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How Sandwiched Boomers Can Love Their Kidults By Letting Go

Feb 14, 2008
Would you consider the possibility that you are the kind of parent who is loving, but still hovering over your emerging adult children? Commonly referred to as Helicopter Parents, this phenomenon is comically described in the movie "Because I Said So." Diane Keaton, starring as the fast approaching 60 year old Mother of three adult daughters, continues her overbearing behavior despite their objections.

Typically raising fewer children today, Sandwiched Boomers have actively pursued an only-the-best policy from infancy on. So far, the twenty-something progeny of Helicopter Parents have reaped the benefits from some of these advantages. Record numbers are attending college and the rate of teen pregnancy is down.

So what's the beef? The question is where Sandwiched Boomers should draw the line: between support and intrusion, encouragement and control, cheering from the sidelines or meddling in the game? Here are some tips to start you thinking about this fine line in the relationship with your kidults.

1.Giving up old habits of micromanaging is hard. When you watch, worry and hang on, you're giving your emerging adult children the message that you don't trust that they can be on their own.

2.Today's technology makes it almost too easy to stay connected. Establish a middle ground where you don't enable your adult children to remain overly dependent, yet they know you're there if they really need you.

3.Being too directive - about college applications, class registration, roommate disputes, job searches, dating partners - fosters reliance on you at a time when developing decision making skills is paramount to building self esteem.

4.While financial assistance for the necessities is a parent's responsibility, it can have a pampering and hampering effect. Beginning in high school, encourage your children to get a part-time job and gain budgeting experience. Your goal is to prepare them to live alone. If they're unable to manage, boomeranging back home becomes the only option and the whole family pays a price.

5.Remember what it was like for you growing up? How did you use your personal strengths and become more self sufficient? Put some of these good ideas to work. Mentor your growing children but be sure to also let them learn for themselves.

Watching your children approach adulthood is a bittersweet experience, as you see your carefully crafted and longstanding identity slip away. As your family matures, you are faced with the challenges that come with letting go and beginning again in a new role.

After 20 years as a stay-at-home mom, Melanie was looking for work she could feel excited about. "I know I am beginning to plant the seeds of change. I am delighting in my separate life and listening to my inner voice. Until now I've been a helpmate and mothering has been my job. Now I'm looking for a career." Like Melanie, it may help to look at this transition in a different light, as you reignite old dreams and generate new passions for yourself.

2007, Her Mentor Center
About the Author
Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. & Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. are co-founders of http://www.HermentorCenter.com, a website dedicated to the issues of mid-life women and http://www.NourishingRelationships.Blogspot.com, a Blog for the Sandwich Generation. They are authors of a forthcoming book about Baby Boomer women and their family relationships and publish a free Newsletter, Stepping Stones, through the website. As psychotherapists, they have a combined 40 years of private practice experience.
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