Adult Parents Adult Children: It’s not always easy

1241 Relax and Succeed - Everyone grows at different ratesNow that Baby Boomers are the age they are, many are having to manage challenges relating to unsatisfactory relationships with their adult children, including complete estrangement. Things like the opioid crisis, shrinking job opportunities, and even anger over the parent’s past divorce or the child’s current one can all create rifts as the child–however old–works through their own personal issues.

The reason the Baby Boomers were less likely to hold their parents responsible for their struggles was simply because, at least the western world, the idea was that your accomplishments were always your responsibility, and so therefore they were also your own. Some families were naturally supportive and others offered little incentive or inspiration at all, but regardless the notion didn’t exist that a parent could or could not set their child up for success. Success was generally seen as a post-parenting adult pursuit. They were just supposed to keep you alive and make you into a responsible citizen.

Once psychology went from something philosophers studied to something that was used on laypeople, it took some time before people like Dr. Joyce Brothers popularized it on TV and then people like Benjamin Spock suggested there were better and worse ways to raise a child and suddenly a family was something to be analysed and graded and altered if it wasn’t thoroughly efficient at creating wealth and status and happiness. For the first time, a child’s adult problems could now be the parent’s fault. There was now a list of things that they ‘should’ have done.

1241 Relax and Succeed - If you've never been hatedWithin a few generations the unconscious families of the 60’s and 70’s gave way to the highly conscious–some might say overly self-conscious–parenting that is so concerned with micromanaging success that a new term was required: helicopter parent, which spawned the resulting term: adulting, to describe that period where the child becomes aware that they cannot be insulated from the responsibilities of life forever. Yet still today if a kid isn’t a Baby Einstein half the parents are worried they’ve destroyed their entire future already and so they try even harder.

Meanwhile the younger Boomers consider their parents in The Greatest Generation, and Millennials consider their Boomer parents, and both are either coming home or not coming home out of a sense of anger and disappointment. Now all of their personal struggles have been attached to all these new ideas about parenting that didn’t even exist when they were young. A parent can’t use 2017 techniques in 1970, and yet they will be judged by today’s standards, not those of the years during which the parenting happened.

1241 Relax and Succeed - Yes we are adults
The fact that this exists says a great deal.

In the 60’s western doctors were still teaching that it was unhealthy to show love to your children because it would steal their strength. Like today, those parents were following what they were being taught, but what they learned was from the infancy of the psychological movement and many mistakes were made. It’s no easy task. As we now know, what replaced it was possibly even worse, and efforts at improvement have instead lead to a record number of people who struggle psychologically.

In none of this has the parent really done as much wrong as the child’s perspective might lead them to imagine, which is why there is so much estrangement today. The kids who feel they’ve failed and are ashamed to come home, choose to hide. The ones who’ve been taught to feel that they were owed more either stay defiantly away in an attempt to exact some pain in revenge for the perceived mistake, or they come back angry wanting to know what deficit in their parent lead to such a huge mistake? That child will often get particularly emotional because if the issues aren’t with the parenting, then the fault will fall to the child, and that can be a terrifying responsibility to face.

1241 Relax and Succeed - One cannot be taught the valueA parent in 1960 couldn’t prepare their child for an internet, world any more than a parent today can prepare their kid for the world in Blade Runner 2049, or the one in GATTACA, because a kid born today is roughly the age of the lead characters in those films. Think about a world of robots and gene editing and uploaded consciousness and who knows what kinds of business and political structures; and then ask yourself if the parents of Boomers could prepare for a post-WWII world filled with divorce, women’s liberation, intercultural marriages, a health craze, and working online?

Given how old they are when they do it and what circumstances at that time are, and how much the world is changing around them, plus how uncertain the future has always been, no one can ever really know what a parent should do to prepare for a future that’s so unknown most of us can’t even begin to imagine it. Children will never understand the challenges of parenting until they are a parent themselves, and they will not understand what it’s like to be a senior parent dealing with adult children until they themselves have adult children. Experience is something that we have to wait to happen.

That’s why I like the Kierkegaard quote, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” And so, as tragic as some cases are, in every case a parent will have passed from this Earth before the child is even capable of fully processing what their relationship was. This creates poignant and sad events for people, but they are genuine events nevertheless. But they still are not signs of either a parent’s or a child’s failure. It’s simply how life is destined to go when parenting is seen as a subject-object concept that we should analyse rather than simply experience.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The Struggle of Millennial Entrepreneurs

The brain is built by what it does. People accept this when it comes to skills and knowledge but for some strange reason they arbitrarily stop at personality when that too grows directly from your experience. So what differences exist that can help explain the consistent struggle I now see with so many Millennials?

When I was a kid nothing came to you. You had to walk to the library to do school work, there wasn’t half the work-saving machines around the house, you had to run for the phone when it rang, we had crank windows on cars, no power steering or brakes, we walked almost everywhere we went, and on summer days our parents barely told us what to do. That meant our entire day was self-created and unknowingly to most that built a brain with the wiring for initiative.

Now consider the challenge the next generation had: everyone thought it was good that there were so many labour saving devices but that slowly put people out of shape. Hamburgers got delivered to their cars. They were driven many places. Unless they were in a small town, much more of the schedule of a Millennial was being subtly booked and controlled by parents. You now had study nights and more tutors. It became mandatory to play a sport or pursue something creative like dance or a musical instrument. Grades became more important and then school became a pressure-cooker for university entrance. It was never about who you were, everything became about setting up who you could be in some future.

956 Relax and Succeed - To live a creative lifeMost damaging to the brain was the fact that everything and everyone sort of guided you or told you what to do. Lego, Meccano and Light Bright were open source. You opened the box and there was just a bunch of pieces. No one gave you a blueprint, the boxes weren’t little worlds, they were just plain pieces loaded with potential to be formed by whoever’s initiative faced it.

Then suddenly there were Gobots and Transformers and Lego sets. Some Toy Executive in London or New York would limit and channel a kids thoughts into what they wanted them to build (usually for advertising). But what if you’re now an entrepreneur and there’s no one telling you to start, or what to do?

I have lots of Millennials who come to me because their life really needs them to take action and they just can’t. They can think about what to do, plan what to do, even get excited by it, but they cannot actually turn it into a daily verb. They cannot just sit down and do undirected work for long periods of time and then act. They’re champion procrastinators.

956 Relax and Succeed - Fear is a liarAre you one of those Millennials who gets next to nothing done all day? I know, there’s a lot of you. There’s no point in using your thoughts to create guilt. You didn’t even know this was happening to you. But it did happen and there’s only one thing you can do about it. It’ll feel really scary, but it’s actually much more gratifying and enthusiasm-generating than the fear you’re currently experiencing.

You can sit and calculate the downsides forever. You can worry about how it will go wrong and do nothing and then it will go wrong by not going at all. There is no other choice I’m sorry. No other answer will be delivered.

Take heart though. Look around you and see who’s happy and feeling fulfilled. It’s the people who are busy. They have lots of responsibility and pressure and yet they’re thriving. They get a ton done and it seems to happen by magic. But it’s just taking some initiative and taking the next step. Yes, that step might be wrong, but better to retrace than to never step at all.

956 Relax and Succeed - Most people fail in lifeYour brain needs to have initiative built into it or you’ll have this challenge until you die. That will mean you literally didn’t live your life. I see far too many brilliant talented people who have done almost nothing by the same age that me and many of my peers already had numerous significant achievements. This isn’t because that generation was stronger or better or more creative. But it did have loads and loads of accidentally developed initiative. In the end we were lucky. If you have this problem you will have to make your own luck, but don’t worry. I promise it’s not only doable; once you pull it off you won’t believe how much living you’ll do.

Find someone else to work for. Don’t think about your life, think about what you can contribute to the world, your community, your household. Feel responsible; work for the betterment of others and you won’t meet that same resistance that comes from doing things just for you. In the end it’s about a month of concentrated effort and from there the muscle will be built and it’ll only be a matter of continuing to build it up.

I feel for you. I really do. I hear all the time about the hiding, the excuses, the ineffectiveness, the financial challenges, the guilt. It’s no way to live. Trust me, those things are far harder for you to do than to take the leap into action. Even if it’s wrong it won’t be as painful as nothing at all. So go for it. I know you can do it. Even if you are scared. Act anyway.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.