By some definitions, they're adults.
They're old enough to drive, (probably for several years), they're old enough to vote (even if they barely know what the issues are), and they're old enough to be charged as adults if they commit a crime (crossing our fingers not to face that one). They're old enough to have credit cards, live on their own, get jobs, go to college.
They're smart. They may very well know the issues about voting better than we do. They care about the economy. They care about the world's resources. They're hip. They even know the new word for hip, which clearly I don't.
And yet, are they?
What happens when they come home?
A lot of these young adults, also commonly referred to as millennials, come home either to visit for the summer or to live and none of us parents know what to do. They are still our children, despite no longer being children. They're adults, in some ways, out in the real world (do we consider college real world?), and then they come home and then what?
What is the expectation on everyone's part of what's to happen?
As our roles as parents and children shift, so do our expectations. There are the concrete dynamics of living together -- just a few examples -- who's taking out the garbage, how often and who is cleaning the bathroom. Who's responsible for the minutiae of cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry, and all the other facets of real life. You all know about those, those are the details that keep us from living in total filth and squalor, squabbling about who does what and when.
The other dynamics to consider are of a higher order and possibly where all the concrete pieces must flow from -- simply put, who's in charge?
Do we revert back to old rules that were put into place when our children were emerging into adulthood?
How we go about making decisions together in our new roles? What are the building blocks to supporting our evolving relationships with our children? We've all seen parent/child relationships that have effectively stalled. An indicator that may be true in your home would be if you hear yourself saying, "When you're in my house, you'll follow my rules". While that may be a desirable and enforceable stance when your children are younger, (notice I said may be), it is guaranteed to produce the effect of your child feeling that they have no say in the home that they are living in.
Ask yourself this, are we willing to be uncomfortable and change our habits and lifestyle to accommodate this other adult?
Or are we only expecting that they will adapt to how we want things handled? Do we realize that their comfort and discomfort is as important as our own?
Many of us know the feeling of being stuck in our relationships with our own parents -- that somehow we become children like again in their presence and especially in their homes. Our relationships haven't changed since we were children -- listening doesn't go both ways and we don't feel seen as the grown adults that we are. We get that about ourselves and our relationships with our parents, yet we don't always understand that our children can feel the same way with us.
Somehow we think we're different and our children are perfectly content with status quo -- with them being the children and us being their parents and in charge for ever.
Are stuck and growing in our relationships with our children our only two choices? And if they are, which do you pick?
No judgment here. This is an opportunity to understand your relationship with your parents, your children and particularly with yourself more clearly. Because to see it clearly is a way to start from basics. And from basics, you can make changes, even long standing, nearly impossible to imagine changes. If we want different relationships with our children than we have with our parents or we simply want something different than what we currently have with our children, then we need to dig very deep down. And we need to be willing to work hard, maybe harder than we ever have before.
A few more questions to ask yourself about staying stuck in a relationship with your children or growing in that relationship.
1. What do we want from each other?
2. How do we communicate needs?
3. What's the balance of power?
4. Who gets the final word?
5. Is it their home too?
6. Does that mean they have equal say if we acknowledge that it is also their home?
7. How do we want to be with each other?
Communication is key and it can also be precisely where we get the most stuck.
Talking and listening need to be rethought when it's about a child who's grown into an adult. We've taught our children all of their lives. We've also learned from our children all of their lives. This is the time to acknowledge that we all have skills and we are all capable of learning new ones as well as improving the ones that we all ready have.
Listening becomes crucial and to do so we need to keep our hearts wide open.
Cracked open. I know that feels really vulnerable, deep down in your guts vulnerable.
And guess what, that's what we need to do to grow and to let our children grow too.