Dear Readers – For Christmas Eve - with its underlying message of hope that can be applied to all people concerned about the future for themselves and their families - I’ve chosen a reader’s question that spans three generations, and deals with the most universal of relationship concerns: How we humans treat each other.
At what point should a parent expect adult children to become less self-absorbed and show more interest in others around them (e.g. parents and grandparents)?
Our two adult children are smart, successful, lovely people. We’ve always shown them that we’d be there for them – help them, support them, listen when they have difficulties.
We’ve discussed with them in recent years that perhaps it’s time for them to take some initiative in contacting their loving/caring grandparents, also calling us to see how we’re doing, and reaching out to each other as siblings.
But only when we make contact or have everyone over, do we hear from them (unless they need something).
We’re hurt by this behaviour and tired of reminding, “Your grandmother is sick, maybe you should call her?”
We always made the effort with our own parents and grandparents, to show them love, keep in touch and be supportive of them.
Now we’re at a loss. Do we pull back from our adult children, so they see that they need to make an effort if they want family in their life?
Thinking of Withdrawing
It’s not just the time of year that should help you think this through. It’s also the time of life and the period in which you and your adult children are living that can help with your response.
Your adult children are busy, even busier than you were at their age. You may’ve struggled more to get ahead, perhaps with less support and other disadvantages.
But there’s no doubting that younger people are living with a faster-moving, ever-changing culture, where work-life now has 24-hour demands through the internet, email, texting, social media and other technologies.
Raising youngsters is also different – more time-consuming, more driving, more pressure for more activities (for fitness, culture, sports, the arts) and arranging play time with other children since unsupervised street-play is largely a thing of the past.
Meanwhile, parents of adult children (like yourself) are thankfully living longer and healthier, and/or with medical needs that largely can be handled through medications and successful interventions. Today’s adult children take this care of their parents for granted, since it’s in their awareness years that they’ve seen all these advances.
Do these comparative lifestyle realities excuse younger adults from any responsibility to maintaining family ties? Of course not.
Rather, they should help the generations understand that change requires new adaptations and expectations.
For me, withdrawing from your grown-up children isn’t a reaction that makes sense. Miss the fun of seeing their present/future children grow from helpless infants to children amazed about small things we grownups take for granted – snowflakes, candles, a spinning top? No way. Punish your adult children for not calling more often? There’s no win there!
Join their communication mode and text to ask how they’re doing, then text about what’s happening with you.
Tell them how their grandparents are, and still arrange those get-togethers for the extended family. But ask them to bring part of the meal, and, when it gets too much for you, ask them to host it. They’ll recognize the need (albeit reluctantly) when it becomes necessary with the next set of changes.
Meanwhile, keep loving them; you need each other.
I used to have a house cleaner whom I’d give an extra week’s pay at Christmas. Now I’m using a house-cleaning company that doesn’t always send the same people to my house.
I’d still like to do something for Christmas but not sure how to handle this.
Your question did arrive last-minute for the holiday, but kindness is never out of time. The house-cleaning company’s employees will still be happy with extra money and your appreciation.
While you may not have the same relationship with occasional cleaners that you had with one person, almost everyone in service jobs relies somewhat on tips.
And those who work through companies, often have to pay something back for the assignments. Instead of a week’s pay, perhaps give a measure based on how many different people show up – e.g. one third of the weekly amount – as a Christmas bonus, to each of three cleaners you see.
Tip of the day:
Don’t knock generational differences, adapt instead.