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How to Celebrate Mother’s Day With a Difficult Mom

These tips may make it a little easier.

Whether your relationship with your mom is a tad problematic or off-the-charts unhealthy, celebrating your mom on Mother’s Day can be difficult.

She might get on your nerves or make you feel like she’s constantly judging you. 

Maybe you think your mom is a horrible parent, or you had a misunderstanding that seems impossible to overcome — and nobody wants to make the first move toward reconciliation. 

Perhaps the pain is so deep that you can’t forgive or move forward. Or maybe you feel your mom is toxic, and cutting her out of your life seems like the safest thing to do emotionally. [Read 4 Things to Know About Emotional Safety.]

It’s a tough road to walk. And it makes Mother’s Day tricky to celebrate.

But whether you choose to visit your mom or stay far away for the holiday, chances are you’ll be thinking of each other in some way.

Whatever your situation, thinking about these six things may make it a bit easier to find some way to celebrate a difficult mom on Mother’s Day. 

(Notice I said “may” and “easier” — not “definitely” OR “easy.” And there’s no excuse for abusive behavior. If that has happened to you, I’m so sorry!)

1. If you’re expecting perfection, you’ll be disappointed.

Here’s the thing: Nobody has a perfect mother. And nobody can be the perfect mother. But we all probably have an idea of what the perfect mother would look like. Unfortunately, our ideals often cause us to have unrealistic expectations that no one can meet. (Unless you’re married and your mother-in-law is perfect. That’s a whole other issue.)

2. Appreciate what you can.

There’s always something to be thankful for (at least according to Pollyanna). So, dig deep and think of what those things could be. Celebrate them, no matter how small. I recently went through some memorabilia my mom collected throughout the years. I found little love notes and cards I wrote my mom as a child. It reminded me that at one time, I thought she hung the moon. 

3. Celebrate your mom for who you want her to be.

She might surprise you and rise to meet the challenge. You may need to use your imagination. Maybe you can’t honestly tell your mom how great she is, but you might be able to write her a letter, or send a card or text to say you’re thinking of her on Mother’s Day. (Even if your thoughts aren’t that great, it’s a start.)

4. Time changes people and perceptions.

As a child, did you ever think your mom didn’t know anything? Did your perspective change when you realized being an adult was a little more… complicated? I can tell you from experience that I see things differently as an adult. I learned some things I didn’t know. My perspective has shifted over the years.

5. You may know your mom as a parent, but do you know her as a person?

Understand the things that shaped her life? Did a loss profoundly impact her? What were her parents like? Parents are people who have stuff they need to deal with, just like we do. Life throws all kinds of things at us, and sometimes we aren’t equipped to handle it. But trying to understand what makes your mom tick can be helpful, especially if she isn’t the parent you wanted or needed.

6. You’re not alone, and you don’t have to do this alone.

Many people have a rocky relationship with their mom, but not everyone feels safe enough to discuss it with their mom or a friend. If you need to talk, but you don’t want everyone knowing your business, pain, or struggles, a good counselor can help you take the space you need to stay positive and move away from bitterness and resentment. Forgiveness can bring emotional and physical benefits that are healing for the person who chooses to forgive, regardless of what another does. If possible, forgive your mom, whether she asks you to or not.

Things may not get better today or ever, but there’s hope that your situation will change. You may learn to navigate through the conflict or at least improve the relationship. One of you might take a step toward a healthy conversation and forgiveness. That may be all it takes. And one day, it might be easier for you to celebrate more things about your mom on Mother’s Day. I hope it is.

Other helpful blogs:

What to Do When Your Child’s Marriage is Falling Apart

These tips can help you navigate this trying time.

Every parent wants to see their children grow to live happy and successful lives. This is why it can be difficult to watch from the sidelines as their marriage is falling apart. Many parents have stayed up at night trying to think of how they can best help their adult children, or even if they should help at all.

Determining what you should and shouldn’t do can be tricky. A lot depends on the nature of your relationship with your adult child and their spouse. What permission have they given you to speak into their marriage?

In matters that may involve abuse, violence, or anything that threatens personal safety, take swift action to ensure everyone is safe. *The National Domestic Violence Hotline number is 1−800−799−SAFE(7233) 

However, if, by “falling apart” you mean issues such as an inability to communicate or connect in any meaningful way, growing distant, despising each other, constant arguing, or pure self-centeredness by one or both people, then this is for you.

What can you do about it?

  • Know your limits. You will always be a parent to your child. Pam Johnson, marriage therapist, says, “You know them as a child, but not as a spouse.” Without being married to that individual, you can’t know the fullness of their experience. 
  • Encourage them to work on their relationship. Give your adult child some things to think about when selecting a marriage counselor. Suggesting a marriage counselor you have a strong relationship with may not be the best move, especially if you’re concerned the counselor won’t be objective because of the familiarity. 
  • Set boundaries… Particularly for what you will and won’t listen to. Johnson encourages parents to avoid conversations that would make it difficult to forgive their child’s spouse. Often the adult child is sharing their perspective because they want you to take sides. It would be helpful to say, “You need to share that, but it’s best for you and your marriage for you to share with an objective third party.” As much as you want to be unbiased, the emotional closeness between you and your child can drive a bigger wedge in the marriage.
  • Support their relationship and them getting help. You might babysit to give your child and their spouse time alone, help pay for marriage counseling or do other things that strengthen their relationship. Tell them about Maximize Your Marriage.
  • Encourage them to be adults about their situation. In other words, encourage them to give all they can to work it out, hear and understand one another, and learn to be a team.

A few don’ts:

  • Avoid deciding you know best. Should they stay together? Should they divorce? That’s not the question you need to answer for them. And likely, they won’t let you answer it for them anyway.
  • Don’t make it easy for them to give up. As I mentioned earlier, with safety and health issues, help them get into a safe situation. But for many other instances, Johnson notes that making it easy for your child to leave their marriage and come home and stay with you isn’t helpful.
  • Don’t counsel. Expert counselors often won’t even give advice about their child’s marriage. It’s so easy for emotions to get involved. 
  • Don’t take sides. There are always two sides. Encourage them to do all they can to clearly understand each other’s perspectives.
  • Don’t try to control. You can’t control their thoughts, actions, or intentions. Even when we see the mistakes they may be making, we have to allow them to be adults and make their own decisions. 

Our children will inevitably make decisions that we disagree with and mistakes that could’ve been avoided. Ultimately, just like the coach has to allow their players to make the plays on the field, our kids have to make their plays in life. To love, accept, encourage, and give them space (even if you disagree with them) may be the secret to having the positive impact you desire. 

Other helpful resources (to help you help them):

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

As you were raising your children you emphasized the importance of treating each other with respect, making wise choices and doing the right thing. So, why do your adult children make poor decisions?

Seriously, let’s be honest. As a parent, it’s sometimes hard not to experience anger, perhaps some guilt and even resentment toward your grown children when you watch them repeatedly treat you or others disrespectfully, make poor decisions with money or their career, or make poor choices in general.

You may even question where you went wrong as a parent…“How could this child have grown up in our home and be making life-altering decisions that are affecting them AND the lives of their loved ones and friends?” you ask yourself over and over again.

☆ While you might be initially tempted to swoop in and rescue, take a deep breath and keep reading.

Before you beat yourself up and allow guilt to invade your mind, stop. It’s highly likely you did everything you could to help prepare your child for adulthood. Questioning every decision you made as a parent isn’t helpful for anyone. 

Here are some ways you can still be a guide for your grown child and give yourself peace of mind.

Communicate.

If you have a voice at all in your child’s life, now would be a good time to ask to have a conversation with them. As the parent of an adult child, how you approach this conversation can make the difference in whether or not you’ll be afforded the opportunity to continue to speak into their life. BEFORE you have this conversation, process through your own emotions in order to be as unemotional as possible while you’re talking with them. Also, think about what really needs to be said.

This should not be a lecture or interrogation. Ask them about what they’re trying to accomplish. Express your concern for what you see them doing or how you see them behaving. You might be able to offer wisdom, suggest other people for them to talk with, or resources to assist them in getting back on track. Avoid fixing it for them

Set boundaries.

Regardless of whether you’re able to have a conversation with your child, if you’ve not already set very clear boundaries for them, now is the time. Sometimes parents feel like they’re being unloving when they do this. In reality, the exact opposite is true. This is one of the most loving things you can do to help them move forward in a healthy way. Consider boundaries such as: 

  • You’ll not tolerate being treated disrespectfully, so if they can’t be respectful, they can’t be in your home. 
  • If they’re dealing with addictive behavior, you’re willing to help them get the help they need, but you won’t support their habit. 
  • They won’t be able to access your money, even if something were to happen to you.
  • Giving them money to bail them out of financial mistakes will not be possible.  
  • Taking responsibility for their behavior in any way won’t happen.
  • Moving back home is not an option. OR if moving back home could be an option, it wouldn’t happen without a contract in place about what will happen while they are at home and a move-out date set. A warning: if you choose to let them move back home, even with a contract in place, it could be very difficult to get them out.

Avoid enabling.

No matter how old your child is, your role as parent never stops, but it does change. When they’re adults, you’re more the coach or advisor on the sidelines, not their manager. It is incredibly painful to watch your children make poor decisions and not swoop in to fix it. Unless you want your 30, 45, 50-year-old child expecting you to continue to make everything alright for them, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT enable them by taking responsibility for their actions. Don’t confuse enabling with loving your adult child

Don’t cave.

This may require you to pull together a group of trusted friends to support you and help you stay strong. We love our children. Following through on our commitments to keep the boundaries that are in place and not rescue them can feel so unloving. It just goes against everything in us as parents. Yet, standing strong and following through with what you said you would do is actually the most helpful thing you can do for your child to encourage movement in a healthy direction.

Manage your emotions.

Parenting adult children who make poor decisions can be like a roller coaster ride. One minute you think you are making progress and the next day you are in the pit again. It’s tempting to let them have it, but don’t. You do need to be able to process your emotions, but don’t do it with your child. Talk with a trusted wise friend or seek out counseling. Let the tears flow, put words to the disappointment, anger and resentment you feel, grieve what you thought would be that is not, and make a plan for how you will continue to live as fully as possible even in the midst of your adult child living in turmoil. This is vital.

Don’t let their behavior put a damper on your love for them.

Sometimes it’s hard not to take your adult child’s behavior personally as though they are doing it just to get back at you. While that is possible, it isn’t necessarily true. They still need to know there is nothing they could do to make you love them more or love them less. Your love for them isn’t conditional.

Live your life.

When people ask you how are, in your heart of hearts, you feel like you are only doing as well as your children are doing. At some point, we have to separate our adult child’s behavior from ourselves and choose not to let them rob us of all of our joy in life. I’m not saying we don’t grieve. What I am saying is, we don’t allow it to consume us.

It’s funny—as our children move from one stage to the next, we think to ourselves, “Wow, I’m glad we are past that.” believing the next stage will be easier only to find out the current stage has its own set of unique challenges. When we finally believe we’ve arrived at a place where our adult children can function on their own, we find even this season of parenting has its own set of challenges, especially because they can do so much damage that is completely out of our control, but we can be impacted immensely by it. 

Being the parent of adult children who make poor decisions or behave badly is not for the faint of heart. It takes courage and tenacity to do what you know is in their and your best interest. Stand strong. Love powerfully. And, in those moments when you are weak and deviate from the plan, give yourself some grace, get back up and keep putting one foot in front of the other. 

Image from Unsplash.com

As a parent, are you preparing your child for the real world? Many college graduates will soon be joining the workforce, some for the first time. The transition can be a real shocker as they face their new reality of 8-hour days, specific start times, no more spring breaks and a limited amount of time for lunch. Plus, some workplaces expect employees to work at a rigorous pace that is foreign to many college students.

In the adjustment phase, young adults may complain to their parents about workplace practices, demanding bosses, irritating co-workers and deadlines, just to name a few issues. This is nothing new for sure. 

Anybody who has held a job can probably relate, but here’s where things get interesting. Many parents jump right in to deal with the issue at hand. In fact, you might be surprised at just how many parents are quick to take the reins and deal with the issue themselves.

In a recent survey of parents of children ages 18-28 conducted by Morning Consult, 11 percent of the parents surveyed said they would contact an employer if their child was having issues at work. Of the parents surveyed:

  • 76% reminded their adult children of deadlines they need to meet, including for schoolwork. 
  • 74% made appointments for them, including doctor’s appointments. 
  • 42% offered them advice on relationships and romantic life. 
  • 16% helped write all or part of a job or internship application. 
  • 15% told them which career to pursue.
  • 14% helped them get jobs or internships through professional network.
  • 14% gave more than $500 per month for rent or daily expenses.

With the possible exception of giving romantic advice, none of these behaviors on the part of the parent are helpful in preparing a young adult for the real world.

Instead of jumping in to rescue them, it would be helpful to assist them in preparing to deal with real world, real-life work situations. Here’s how you can start:

  • When they encounter a difficult professor, process with them potential ways to approach the professor and have a conversation. 
  • Teach them how to make their own doctor’s appointments. 
  • If they have internship possibilities, rehearse with them how to make the initial phone call or introduction and talk with them about potential interview questions. 

If they believe they are being treated unfairly or inappropriately at work, get a good understanding of what is happening. Then:

  • Attempt to walk through the situation with them, but realize the situation is not yours to handle. 
  • Ask them what they think they need to do besides quit, which sometimes ends up being an option if nothing else works, and then help them figure out an action plan they can execute by discussing the pros and cons of all viable options. 
  • If you don’t think you have the knowledge or skill set required to help them decide how to move forward, connect them with someone you believe has the knowledge to do so. Avoid the temptation to make the call yourself. 

It can be painful to watch your young adult deal with difficult and sometimes very complicated circumstances, especially if they are a hard worker and what they are walking through seems unjust. However, it is not healthy or helpful to jump into circumstances they need to learn how to handle themselves. Life is for sure not fair, and this will likely not be the last time they have to navigate dealing with a difficult situation. 

Whether your adult child is still in college or in the workforce, writing papers for them, calling them to make sure they are awake, reminding them of deadlines or interfering at work does not prepare your child for the reality of living an independent, productive life. Doing these things will make them more dependent on you and less prepared for dealing with what life hands them on their own.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on March 31, 2019.

Want more parenting resources? Click here!

Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!

Becoming a new grandparent can be just as complicated as being first-time parents. While you are excited about this new addition to the family, you also have to figure out exactly what your role will be as the grandparent.

“We have to constantly remind each other that the parents of our grandchildren are inexperienced,” say Tim and Darcy Kimmel, grandparents and the authors of the video series Grandparenthood: More than Rocking Chairs and the book Grace-Based Parenting.

“We know more because we have lived longer. But that doesn’t mean we should question what they are doing as parents when it comes to discipline, feeding or putting the baby down for a nap. They know their child better than we do. Our role is to encourage, support and be an ally, not a liability.”

The Kimmels encourage grandparents never to sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate by trying to manipulate situations or trying to control their adult children. If you sabotage the relationship with your adult child by being critical, controlling, petty or catty, you may sacrifice the relationship with your grandchildren as well. These behaviors tend to make people want to back away from the relationship versus embracing it.

The Kimmels believe grandparents can be most helpful when they give their children the freedom to: 

  • Be different. Just because your kids don’t parent exactly the same way you did does not mean they are doing it wrong. Give them the freedom to be goofy, quirky or weird.
  • Be vulnerable. Be intentional about making your relationship one that allows them to let their guard down. Be sure they know their moments of weakness and insecurity about being parents won’t be used against them.
  • Make mistakes. Most of us weren’t perfect in our parenting so don’t place unrealistic expectations upon your children. New parents need support instead of someone questioning their every move.
  • Be candid. Allow them to be candid with you when you have crossed the line. Being candid is more than being honest; it is thinking about the best interest of the receiver as you share information. If you allow them to be candid with you they are more likely to let you be candid with them.

“Being a grandparent gives you the opportunity to live the idealistic dream of parenthood where you don’t have to worry about diapers, soccer practice, dance lessons and waiting up for teenagers,” Tim Kimmel says. “Grandparenthood allows you to play a key role in writing the history of a generation that you will someday leave in charge.”

Let parents do what they do best: worry about diapers, nap times, discipline, etc. Enjoy your role as an encourager to your grown children as well as your grandchildren.

Click here to read the entire article, which was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on November 4, 2018.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

Getting your kids ready to launch is not easy. I remember it like it was yesterday. She bopped up to the front door of her new school in pigtails, all ready for her first day of kindergarten. After giving her a big hug, I walked back to the car with leaky eyes, feeling all the feels.

I was excited for our daughter’s new adventure, but I knew the page had turned and things would be different from that point forward. Beyond knowing numbers, letters and how to spell an 11-letter last name, I hoped we had given her a fierce sense of adventure and thirst for learning that would serve her well through the years.

Fast forward to 2010. There I was again, except this time the drop-off was different. She was actually moving into a dorm and we were driving home. Wasn’t this the goal, to work ourselves out of a job? I mean, this is what we’d been preparing her for throughout her life, right? As we drove away, my eyes started leaking again. I thought about all we tried to instill in her from the time she entered kindergarten to high school graduation, in between eye rolls, heavy sighs and being “the only parents who… (you fill in the blank)” and I wondered what actually did sink in. Once again, I found myself praying we’d prepared her for the road ahead.

Whether your child is heading off to kindergarten or launching from the nest, letting go can be hard. Sometimes it can feel like a real identity crisis, especially since the focus has been on the children for so many years. Now it’s time to pull back a bit and let them gain their footing.

If this is a first for you, here are some things to help you navigate how to help your kids launch.

  • Remind yourself that one of the ultimate goals of parenting is launch. If you need a little motivation, just think about the alternative: a 30-year-old sitting on your couch, playing video games day and night.
  • Get busy. In the midst of perhaps a tinge of identity crisis, think about all of the things you wanted to do over the years, but never had the time or energy because you were focused on your children’s needs. The silence at home can initially be deafening, but finding something to do with the additional time on your hands can soften the blow of coming home to an empty house. It can also help you avoid second-guessing your parenting and whether or not you have given your child what it takes to be successful.
  • Connect with parents who are a bit beyond you in the parenting journey. Don’t look for perfect parents, though. Instead, look for the ones who haven’t been afraid to let their kids fly, fail and fly again. It’s encouraging to know parenting isn’t about perfection, but about being present and allowing your children to learn and grow into the person they are called to be.

Just last week my daughter reminded me that she’s 25 and she’s good.

I laughed on the outside, but on the inside, maybe not so much. Don’t get me wrong: I love that she is living her life and being responsible, but I think even when your kids are grown, you still look out for them and want the best for them. During a conversation with a dad a few weeks ago about adult children, he said, “Once a parent, always a parent.” That statement is definitely true, but how you engage is very different. Hopefully, your adult child doesn’t need you as much, but they’ll want to be around you because they enjoy your company.

Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!

Preparing your kids for responsibility can be a daunting task. Kay Wyma, mother of five, had a revelation one day while taking her kids to school that prompted some dramatic changes at home and ultimately led her to write Cleaning House: A Mom’s 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement.

“My teenage son asked me what kind of car I thought he would look best in, a Porsche, Lexus or Maserati,” says Wyma. “Deciding on the Porsche, he said he planned to get one when he turned 16. Fighting back nausea, I’m thinking, ‘What planet are you on and how do you plan to pay for it?’ All the talks about ‘materialism and how things don’t make you happy’ clearly hadn’t penetrated his brain.”

On the way home, Wyma called her friend to vent and get reassurance that the self-centered teenage stage doesn’t last forever. Wyma realized mid-discussion that maybe she was contributing to her kids’ self-centeredness.

“My kids are great. But I wondered if what we were doing was helping prepare them for the real world,” Wyma says.

“I made their beds, picked up their rooms, taxied them here and there, fixed their meals, and showered them with accolades but rarely gave them the chance to confirm the substance of that praise. My words said one thing, but my actions said, ‘I’ll do it for you because I can do it better or faster than you can.’ I realized this was a major disservice to our children. Instead of preparing them to launch, we are creating a sense of dependence on us as parents.”

After seeking wisdom from women with adult children, Wyma came up with 12 skills for her children to learn before they fly the coop. Here is a sample of what’s on the list:

  • Make a bed and maintain an orderly room;
  • Cook and clean a kitchen;
  • Do yard work;
  • Clean a bathroom;
  • Do laundry;
  • Run errands; and
  • Act mannerly.

“After deciding on the 12 skills, we called a family meeting and we told the kids that things were going to be different,” Wyma says. “We started with their rooms. They had to make their beds before they went to school and pick stuff up from the floor. We got the usual whining and complaining, but I was actually surprised at how quickly they started doing what we asked.”

To get the ball rolling, Wyma added an incentive. She put 31 dollar bills in a jar for each child.

They could get an additional dollar each day they did what they were supposed to or have one taken away. Most of the kids chose to have one taken away if they didn’t follow through on their tasks. Interestingly, she rarely had to take bills out of the jar. But the child who chose to have money put in the jar could have cared less.

“I think people forget how exciting it is to equip your kids to tap into the opportunities that come to them,” Wyma says. “If I am always doing everything, they don’t own anything nor do they have the opportunity to be challenged and build confidence. Our children are in a very different place than they were two years ago when we started this experiment. I think we would all agree things have changed for the better.”

Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!

Following a recent college graduation, a group of young adults lamented the fact that things were probably going to be different. They are no longer on their parents’ payroll. They are expected to find work and pay their bills. No more summers or semester breaks The big question is, are they prepared to launch into life in the real world?

Charles J. Sykes, author of Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good about Themselves, but Can’t Read, Write, or Add, wrote an op-ed entitled, Some Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School for the San Diego Union Tribune.

Though Sykes wrote the piece more than a decade ago, many would argue that the rules still apply.

  • Life is not fair.
  • The real world won’t care as much about your self-esteem as your school does. It’ll expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.
  • You won’t make $40,000 a year right out of school.
  • If you think your teacher is tough, wait ’til you get a boss. He doesn’t have tenure, so he tends to be a bit edgier. When you screw up, he’s not going to ask you how you feel about it.
  • Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping. They called it opportunity.
  • It’s not your parents’ fault. If you screw up, you are responsible. This is the flip side of “It’s my life,” and “You’re not the boss of me,” and other eloquent proclamations of your generation.
  • Before you were born your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning up your room and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. Before you save the rainforest from the blood-sucking parasites of your parents’ generation, try delousing the closet in your bedroom.
  • Your school may have done away with winners and losers. Life hasn’t. In some schools, they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.
  • Life is not divided into semesters, and you don’t get summers off. They expect you to show up every day for eight hours. Very few jobs are interested in fostering your self-expression or helping you find yourself.
  • Television is not real life. Your life is not a sitcom. Your problems will not all be solved in 30 minutes, minus time for commercials. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop to go to jobs.
  • Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them.
  • Smoking does not make you look cool.
  • You are not immortal.
  • Enjoy this while you can. Sure, parents are a pain, school’s a bother and life is depressing. But someday you’ll realize how wonderful it was to be a kid. Maybe you should start now.

Enough said!

Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!