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Filtering by Tag: parents

The Changing Family

We all know that the two parent, two child household is now just one of many, many combinations that make up a family. That said, how do we navigate traditional family dynamics with the new reality? What is the polite thing to call a former mother-in-law? Do you buy your step-dad a Father’s Day card? Do you continue to call your uncle’s husband your uncle? Do you have to have your half-sister in your wedding if you aren’t close? You’ll find all of the correct answers to these questions and more below:

Just kidding. For every familial relationship, for every holiday and reunion, for every plane ride back to your home town there is a new set of rules. So why not just stick to the basics:

When in doubt, be as kind as you can. Your step mom knows she’s not your mom, there is no need to remind her. Odds are, she’s not trying to be, she’s just trying to make you (and herself) feel as comfortable as possible. Why not indulge her? Instead of acting defensive around new family, no matter who they are, don’t punish them for not knowing you yet. Offer gracious thanks and try to interact.

Sometimes, it’s gonna be awkward. And that’s okay. If you are in a new relationship with someone who has kids or your elderly parent is getting remarried, whatever the case may be, there is plenty of uncharted territory. The only recourse is to accept this as a fact and try to move forward. That may even mean acknowledging the surprising nature of life, making a joke of it and pushing along.

New and “non-traditional” family can provide new and “non-traditional” love. The beauty of forging ahead into an uncharted family dynamic is that there aren’t a million examples all around you. This can feel lonely, but it can also be a good thing. Most people could talk for hours about their relationship with their mother, and it’s easy to compare and contrast which can often lead to one party feeling badly. But a blended family might have less to compare it to, leaving more room to avoid unnecessary hang-ups.

Just be yourself. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s a cliché, but it’s so true! Let these people in a little bit, show them who you are, and the family-like love we’re all supposed to feel for anyone who is remotely related to us, may flow more freely. Or it may not, but at least you can say you were kind, and that you tried.

Navigating your new relationship with your parents now that you are a grown-up

We all grew up differently. Some of us had married parents, some divorced. Rural, urban, only children, or one of many.  Some of us had lots of independence, some were nearly smothered.  No matter who you were or how you grew up, at a certain age there is a shift in the parent/child relationship. That is, when the child of this scenario becomes an adult, but the parent is still a parent.  Can you navigate that without anger, hurt feelings, confusion, and miscommunication? Well if there was an easy answer to that, we all would have heard it by now. It can be tough dealing with parents.  Maybe they let go a long time ago and you are still feeling lost.  Maybe you were independent from the moment the clock struck 18 (or 21 or 16 or, or, or…), and your parents are having a hard time letting you go.  The only consistent problem seems to be communication. Sometimes one party has a harder time admitting and accepting that kids grow up and often move on or away.

What to do? Talk about it.   Allow your new status as an adult to give you the confidence to approach your parents.

Make sure you’re honest about where you are in your life.  Show them that they are still such an important part of that life that they deserve to know about it. Career, relationships, milestones are likely to be important to them too, and they may bask in your successes and have sage advice for your struggles.

Speaking of advice, it may be more valuable than cash.  If you are having financial trouble (or any other kind), ask them what they think before you ask to borrow. Not only will they appreciate being used for their wisdom more than an ATM machine, you may even get something more valuable out of it.

Set boundaries. Both parties need to know what’s appropriate in your new dynamic, and this is different with every family. Try to tell them one thing about your relationship that you love for everything that you have an issue with. Be honest and direct, but kind.

Thank them. Profusely. Just do. And mean it.

Who Says You Can't Go Home?

The economy is in a rut and the student loan collectors are beginning to call. So where do you go next? The answer for many of us is moving back in with our “ ‘rents.” Moving home after being independent for an extended period of time can feel like a major downer.  It’s easy to feel demotivated and depressed as you confront this major lifestyle change.  However, it really doesn’t have to be that bad! Here are some tips to help make living with the “ ’rents” a more positive experience:

1)      Remember first and foremost that your parents are doing you a favor by providing you free or discounted shelter.  Remember to say thank you – your parents will appreciate your gratitude.

2)      Set a time frame for how long you plan to live at home. If you are job-hunting, don’t allow yourself to get too distracted.  Make yourself a schedule and stick to it.

3)      Set ground rules with your parents.  If you are living with any new roommates, it’s important to assert your needs and set boundaries.  Your dad might not want you coming home after the sun has already risen…however, you also have the right to tell him not to snoop through your stuff.   Mutual respect will go a long way.

4)      Remind yourself that your time with your parents is still an opportunity to move forward and build your life.  You can continue seeing friends, dating, and more.

5)      Establish local support networks.  Give your friend from high school a call, hang out in local coffee shops, and reintegrate yourself in your community.  Seek new friends.

6)      Stay the responsible adult you are or are becoming. Contribute. Regressing to being taken care of by our folks is so tempting but so stunting. You don’t want to be living on their couch in your 30’s.


Going Home for the Holidays? How to keep your cool...

You walk in the door and your mother nags you about your hair.  Your father comments on your lack of drive.  Your uber-successful big brother rubs his new car in your face.  Sound familiar?  Why is it when we go home we somehow become a kid again?  We resume our childhood roles –the older responsible one, the rebel, the baby.  How can we get through the holidays without letting our family drive us crazy?  The first thing to remember is that families install and push each other’s buttons.  Don’t take things so personally.  Parents are parents and it’s a job that never stops.  Mothers especially have a language all their own.  It’s their job to turn us into productive members of society.  Think of the National Geographic shows where the mother lioness cuffs her cubs.  It’s the same thing.  If we think of nagging as a mother’s way of saying “I love you,” it takes the sting out of it.

Try non-reaction.  We can’t change our family but we can change how we react to them.  When we stop reacting, things change.  When we don’t engage and let our buttons be pushed, the roles tend to change naturally.   Like a radio station, try a 10 second delay.  Before you react to something, take a deep breath and exhale slowly.  You’ll be able to react more like an adult and less like a kid.

Home for the Holidays – Sound Off

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family, and I am thankful for all the support they have provided over the years. Regardless, they constantly drive me up the wall. And between the crying children and my aunt’s smooches and all the awkward small talk, Thanksgiving dinner can make me feel as though I’m losing my head. So how do I cope with the holiday season? One strategy I’ve used is to avoid alcohol. I find that when myself or others around me are in a drunken haze, it is much more difficult to have meaningful and fulfilling conversations. Additionally, I am much more prone to spilling something embarrassing about my boyfriend or guilty pleasure CD collection that I wouldn’t normally want my second cousin to overhear. Being sober also enables me to guide the conversation. By asking my family members questions about their lives, I am able to avoid the awkwardness that comes from being put on the spot. Last, I always make sure to establish an escape plan before dinner begins. One year, I made a deal that I would text my best friend S.O.S. if I needed her to call me so that I had an excuse to step outside. Another year, I planned to step into the living room to watch some football if I was finding dinner overwhelming.

Since I’ve begun employing these strategies, I’ve been able to calm down and appreciate my family members. What do you do to remain cool and collected during the holidays? Sound off below!


Survival Tips for Moving Back Home

If you're a 20-something and moving back home with your parents, you're not alone. About a third of Americans in their 20s live with their parents at least once. Often this happens during stressful times of transition- after college graduation, between jobs or apartments, after a relationship has ended. Today's graduates face a tough economy full of unpaid internships, and we often have thousands of dollars of debt. So what's the trick to surviving the "boomerang" move back into your parents' empty nest? It's really important to maintain good communication so that tensions don't arise. Here's a few tips for keeping the peace while living with your folks:

  • Set a move-out date. Create a timeline for how long you plan to stay. If something needs to be accomplished (finding a job, saving a certain amount of money, renting a new apartment), specify that goal and what steps you need to take as you work toward it.
  • Budget together. You may think that living at home is "free," but it certainly is not. Sit down with your parents and discuss a realistic way for you to take some financial responsibility while you are living at home. Will you pay rent, cover the cost of food, or take care of cell phone bills? Think of this as an opportunity to learn better budgeting skills for when you get out on your own again.
  • Discuss responsibilities. Sit down and have a discussion with your parents in which you offer to help out with chores and household tasks. When in doubt, treat your parents like you would roommates; Don't expect them to do your laundry or clean up after you.
  • Talk about boundaries. You may be used to living by your own rules, but the house rules may not have changed since the last time you lived there. Have an honest conversation with your parents about what kinds of expectations everyone has about privacy, noise, hours, etc. Recognize that there will likely be situations where you will need to give up what you want because you are living under your parents' roof.

The most important piece of advice: try to take advantage of reconnecting with your parents without taking advantage of your parents. While living at home may not have been what you imagined for yourself, try to look at it as an opportunity. Your family can offer valuable support as you look toward the future.