As children grow through adolescence and into young adulthood, every mom and child goes through a separation or breaking-away process.
Although it can be very stressful at times, it is a part of normal development. The young adult is wired to define herself or himself as different from the parent.
Sometimes the differences are extreme. For example, when a mother is more by the book and rules-oriented, the kid may throw the rule book in her face by acting rebellious. This can cause a great deal of anger and heartbreak.
Separation from a parent is a necessary requirement for forming your own identity. You can’t do it in the shadow of your mom. But it is a loss that can be traumatic for both sides.
Here are some tips to help you weather the storm and wind up closer than ever:
Tips for moms
Recognize that the best thing you can do is to let your young adult child go
Let him or her spend time away to follow their passion. If the child is an adult and wants to move away to pursue a dream, support the move.
Join in their new lives by sharing their activities
Not the ones you think they should be doing, but the ones they are doing. Go with them to hear a concert they enjoy or a protest march. This is especially important if you’ve become estranged.
If your adult child makes a major life decision that you disagree with, support it anywayFor example, if your single daughter decides to have a child on her own, go with that decision. If you don’t, you will risk becoming estranged.
If your adult child starts failing, make sure they get help
Consult a family therapist together. Tell them you love them, but they must stop self-destructive behavior.If your child finds a helpful path that is different than yours, support that process. For example, if your son or daughter leaves your church and gets into drugs, you may desperately want him or her to go back to church for help. Instead the child may go to AA to seek spiritual support. Encourage this path of healing by attending an Al-Anon meeting.
Examine your own behavior
Are you controlling? Are you overly intrusive? Do you have unresolved issues about separation based on your own experiences with your parents?
Tips for adult children
Give your mom the greatest gift of all — the gift of forgiveness
Realize what your mom went through growing up and how she did the best she could. Imagine being her as a little girl with all the painful lessons she learned.
Keep in mind your mom’s loving intention
Underneath her disapproval or anger her motivation is to protect you from pain.
Touch base with your mom often
Moving apart and spending less time together is a big loss for your mom. A little bit of texting, e-mailing or phoning goes a long way to soften the loss.
Make a gratitude list about your mom
Make a list of all the lessons learned and the gifts you’ve been given. Being separate doesn’t mean you throw out all of her blessings.