How Family Caregivers Can Ask for Help

Your adult children may be willing and able to ease your burden

Caregivers always welcome a helping hand, and often some of that assistance could be provided by a young adult child who lives nearby. But some millennials may be too involved with their careers and relationships to notice how much a parent is struggling to care for a seriously ill grandparent, sibling or other family member.

How to ask? Here are some useful strategies.

  • Explain your predicament. Author and clinical psychologist Harriet Lerner suggests opening the conversation with something like, “I am feeling so tired and depleted from taking care of mom that I’m worried if something doesn’t change, I will be crawling in that bed with her.”

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The Ex Factor

Should you cut ties with your child’s former flame?

For three years, a suburban New York family embraced their son’s post college girlfriend. She joined them for Sunday dinners, birthdays, holidays, weddings and funerals. The unspoken expectation was marriage. Then, after several months of turmoil, the couple split. The man’s mom was heartbroken: “I feel like I lost a daughter,” she says.

Breaking up is hard — and not just for the young couple. Many parents form bonds with their adult child’s significant other. Perhaps they’ve known them since they were kids, or the couple lived together — almost married — so the partner was part of the family.

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Polish Your Social Media Image

Do’s and don’ts to present your best self

Like it or not, all your social media posts about your children and grandchildren, politics, vacations and whatever else strikes your fancy present a portrait of you to the world. Just as we remind our kids that the kind of image they create online will follow them, your personal “brand” also matters — whether you work full time, part time or volunteer.

So does that call for keeping your social media accounts professionally focused? Not necessarily, say two career experts. But they agree that your online image must be carefully curated.

The Dish on Dating Advice

What to say — and not to say — to your adult child

“Are you dating anyone?”

Christina Weber’s mom would often nudge her millennial daughter about dating. Weber, 35, was trying but grew tired of the dating apps she was using: “Fifty percent of the people lie and, 30 percent never leave their computer or phone to meet anyone in person,” she says. That prompted her to launch the Underground Unattached Curated Dating Experience, a company that brings together men and women in New York and Los Angeles for evening events and helps them to connect afterward.

Two years later, Weber’s mother still prods and tells her daughter that she is too picky.

Sound familiar? We wondered how parents might best offer relationship advice — solicited or unsolicited — to their adult children.

Dodge Your Kid’s Divorce Drama

A divorce affects everyone in a family. While it’s wrenching for the couple, their parents also can be emotionally devastated.

Not only are parents grieving for their adult child’s loss, but they also may be worrying about how the divorce will affect their relationship with grandchildren. And their lives may be thrown into upheaval if adult children ask for money for lawyers, want to move home or need day care for the kids.

The Knotty Issue of Wedding Costs

How to handle who pays for your adult child’s nuptials

We’ve all encountered the bridezilla who drives everyone crazy with her dictums for a dream wedding. But what about moms and dads who demand that the affair be done their way? Some parents argue that their contribution to wedding costs gives them a major role in the planning.

But engaged couples may push back, aware that the traditional rules of who pays for what are outdated. Meanwhile, wedding expenses have skyrocketed: What used to be a ceremony and reception has spiraled in many cases into a weekend extravaganza with a welcome cocktail party, rehearsal dinner, reception after-party and farewell brunch.

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Need a Mature Comeback?

What to do if an adult child calls you toxic

While we may not expect any Parent of the Year awards for the decades we spent raising kids, most of us believe we did a good job. But sometimes our adult children feel differently, blaming their disappointments on what we did — or didn’t do — as parents.

In extreme cases, some even label their parents “toxic” and cut off contact. The level of estrangement can range from bypassing family events to a total information blackout. One of the most traumatic situations is when adult kids won’t allow parents to visit with grandchildren.

How to Avoid Inheritance Fights Among Your Adult Kids

Adult siblings gather round a conference table in a lawyer’s office, arguing bitterly over an inheritance. “We never thought this would happen to our family,” one comments. It’s a scene that Michigan estate attorney P. Mark Accettura has witnessed repeatedly. He has seen so many families ripped apart by feuds over a will that he wrote a book, Blood & Money, on how to avoid them.

While money may appear to be the cause of family fights, it’s usually about much more than that, Accettura says. “Money is how we keep score of who’s important in the fight for the intangibles of love, approval and primordial survival.”

How to Manage Your Boomerang Kids

Overheard at the gym: “I’m selling my house. It’s the only way I can get my son to move out and make sure the others don’t try to move back.” Apparently a boomer was downsizing sooner than planned because his 20-something son had become a squatter of sorts. The house was up for sale, and the couple was moving to a one-bedroom condo.

Many other parents share the crowded-nest problem. A 2015 survey found that almost 40 percent of young Americans are living with parents, siblings or other relatives, the highest percentage in 75 years.

Some parents expect and welcome the post-college sojourn for up to a year while the new grad finds a job and saves money to move out. The problems occur when a young adult refuses to leave or returns home with no game plan.

What can parents do in these situations? We chatted with Kim Abraham, a therapist in Grand Blanc, Mich., and coauthor of The Whipped Parent. Abraham takes a tough-love approach, with the belief that it’s a privilege — not a right — for children to live at home after age 18.

How to Build Trust with Your Adult Kids

A friend says that when her adult children ask her for holiday gift suggestions, she tells them, “I want you. I want you to keep coming around, to bring your kids around. I want you to ask me questions, ask my advice, tell me your problems.”

That’s the wish of many parents, but it’s not so easy to influence and remain emotionally close to our adult children when they are living on their own. Ron Edmondson, pastor of the Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky., often advises parents on how to relate to their older kids. He offers several suggestions for how parents might build trust and stay relevant in their children’s lives.