Archive | May, 2018

On Parenting Adult Children

28 May

Being a parent is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful, albeit challenging experiences I have ever had.

Completely unprepared was I to understand the enormity of this challenge but I jumped in joyfully and whole heartedly.

Peeling away layers of the old me, I learnt what patience, love and sacrifice really meant. Joy and laughter intermingled with worry and stress can best describe the years that followed. Raising them, Teaching them- what to do, what not to do, Setting limits, Being responsible for their physical and emotional health and Being there for guidance filled our home with lots of love, and lots of commotion.

Just as I felt I had hit the sweet spot of parental involvement, I needed to stretch my self to relearn the role of parenting my adult children.

I needed to practice the art of Letting Go.

Years of Hands On Parenting makes this such a difficult task.

Although I do believe in the wisdom behind the need to restructure my relationship with the kids, yet, on a day to day basis I see myself struggling with –

  • Letting go of worrying about their well being – Have they eaten health?       Slept enough? Are their jobs too stressful? Are their friends helpful and a good influence on them?
  • Letting go of giving them unsolicited advice, warning them of perceived stumbling blocks or influencing their decisions based on my experiences
  • Letting go of the urge to jump in and try to fix their problems

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that parenting adult kids requires a different skill set from what I’ve been practicing all these years.

As I watch my kids interact with me I realize that my role has shifted to a relationship based on lesser dependency and more mutual respect.

My hands – on days are done, and now I need to allow them to face the world with confidence and determination without feeling smothered by my trying to manage their life.

Many readers would have walked this road before, and have valuable insights to share.

These are the thoughts that come to my mind when I think of how each of us can maintain a connected and trusting relationship with our adult children

  • Advice should be dispensed only when asked for. Expect at least part of it to be ignored and remember not to consider it an insult or a reflection of your advice.
  • Restraint is a virtue that’s much required now especially when it comes to giving your views on their relationships or career choices. Does that mean you ignore the wisdom of your years and not give your opinion? Not exactly …. But you need to know, how and when to say things respectfully and tactfully and yes don’t forget to couch it diplomatically.
  • For most times, opinions are best kept to yourself. Trust their capacity to choose well and survive the not very wise choices.

The exception to this would be if you saw something that could potentially harm them, to which they seemed to be blind, then, at the risk of being interfering you should speak up.

  • Listen to them and Give them emotional support which will help them boost their self confidence;
  • Allow their problem solving muscles to develop and trust in their capacity to make wise decisions
  • Bear witness to their ability to take responsibility of their lives.
  • Assure them that there will always be oodles of love and support when they choose to reach out.

For our adult children we are their anchor, their sounding board and a safe haven.

Another dilemma I face while I think of letting go are the questions that pop up in my head like – is it too early to let go? Are they ready to navigate through the ebb and flow of life?

Guess I’ll know that only if I allow them to find their true potential without my mama bear instincts getting the better of me.

The large empty space that gets created in my days after I have given up my need to keep tabs on them, I would need to fill with things that will bring joy and purpose to my life. Not easy, but I’ll figure that with time.

For now, I will take a cue from the words of Kahlil Gibran……

You are the bows from which your children

As living arrows are sent forth

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite

And he bends you with his might

That his arrows might go swift and far

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness

For even as he loves the arrow that flies

So he loves also the bow that’s stable.

 

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Why it is important to talk about Mental Health

7 May

My best friend is a diabetic. Offer her a pastry and she is quick to tell you about her condition where sweets are a No – No.

Not just her, but all of us are comfortable and even very forthright when it comes to discussing our physical ailments.

The listener too is empathetic and compassionate when told about a broken hand, a gall bladder surgery or any other physical ailment that warrants attention, treatment and adequate care.

Talking of Mental Health is another matter altogether.

Firstly, very few people want to talk about it. They are embarrassed about what is happening and how their peers or loved ones will react to it.

Guilt is another emotion they go through; some feel they have let down their near and dear ones. I once met a middle aged man who was grappling with depression and couldn’t tell his family about it, as he thought, that he who was supposed to be their protector would be betraying their trust by talking of his distress.

In many societies having a mental health issue is seen as a kind of personal weakness.  Phrases like …’Just get over it’; ‘Look on the bright side’, Strategies to work on willpower and other well meaning nuggets of advice are freely dispensed to the person who dares to share his/her dilemma with someone.

Then there is the fear of being discriminated or even losing one’s job if they exhibit the nerve to discuss their anguish.

At times symptoms of the illness may terrify some, and even talking about them can be difficult.

No wonder Mental Health issues are kept under wraps – like it is some secret society that spreads its power on the weak, who crumble under its hold.

We are accepting of a fracture in any part of our body except our brain.

There is discomfort, shame and stigma attached to any discussion on matters pertaining to mental health. As a result, many people do not reach out for help even when they are suffering for the fear of being mocked or not understood.

Its time we take charge of our well-being.

Mental illness is a problem that can affect anyone.

At some stage in our lifetime, it is possible that we may experience depression related to the loss of a loved one or the anxiety associated with the diagnosis of a terminal illness or eating disorders or more severe ones like schizophrenia etc.  It could happen to someone we care about. Leaving the problem untreated only makes the issue get worse.

Talking about your issue is the best thing you can do for yourself. Once you accept that you need help, its like a burden off your shoulders and you are more receptive to seeking and using the right kind of help.

The fear and stigma that surrounds mental illnesses is surmountable only if each and every one can talk about mental health issues like depression or suicide with the same openness as they would discuss a physical issue like diabetes, Hypertension or Cancer

These conversations on mental health issues can happen at any place- homes, workplace, schools, places of worship, cafes.  Through these conversations we will be able to –

  • sensitize the community about the need to treat these issues with sensitivity and empathy
  • Inform people that those with psychological issues are not incompetent or weak or dangerous. They have an issue, which with the right kind of treatment, will be manageable. The issue is not their identity.
  • Apprise the men that Mental health issues can affect anyone at any age, of any sex or race. Men need not see it as a sign of weakness.
  • Show those suffering concern and willingness to help. Just as you don’t blame someone for having hypertension or ask a diabetic why he needs to take his insulin, similarly you don’t blame those who suffer from mental illness for their lack of will or optimism; Instead direct them to avenues where help is available.
  • Validate the struggles of the suffering and encourage them to talk about their strife without the weight of judgment.
  • Challenge and educate people who are misinformed or talk negatively about mental health conditions.
  • Increase awareness about Organizations and hotlines that provide support and treatment for various mental health disorders.

Everyone deserves to live their life to the fullest.

When we openly talk of mental health issues, support those going through them and ensure they get the treatment and the empathy they deserve; Only then can we pull down those invisible walls behind which countless people feel isolated, lonely and suffer silently.