Juggling Family Holiday Traditions With Your Adult Kids

When it comes to the holidays and our millennial children, the classic song lyrics “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go” need an update.

Rather than visit, the kids may ask us to do the traveling. If they do come to us, there’s a good chance it won’t be on the actual holiday.

For parents of adult children, the holidays can mean abandoning decades-long traditions, and that’s not without some angst. But parents need to adapt to the changing family dynamic, says clinical psychotherapist Deanna Brann, author of Reluctantly Related. “Parents can’t assume that the traditions they’ve always had are going to continue.”

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Make Sure Your Millennial Kids Take Charge of Their Health Care

Every so often my 26-year-old daughter complains that her back hurts and wonders if she should go to a chiropractor. I suggest that she first find an internist and get an annual physical — which she never does. Instead she uses a walk-in medical center when needed. The last time she saw a personal doctor was when she visited her pediatrician four years ago.

She’s typical of many millennials. While some refuse to give up their pediatrician, most head to the emergency room, a walk-in clinic or even their local drugstore when they need medical treatment. Only 43 percent use a primary care physician, the lowest of any age group.

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When Your Adult Child Is in an Abusive Relationship

Know the signs — and be compassionate, offer a safe haven

College romance can have a dark side. While researching a book on campus party life, sociologist Elizabeth Armstrong found that some boyfriends of young women control them by checking their text messages and hiding their car keys. The women also reported that they’d endured taunting, yelling, shaming, stalking — even rape — before breaking up with their abusers.

“We were surprised by how many young women had relationships that were characterized by some form of violence,” says Armstrong, coauthor of Paying for the Party. “Not only physical abuse but emotional abuse, where the abuser takes away with the victim’s freedom with controlling behavior.”

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When You Find Out Your Child Is Gay

Be supportive to help keep your relationship intact

For many years, everyone close to Shannon McElroy knew that she was a lesbian — except maybe her parents. It was only after McElroy married very quietly last January that she decided to tell her parents, who are religious. “A lot of it was fear about how they would react and if they would fully accept me,” says McElroy, 36, a program manager at a York, Pa., community health center. “But they were great, saying, ‘We know.’ They welcomed my wife into the family.”

Even with social changes such as the Marriage Equality Act and greater acceptance of gay rights, coming out is still a traumatic event for some people, says McElroy, who works with gay youths at the health center. A Pew survey found that about 40 percent of LGBT adults were rejected by a family member or close friend because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

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Be an Equal Opportunity Grandparent

Don’t forget about your adult kids — or play favorites among grandkids

It’s an all-too-familiar scenario: Coming for a visit, grandparents sideswipe the parents and sweep up the grandkids with hugs and kisses. If we do turn to our adult children at all, it’s an afterthought.

Who can blame us in our excitement? Apparently our adult children do, as San Francisco Bay Area resident Donne Davis discovered. During a visit with her two granddaughters over several days, Davis noticed that her daughter was annoyed. To clear the air, the two women took a walk together, and Davis learned that her daughter felt like a second-class citizen compared with the attention being given to the kids. Lesson learned, says Davis, founder of the GaGa Sisterhood, a grandparenting organization. “Don’t forget to hug your grandchildren’s parents before you rush past them to grab your grandchildren.”

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Help Your Adult Child Stand Up to Bullies

Intimidation can continue online and in the workplace

The internet has taken bullying beyond the schoolyard and into homes and offices, with about 40 percent of Americans experiencing online harassment. Among our millennial children, the share jumps to 65 percent, a Pew Research Center survey found.

While in high school, New Yorker Mackenzie Gavel started an anti-bullying blog, based on her and her friends’ experiences. The 24-year-old public relations specialist believes that cyberbullying continues to increase because of apps like Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter. Even emojis are used as bullying weapons. “They are now an incredibly easy way that require minimal effort to attack someone,” Gavel says. “I think cyberbullying is something that we are all going to have to experience throughout our lives. There isn’t a cutoff age.”

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When Your Adult Child Bypasses College

Delaying or even skipping higher education is a good thing for many millennials

Kathleen Zang of suburban Philadelphia was determined to give her four children the college education that she and her husband never had. Her children did well academically in high school, and in 2015 her third child, Brendan, went off to a state university. But after an unfulfilling first semester, he returned home.

Zang was disappointed and insisted that her son attend a community college and get a part-time job. Following his mother’s plan B, Brendan made the dean’s list at the community college. But it was his job with a heating and air conditioning contractor that set his future path. He discovered that he was good at the work and was motivated to start night classes in plumbing. Last winter he applied to the local plumbers union and was accepted as an apprentice.

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When Your Adult Child Wants a Better Job

Tips for Adjusting to an Empty Nest

It’s a time for you to get out of your comfort zone

Dallas mom Melissa T. Shultz treasured the years she spent at home raising her sons, Alex and Nick. But after her youngest, now 21, left for college, her house suddenly seemed like “a theater gone dark.”

Wanting to share her struggles with finding a new identity, the 56-year-old literary agent and journalist started blogging and expanded her writing into a book, From Mom to Me Again: How I Survived the First Empty-Nest Year and Reinvented the Rest of My Life. We chatted with Shultz about parents reinventing themselves and preparing for an empty nest.

Q: Three million moms each year face what you call this “wonderful and horrible time.” Why such extremes? 

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How to Offer Criticism to Your Adult Kids

Deal with the tension instead of ignoring it

Chatting with friends and gym buddies, Cathy Sikorski, the mother of two 20-something daughters, began hearing a common confession: The moms were afraid to say anything critical to their adult children because it might anger them.

One woman didn’t want to suggest to her daughter that the deck of her new home needed to be power-washed. Another hesitated to discuss a game plan with her boomerang daughter who was at loose ends. Sikorski had angered her bride-to-be daughter when she shared some wedding gown photos without getting permission first.

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