Parenting Adult Children
Updated: Feb 28
Be a Resource, Not a Controlling Force
Her car is packed ready to drive away to a new city, a new job...a new life without you. Memories of her birth and young years flood your thoughts. How can it be that after 22 years of dedication to this person's life, it will be over in a matter of minutes?
In the wake of her departure, time previously dedicated to her needs now echoes silence. Knowing that this is what she must do in order to become fully herself brings us, her parents, little solace. Articles that refer to this as "individuation" bring no comfort to the hurting heart. Our days without her feel empty. We are no longer the guiding force in her life. Letting go is essential if the relationship is to continue with mutual respect and our admitting that she is now an adult with complete sovereignty over her decisions and her life path. She will go forth and we will be left behind.
We must grieve our children's departure, or we risk hanging on too tightly and driving them away with our underlying, unresolved sorrow. The relationship must be transformed to us being a resource as we give up being a controlling force.
Unresolved grief bleeds into our relationships. Take Susan, a woman I met in a small group church setting designed to help people learn with conflict. She confided in me that her 24-year-old daughter would have nothing to do with her. Susan seemed like a perfectly lovely person; however, I have been a psychologist long enough to know that a public persona can be very different from one's private self. I listened carefully for clues as to why Susan's daughter chose complete estrangement.
The clues were this: Her daughter, Avery, moved across the country and would not speak to her at all. Avery would not acknowledge her mother's texts or emails and she would not return her calls. Susan lamented, "She still talks to my husband." Susan was mystified. The detective in me sensed that Susan was having a hard time giving up her parental role as a controlling force in her daughter's life, and further conversation revealed this to be so. The only question that remained was whether Susan would willingly let go, or continue along insisting that Avery conform to her demands.
We Cannot Control What Others Do
Susan chose me to speak with individually, as many do when they find out that I am a psychologist. As I got to know Susan, I encouraged her to give her daughter space; however, instead she focused on how much her daughter's actions were hurting her and lamented that if Avery would just be reasonable, then all would be well again. I suggested to Susan that she try counseling because issues relating to being an empty nester can be overwhelming (and obviously, given her resistance to change, this was going to take more than a couple of conversations with me).
Susan declined and continued to insist that Avery must be the one "to come to her senses." It became clear that Susan did not approach me for advice but rather to obtain a psychologist's agreement to fortify her position and therefore, make Avery's choices wrong. While Susan still held hope that she could remain one-up in her relationship with Avery, this was not going to happen. Avery had made that clear.
Susan pondered using others, such as her husband and son, to reel her daughter back in (a classic triangulation move). She could not threaten to cut her off financially because Avery was not dependent on her parents for money. Another classic move that includes the alarmist "I think I have cancer" had already played itself out with Susan having to finally admit to being in good health. Susan could not see that even if she somehow manipulated Avery's return into her life that it would only be a strained form of obligation.
Only two choices remained for Susan: continue this same path that will only lead to further estrangement - OR - take steps to change herself to create a transformed relationship in which Susan would become a supportive resource instead of a controlling force.
We Can Only Choose What We Do
Now we compare Diane's choices with Susan's. Susan in entrenched. No progress is being made.
Diane has made similar choices as Susan. As a single, divorced mother, Diane immersed herself in parenting and hoped that she and her daughter, Kimmy, would always be close. Like Susan, Diane was not prepared for how Kimmy's departure would lead to sorrow. The grief that overtook her eventually created a rift between Diane and Kimmy. Her daughter's life was new and exciting, and Diane being the wounded, left behind faithful servant led to Kimmy's calls diminishing.
Upon researching empty nester syndrome, Diane found the advice of the Mayo Clinic to be insufficient: accept the timing, keep in touch, seek support, and stay postive. Diane did not want to carry these feelings of grief around with her any longer, and Dr. Bruce Lipton's teachings and advice provided the clearest and quickest path to her goal. As oftentimes happens, Diane scrolled through the available faciliators on the PSYCH-K website and felt a connection with my picture. She said that upon reading my website and blogs that she knew I was someone who would understand and not judge her.
When Diane contacted me, she wanted to know how PSYCH-K could make a difference and how her daughter would know that a change was taking place. Along the lines of Dr. Lipton and Rob Williams (the man to whom PSYCH-K was divinely revealed), I explained that we start with focusing on Diane and what she wants instead in her life. All change has to start with us. While events in our lives prompt us toward opportunities for change, it is up to us to change us to achieve the outcomes we desire.
As far as how her daughter will know that Diane is changing for the positive, people who are close to us can hear in our voices and see in our facial expressions the meaning underlying any words we say (at least 80% of communication is nonverbal). Given that that the driving force behind our thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and communication lies in our subconscious mind, that is the root cause that needs to be addressed.
Also, PSYCH-K is about change in our own lives that - like a pebble tossed into a pond - has a ripple effect on our relationships with not only others, but ourselves. As I suggest with all new clients, Diane completed a questionnaire that helped her discover what she wants in her own life. In the PSYCH-K sessions, Diane not only found healing in her new role as an empty nester, but she acquired a new lease on life, which led to actions that provided supporting evidence to Diane and her daughter that she was different.
With PSYCH-K, there is an additional avenue through which Diane changed the dynamic between her and her daughter and it is accomplished on a level above the conscious mind - on an energetic level with the Relationship Balance.
The PSYCH-K Relationship Balance provides insight and healing. What was amazing to Diane is that this could be accomplished without Kimmy's participation because while it was undertaken by Diane's conscious mind with permission from her Higher or Soul Self, it was completed with permission from Kimmy's Higher/Soul Self. Diane participated in the process and felt incredible healing and connection taking place.
Within less than two months, Diane found healing in her relationships with her daughter and herself as her life took on a positive trajectory. Their relationship is now closer than before with the new dynamic of Diane being a valued resource of advice that she gives only when Kimmy asks for it. Diane encourages Kimmy, knowing that errors of judgment in life are inevitable, but that we, as humans, learn best by experience. We are not here to get it right, we are here to experience and mistakes are to be celebrated because our getting back up and re-engaging with life increases not only our confidence, but our ability to weather the storms on the horizon.