Relating to adult children — 11 March 2012
Your kids are finally emancipated – Are you?

The quest for autonomy, freedom, independence, self-guided choices and the pursuit of personal satisfaction and pleasure is universal and lifelong. For many, achieving this state is at best brief and fleeting. How can you live responsibly and actualize your personal dreams?

When you were a child you may have said, “When I get older I will…” As you grew up you probably achieved some periods of freedom and autonomy until you undertook major responsibilities for others. Love and marriage, jobs and carriage redirected your focus onto your loved ones as your personal dreams may have been forsaken.

Though women have traditionally been the major caregivers and executors of household chores in their families, Dr. Oriel Sullivan’s current studies suggest, “that the gender gap in the time spent doing both paid and unpaid work is closing slowly.” Thus, both genders are overworked, stressed and deprived of the time and energy needed to pursue their own personal dreams.

Many parents welcome their children’s emancipation after many years of dependence. Some state that they look forward to the relief of recouping the “couple focus” and having time to follow their individual interests. This anticipated emancipation does work for some. However, many parents today experience their educated, trained and already employed children returning home due to economic realities, divorce, or other transitional states. Parents reawaken from happy dreams and return to a familiar reality of caring and providing.

Perhaps your youngsters are emancipated and autonomous, but your parents are aging and require attention. As people live longer they are likely to require some help, supervision and assistance in their later years. Some baby boomers are dealing with both their adult children and their parents at the same time.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau there are now 40 million people aged 65 years or older. By 2020 there will be more than 55 million older persons. The population of 85+ is expected to surpass 6.6 million in 2020 and is projected to be the fastest growing part of the elderly population into the 21st century.

If your adult life takes you from one responsibility to another long enough you may be in need of help before you have actualized your own state of emancipated pleasure. How can you buck this trend?

Realize that the habit of delayed personal gratification in the process of pleasing others feels compelling but may render you regretful for not having fulfilled your dreams when you still had the ability to do so.

To emancipate yourself:

¨     Understand that postponing your personal dreams may jeopardize your health and happiness.

¨     Accept that being a caring parent and a responsible adult need not exclude attending to your interests and passions.

¨     Define what a life of contentment, control, freedom and pleasure would look like for you.

¨     Punctuate your busy life with periods of carefree times. Your health and wellbeing will thank you and so will your children and parents.


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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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