Your children will never be ready to leave home. I have no intention of even suggesting that there is any scientific evidence behind that statement. Still, very few parents ever feel that their children are ready to leave home. There is simply no way that they will ever be able to look after themselves. Once the magic laundry basket disappears, and the never-ending food supply runs out, and they leave the bedroom floor littered, in the morning, only to come home to find it is not spotlessly clean, they will be home, again. They will never be able to look after themselves.
It’s not true, of course. Assuming that you have done even a half decent job as a parent, your children will survive. They may even thrive, surpassing even your very impressive achievements.
Nevertheless, most children will, eventually, leave home. Many, if not most, will find someone to love, settle down, and have children of their own. Most of them will do a perfectly adequate job of raising these children, despite your concerns.
Now the real worries start. You will, undoubtedly, see things happening in your children’s lives that cause concern, and you will want to give advice.
At this point, a warning is in order. Be very careful about offering advice to your grown children, especially if they have left home. You may damage your relationship in ways that could be difficult to repair. And there are several reasons for maintaining a good relationship.
On a purely selfish note, you are getting older. At some point in time, you may need to have your child or children around to look after you. Have you ever read stories of people dying alone and not being discovered for weeks, months, or even years? “How can this happen?” you ask. “Where was their family?” It’s simple. Most of these people failed to maintain their relationships with others, especially with their families. This is not a good situation and could lead to an untimely death.
Becoming less selfish, however what about those times when your child looks to you for guidance? Unless you have maintained a reasonable relationship with him, he will not come and ask for advice, even though you are probably in the best position to offer it.
So you need to be tactful when offering advice. There are ways to do this which should not cause offence.
One of the easiest ways to avoid causing offence is to ask a question; but make sure it is the right question. Asking, “Why are you doing that the wrong way?” seldom produces the desired results. It is far better to ask in terms of trying to learn. So you may want to say something like, “I’ve never seen it done that way, before. Is that something new?” You will often get the response, “Oh! Is there another way?” Then, you will be able to say, “We used to do it this way.”
You may also want to reserve, “You weren’t brought up, that way,” for real emergencies. It is antagonistic. I know. I’ve made that mistake! Instead, try the question method, above.
Or you may want to present it as if you are learning something from your child. “It’s amazing how things change over time. We didn’t learn to do it that way. Can you show me how you do that, please.” This is a great option. It displays a reasonable willingness to learn; a willingness to accept that your child may actually know better than you; and it offers an opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of each method.
Now, if you don’t think that’s possible, take a look at a two-year-old using a tablet computer! Interestingly, my two-year-old grandson does not understand the concept of the computer mouse. He has, effectively, been raised with touch screen technology. So when he sits on my lap in front of the computer, or even when I link the computer with the television, he cannot understand why the screen does not respond when he uses his finger to jab at his preferred choice. But his handling of a tablet computer puts me to shame!
If that’s true of a two-year-old, why does the concept disappear when they are twenty two? Or thirty two? Consider this: Have you ever been frustrated because your mother has forgotten how to send a text message from her cell phone – again! If you have to teach your parents, isn’t it possible that your children may have to teach you?
Learn From Your Children
Let’s take a practical example of this. We will discuss discipline in more detail, later. But let’s use this as an illustration.
I was recently discussing discipline with a Social Worker and learned that she went to the same school, but about thirty years later. She seemed to be horrified at the thought that this could happen, especially in “her” school. She certainly never had that experience. Why, the very idea of such abusive treatment was anathema to her; and probably rightly so.
Following the introduction of the Child Protection Act (in the UK) and similar legislation, around the world, parents have been encouraged to think about other forms of discipline. The use of physical punishment has been discouraged; some countries even want to ban it altogether. Regardless of how you feel about that, it does go some way to protecting vulnerable children, even if there are still too many being abused, worldwide.
The result of all this is that it has been necessary to think of other ways to discipline children. Without going into too much detail, parents have now learned that they and their children can benefit from a “time out” period. The idea is that everyone gets a chance to calm down. This way, children are less likely to be harmed by abusive “discipline.” I have found it necessary to glean some discipline concepts from my children, and I have to say that I am impressed by the results. Now I wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that!”
This just illustrates how things change, over time. So, as parents, we must be careful not to assume that our way of doing things is always the best. Our children have benefitted from advances in education that we may have been too busy to notice. Belittling their ability to assimilate and apply the latest thinking on life will not do our relationship much good. As we progress through this subject, it will become obvious that maintaining a good relationship is absolutely essential.
Another way to offer advice may be to simply keep quiet and accept that your children do things differently from the way you do them. Occasionally, this will even prompt the statement, “You don’t agree with me, do you. I can tell. You haven’t said anything.” This may lead to an opportunity to present your views in a more controlled atmosphere. At the very least, it will give you time to accept your child’s choices and to mindfully review your options. More about that, later.
This method is especially effective where there is no risk. For example, if your son was not in full control of your granddaughter on a busy road, keeping quiet may not be the best option. Yet there are many other areas where maintaining a suitable silence is a good idea. Let’s go back to the matter of computer technology.
When I was at school, slide rules were still being used in advanced mathematics. I learned to use proper log tables to process long calculations and discover square and cube roots. My children used calculators. Calculators? Doesn’t that take all the skill out of maths? My grandchildren, however, ask about those quaint little boxes that look like cell phones but don’t make calls. “What’s a calculator for?” They use computers, even from a young age. Who needs a calculator when you can put your results on a spreadsheet and produce a graph with the click of a button? Yes, there is a risk that young people, today, fail to learn their times tables, and that is being addressed in today’s schools. But it may be an area for amused interest rather than contention.
So, before raising an issue, consider whether it is really that important. Your most important task, at this stage, is to maintain a good relationship with your children so that you can be there for them when they need you; and they can be there for you, when you need them, even if that seems an absurd concept, at this point in time.
Choosing a Partner
When your children leave home, it will often be to get married. This will be the subject of the next section.
(By the way, I always speak of “living together” in terms of being married. I make no apologies and offer no explanations, here. If your are offended by the idea, I’m sorry, but it’s what I believe in.)