save every receipt or access the information online, for all purchases; remind them to include coffee, bottled water, bus fares, etc. Teach your child about long-term and short-term savings. If s/he has a checking account instruct her/him how to keep track of each purchase and balance the account. Inquire about secured charge cards and other methods to teach credit card use, preferably before leaving home. Insist that your child pay off any personal charges each month. Discourage your child from opening new charge accounts while at college.
CLEANING: If your child has not yet participated in household chores be sure that they know how to run a vacuum; clean toilets, sinks and floor; straighten and dust.
MEDICATIONS: Teach how to obtain refills. Have your child acquire the habit of taking prescribed doses of her/his medication at regular times, while still living at home. Daily or weekly pill cases will help, as will the use of calendar alarms. If missing a dose of the prescribed medication results in symptoms, consider the appropriateness of your child carrying a few pills.
SLEEP HYGIENE: The adolescent’s circadian rhythm leads to late nights and sleeping in. Regardless, restorative sleep is imperative for health and learning. Encourage relaxation to fall asleep, strategies to reduce stress and anxiety, and alarms to assist in waking at the required time for classes and other responsibilities.
Your role as parent is to prepare your child for independent living while maintaining a relationship. In addition to providing skills, remember that your interactions with your child will be different. Recognizing this will help the two of you to transition to the fulfilling relationship of adult parent and adult child.
Judy Lipson is a Licensed Professional Counselor and educational strategist in West Bloomfield. She helps clients of all ages who have learning difficulties; work or school related anxiety; ADHD; Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorders; and those who wish to Remember and Become Who You Really Are. Contact Judy at 248.568.8665 and firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit www. SpiralWisdom.net for more information.