In my writings, I encourage parents to let go of certain beliefs that contribute unnecessarily to frustration and worry. Here are a few examples:
- “I can control my young adult.”
- “My parenting is responsible for my young adult’s current problems in achieving independence.”
- “I am responsible for my young adult’s success and happiness.”
If we hold onto these beliefs or myths, it will be hard to let go, and your young adult will have difficulty moving on. Parents who believe they can control their young adults will encounter resistance, if not rebellion, and the relationship will be strained. Parents who suffer guilt from some past parenting action or neglect will have difficulty setting boundaries and saying “no.” Parents who feel responsible for their young adult’s success will place unnecessary pressure on their young adults to make their parents happy and proud. This, too, can lead to rebellion or turning inward and depression as they believe they have failed their parents.
Q12. I feel responsible for my young adult’s success in life.
Of the one hundred and eighteen parents who responded to this statement, 78% either agreed or strongly agreed with this statement. Only 22% disagreed or strongly disagreed. Here are some comments these parents made:
- “Logically I know I shouldn’t, but I still do feel responsible.”
- “I feel a sense of responsibility as a divorced parent.”
- “I might feel differently if she were doing well. I probably blame myself.”
Commentary: This sense of responsibility “for” the young adult keeps us hanging on emotionally, if not in our behavior. Furthermore, our young adults may feel this added burden of finding happiness and success on their terms and trying to satisfy and please their parents. We need to ask ourselves how to be responsible “to” our young adults without taking on the responsibility “for” their lives. For additional reference material on this, see the following blogs.
Q13. I feel guilt or remorse about how I raised my young adults.
This question is directly linked to the second myth described above. On this question, more parents responded with disagree/strongly disagree (55%) than responded with agree/strongly agree (38%). Here are some statements of parents regarding this question.
- “My only guilt is related to a lack of knowledge about her experience”
- “I feel frustrated…that so many things were missed.”
- “Sometimes one questions what they did in raising a child.”
Commentary: For those in the agree/strongly agree camp, I would encourage you to obtain a copy of my book on apology and forgiveness. The former will outline a way to let go of guilt and shame, so these are no longer hindering your relationship with your young adult, and the latter will help you forgive yourself for any past shortcomings. Past parenting regrets keep parents entangled with the young adult in efforts to absolve themselves of their actions and will contribute to hanging on, difficulties in saying no, and setting boundaries.
I am reminded of a cartoon showing a conference being held in a large auditorium for children of functional families and there was only one person in attendance. You could say the same for the convention for perfect parents. However, I don’t think there would be even one parent in attendance. We didn’t have perfect parents and we’re not going to be perfect parents. Better to acknowledge this fact, apologize to our young adults, forgive ourselves and move on. Recently two of our adult children got together to discuss growing up. They agreed that my wife, who was home with the kids, never played with them very much and then added an indictment about me that they didn’t remember me being around a lot. We sometimes think that our kids are rewriting history when they indict us for our failures. Maybe we need to take their perceptions seriously and apologize for our actions that led to those perceptions. Apology by parents is the healing practice that sets us free but also removes an excuse for our young adult’s failure to move on with their lives.
Q14. I feel a lot of frustration and anger toward my young adult and his or her actions.
On this question, 28% indicated that they agree or strongly agree with the above statement. In an earlier survey, parents of young adults indicated the one word that most described their experience with their young adults was “frustration.” In the added comments on this question, frustration came up thirty percent of the time. In the case of this parent survey group, the majority either disagreed or disagreed strongly with this statement (59%). That’s encouraging. Although there may be challenges, most parents have not defaulted to anger and frustration as a response. Here are some comments:
- “I struggle with the ups and downs.”
- “Not anger, more discouraged and frustrated.”
- “Because of his communication and negativity with me, it makes me crazy.”
Commentary: Often, the beliefs we have, as described above, are the source of anger and frustration. We can’t make them do what we want. We feel guilty they are not thriving, and we feel frustrated that they are not moving in the direction we believe they should be moving. It may be easier to give up these myths than to keep trying to validate these. Most parents have been able to elevate and not get pulled into the mud with their young adults in a way that leads to anger and frustration. I am sure it’s hard. If I had asked parents in this survey if they experienced frustration with their young adults at times, my guess is the number agreeing would be much higher. It’s a tough time of life for both parents and young adults. We’re trying to influence, if not direct, them, and they are trying to establish their own identity and direction, which may not match our expectations. Lots of patience and resilience are required. For more help on understanding how to deal with the frustrations of young adulthood, see the following blogs:
We’re all doing the best we can. Beating ourselves up or believing we must be responsible for our young adult’s success will not only cause us a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering but will complicate if not undermine the launching process. Stay tuned for future blogs on the Parent Survey by Dr. Heather Hessel and myself.
- A Letter from A Grieving Mother - November 14, 2023
- Book Recommendation: Rules of Estrangement: Why Adult Children Cut Ties and How to Heal the Conflict - November 13, 2023
- When a Young Adult’s Transition to Independence is Complicated by Special Needs - October 27, 2023