for release Friday September 12, 2003
by Melodie Davis
Editor's Note: Part 2 of a three-part series on Parenting Young Adults. Tough Issues in Parenting Young Adults
If you are a parent of young adults, what are some of the issues you are facing? If you are a young adult, what do you wish you could talk (rationally) about with your parents?
The other week I got this e-mail: "I am hoping you can recommend more sites or literature where I can find some guidelines on the do's and don'ts for my 18-year-old daughter still living at home. In particular, drinking, and smoking at home. What do you say when you know they are sexually active?" On other issues, do you or they decide what college they will go to: will it be a public or private school? Does that depend on who is paying the bill? What happens to family dynamics when you are planning a wedding? I've heard of screaming duels and crying jags, and kids running off to a no-waiting-for-license place when the pressures get too great (at least wedding stress and conflict will pass). What do you do if your kid is just not motivated to keep a job more than two months at a time, and gets by living with friends?
I responded to the woman who e-mailed me about her daughter that as long as they are living at home, it is OK to expect them to follow household guidelines. Once they are on their own, it doesn't work to keep hammering at them. You have told them your standards throughout their growing up years. Once they're young adult, maybe remind them of your values once in a great while, even if you get the rolled eyes in return. I don't think it is a time to keep silent totally because the cultural atmosphere is such that sex is just an expected part of being a young adult. Maybe the way we can be most effective at this age is in just trying to present a good model of love in marriage ourselves, and in pushing and praying for them to want something more than casual sex.
I'm sure questions and behavior related to sex form one of the biggest anxiety areas for most parents. I conducted an informal, unscientific survey at two seminars this last summer about issues parents were facing and how they felt about their children leaving home.
One of the biggest general fears parents had for their children was "fear that they will mess up." Parents also fretted over "how will I related to children and their chosen career direction and future plan" and "how I will miss them." However, these anxieties didn't result in a feeling of being "clingy" for most (35) of those who completed the survey. Perhaps clingy was the wrong word, because nearly all, 46, expressed "anxiety" about their children leaving home. Six felt "very much" anxiety and three didn't feel like they experienced any. (This is of course a very small, self-selected survey group but I'd gamble a larger one would yield very similar, predictable, results.) But the handwritten comments on the surveys were perhaps the most revealing and touching. One mother of two wrote that she came to the seminar, "To help me prepare my heart for the future." She worried about how she would "miss her kids." Another mother of two wrote, "I'm having trouble motivating my son and am looking for hints as to how to do this." One said, "I have concerns about my child's readiness to be independent and the dangers of my temptation to 'rescue' him." This woman and her husband are already retired-which probably means a whole different set of issues as an older parent. Finally another mother poignantly wrote, "I have a daughter this age and I'm afraid of losing her physically and spiritually." These are not little or trivial fears we have for our kids. We may fear for their physical safety-accidents, rape, illness. One young adult collapsed in her apartment and her friends rushed her to the emergency room. It was discovered she was severely malnourished and dehydrated: she just plain hadn't been eating well.
When the seminar I was conducting was over, one father stood up and said loudly enough for others to hear, "How many think these issues are a whole lot tougher when you're parenting sons?" There was a general murmur of agreement and a few raised hands. Maybe he was saying I wasn't qualified to lead the seminar as the parent of three daughters, even though they are 17, 20 and 22.
You are not alone in any difficulty you are facing with your kids. That was perhaps the best part about the seminar itself: people finding other people to talk to and share with. That is important (but difficult) to do on an ongoing basis as well-either informally with friends, or through a support group at church or elsewhere.
We'll look at some possible "answers" to these questions next time.
What do you think? What are your experiences raising young adults? Send to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 844 words; end material = 105 words
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