How to adjust when an adult parent remarries

How to adjust when an adult parent remarriesMarriage in itself is difficult to adjust to, let alone a remarriage where you bring with you additional “family” from your past marriage. You don’t want to, and you didn’t intend to, but it happens.

After the honeymoon period starts to fade in the background, “regular life” starts to take place. It’s then that you begin to see differences that you hadn’t noticed in the same way before.

Eventually those differences, along with quirks and habits, and yes, even children from a previous marriage begin to make themselves known, and demand your attention.

The Work Begins

The work of being remarried begins when differences come to the surface. That’s when you decide if you will find ways to blend your lives together to make it work. Many couples begin their marriage by fighting about these things, and their children. They never get beyond that stage until it works a wedge between them (sometimes permanently).

But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can determine that you will work through your many differences to find ways to blend your lives and families together. But it will take determination, perseverance, prayer, and self-examination. It also takes a call to maturity; and sometimes it takes all the strength you have to make it happen.

“Stepfamily, secondary family, blended family, combined family, extended family, expanded family, nontraditional family —whatever you call it, it is work. And exactly how you work at it can be one of the most important determining factors of whether your marriage will become what you desire.” (Drs Les and Leslie Parrott, from the book “Saving Your Second Marriage Before it Starts”)

The Remarriage Challenge

Are you up for the challenge? We pray you are. And if you don’t think you are, we hope you will pray until you finally are. With Christ all things are possible.

Your wedding vows demand that you do everything you can to “love, honor, and cherish” each other for the rest of your lives. That, which is past is past. Today is a new day to persevere through whatever challenges you may encounter to make your marriage a good one.

The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 5:4, “ When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. “ You made a vow, now fulfill it. Do what it takes to make your marriage work.

It goes on to say in Ecclesiastes 5:5-7, “ It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, ‘My vow was a mistake.’ Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God. “

Pray, stand, and follow God’s leading in making your marriage the best it can be. And then you will stand in awe of God. We’ve seen and heard true testimonies of that happening repeatedly.

Step Children Add Complications

It won’t be easy, as you’re already finding out. When you add children from a previous marriage into the marriage mix —even adult children, the work ahead of you is even more complicated. It’s been said about words to an old song:

“Love and marriage may go together like a horse and carriage, but love and remarriage aren’t as neatly complementary. The carriage may be so crowded that the horse has trouble pulling it.” (Susan Kelley)

So how do you make this work? How do you “blend” your family together? You do it by persistence. You keep looking, working, praying, and finding ways to make it work. And most importantly, you “never give up” as Winston Churchill is so famous for saying.

As Albert Ellis said about marriage and the “art of love”, it “is largely the art of persistence.” You keep persevering and persisting, that whatever problem arises, you will, by the grace and wisdom you obtain from the Lord, get through it, around it, over it, beyond it, or whatever, to make your marriage and family life together the best it can be.

We pray that this web site will help you with that mission and that the articles, links, and suggested resources will also help you.

Your Remarriage Blending Mission

So, to assist you with your “blending mission” we are providing related web site links below. These links will take you to articles posted to help you with your adult step-children. Please prayerfully glean through the information given. See what will work for you, and adapt as God leads. I encourage you to read:

Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.

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  • How to adjust when an adult parent remarries

    ”THERE are emotional depths, curves, valleys and peaks you can’t even articulate,” Loren Lieberthal, a 29-year-old playwright, said. ”No one quite knows how the other will react.”

    Mr. Lieberthal, whose mother remarried several years ago, was talking about the feelings an adult might register when a parent remarries. Generally acknowledged to be troublesome to youngsters and adolescents, the remarriage of a parent can arouse anxieties in grown children as well.

    Indeed, several psychologists and psychiatrists suggested in interviews that the situation could unsettle adults in different ways than it would affect young children.

    Dr. Alice Kahn Ladas, a psychologist practicing in Armonk, N.Y., spoke of possible ”financial conflict of interest” among new family members. Dr. Charles Benjamin, a psychologist in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., suggested that one reaction might be, ”My parents are at an age where they shouldn’t want to be intimate anymore.” And there are often the same feelings of resentment, jealousy and loss experienced by young children whose parents remarry.

    Statistically, the number of people with grown children who remarry appears to be on the rise. According to Barbara Wilson, statistician and demographer at the National Center for Health Statistics, 123,233 people 55 and over were married in 1978, as compared with 112,395 in 1968. James Weed, chief of the marriage and family statistics branch at the United States Bureau of the Census, said, ”It’s not an official Government estimate, but I would guess three out of four of these individuals had children over 21 at the time of their marriage.”

    Statistics, however, do not reveal the human elements of the situation. In their book ”You and Your Aging Parent: The Modern Family’s Guide to Emotional, Physical and Financial Problems”(Pantheon), Helen Kandel Hyman and Dr. Barbara Silverstone, a social worker who has worked extensively with the elderly, say that one may ”approve in principle of the idea of remarriage for older people, but find it appalling” when one’s own parent remarries.

    Even those who are essentially happy with their parents’ remarriage may feel a twinge of loss when the event actually occurs. ”I was very happy when my mother remarried,” recalled Evelyn Vitz, 39, an associate professor of French at New York University. ”But it made me a little sad that my father’s name was now no longer held by one of us women.”

    One problem that can arise for a child of any age is the resistance to the idea of the new spouse as parent. ”I felt, he’s my mother’s husband, but he’s not going to assume a father role,” recalled Ann Burnett, a 38-year-old elementary school teacher from Gig Harbor, Wash., of her reaction to her mother’s first remarriage. The remarrying parent may also be considered disloyal to the one who is gone.

    ”My mother was so crushed when my father left her that I became upset on her behalf when he remarried,” said a women who requested anonymity. ”When my father called to tell me he was getting married again, I felt the pain I knew my mother would be feeling.”

    Another problem for the grown-up child is the enforced mingling of families occasioned by a remarriage. ”In American society,” said Dr. Benjamin, there is the presumption that ”as people marry, various members of the family are going to get along with each other. We are kind of primed to think, ‘Oh, everything’s going to work out, every-one’s going to like each other.’ ” Men and women with children of their own may suddenly find themselves with a grandparent problem. Ann Richmond, a 48-year-old social worker from New Rochelle, N.Y., said of her father’s remarriage four and a half years ago at age 74, ”For him it was a good thing, something he was doing for himself. But for my children – my mother was the one who was involved with the children. My father is independent and involved in his new marriage. His wife is not very receptive to my children.”

    Financial matters are another source of dispute – frequently bitter and occasionally violent – among individuals brought together by a remarriage.

    Carolyn Grammatikos, a 32-year-old typesetter from Newark, described her recent traumatic experience as a ”nightmare.” Explaining that her mother had died suddenly, that her father had remarried in 1975, and that he had died of lung cancer in July 1980, she said that she ”never had a chance to really grieve” because of the situation that ensued.

    ”When he married this other woman,” she explained, ”he never changed anything” in his will. ”Even in May 1980, when the doctor told him, it’s a matter of time, he still didn’t change anything. About five days before he died, she brought a lawyer to the house to draw up a new will. My sister and I are not even mentioned in it.”

    Mrs. Grammatikos, who is separated from her husband, is currently trying to raise the money to hire a lawyer to contest the will. ”It’s a feeling of complete and total helplessness,” she said.

    Nor are the children the only ones who suffer when money enters the remarriage picture. Dr. Ladas spoke of an acquaintance, a man whose grown stepchildren ”made a tremendous amount of financial demands” and caused ”so much trouble it forced him to divorce” the wife.

    Lois Jasper, a 32-year-old medical secretary from Scarsdale, said that much to her delight, her 81-year-old mother recently remarried but she recalled a previous engagement her mother had subsequently broken off.

    ”Sometimes, there’s a feeling that the man is using the inheritance of another woman,” she said. ”The son and daughter of the man to whom my mother was engaged 16 years ago felt this way. The son flew in from California and suggested putting his father’s money in an irrevocable trust.”

    Dr. Arthur Wachtel, a psychiatrist in Scarsdale, maintains that while attitudes about sex have become increasingly tolerant in general, ”some adult children are uncomfortable with the re-emerging of romantic activity and sexuality of their parents.”

    Dr. Benjamin suggests that even in grown sons and daughters, there may be a ”tendency to want to see our parents as there to nurture us, rather than having their needs met.”

    There are also those adult children for whom the experience is largely a pleasurable one. Relief that the older parent will be looked after, pride that he or she has chosen a likable, responsible mate, bemusement at the sort of role reversal that can come about – these reactions are possible, too.

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    How to adjust when an adult parent remarries

    Sep 2 I Object! Helping Adult Children Cope When Their Parent Remarries

    The recoupling or remarriage of a parent affects children of all ages, including those that are no longer children. Older teens, young adults and even older adult children can experience powerful, often mixed, emotions when they suddenly become part of a new blended-family.

    Mid-life step-couples are often stunned and disappointed when their adult children find it difficult to accept their decision to remarry. They may think: “My children should be able to handle this…why can’t they be more mature”?

    According to step-family expert Patricia Papernow: “Waiting until the kids are grown does not protect children as much as we would like. This is because our parents remain part of our identities for life. Even after we’re grown, our parent’s divorce or remarriage can make us feel as if we’ve lost ourfoundation”.

    The problem with change

    Logically thinking, adult children should be thrilled for their single parent when they find love and happiness…right? But just as with young children, adults often struggle to cope with major changes taking place in their family. And change often leads to loss and grief. Accepting and adjusting to a parent’s mid-life marriage is not as easy as it sounds.

    Unsettling changes might include the sale of their family home, shifts in family traditions, or a parent choosing to relocate, alter priorities or reduce their involvement with grandkids. Adult children may feel slighted, forgotten and conflicted; they may want good things for their parent, but feel the cost is too great for them, their siblings and children. Are their feelings and concerns selfish or legit?

    A woman we know (in her sixty’s) expressed the challenges she’s had to face since her mother remarried several years ago. Although she appreciates her mom’s new husband (her step-dad) and thinks they’re a good match, she has never warmed up to his daughter (her step-sister). As she described the stark differences between herself and her step-sister, I pictured the frustration of trying to mix oil and water…it was very messy. Because of this uneasy step-relationship, she dreads family gatherings and holidays and struggles to fully embrace her new family structure.

    Step-family expert Ron Deal states this: “Never mind that they are adults, this is a hard transition for them because it comes at a great cost”.

    Understanding goes a long way

    Gaining understanding of the perspective of adult children can help mid-life couples approach these complex dynamics with compassion and skill.

    As they struggle to find their place within the new family structure, adult childrenmay think of themselves more as a child – especially those that have a close relationship with their parent. Their parent’s new emotional attachment now competes with the old, long-standing ones causing adult children to become territorial and insecure.

    Adult children may also tend to revert to more of a childlike posture if they’ve carried unresolved wounds or burdens from the past, such as loyalty conflicts. This can emerge regardless of how their parents were separated, either through divorce or death. A parent’s remarriage may awaken old grief and painful feelings such as abandonment, anger or sadness.

    Helpful Tips

    Mid-life step-couples may not be prepared for the objections that come their way. But with understanding, intentional action and lots of patience, adult children can be softened and family bonds can be protected. These strategies can help:

    Acknowledge and accept that your remarriage will shake the family’s identity. This may create legitimate feelings of discomfort, loss, fear, rejection and other conflicting emotions for your grown children. Don’t be surprised by their strong reactions, instead choose to be understanding and intentional!

    Be open to opportunities that bring about restoration. Resurrected pain and unresolved issues from the past need to be processed. Forgiveness may need to be granted or sought. If relational repair needs to occur between parent and child, move forward with compassion and respect.

    Listen to your adult children and don’t dismiss their concerns, even if you feel they’re behavior is immature. Allow them to share what’s going on for them – offer empathy and validation.

    The new step-parent should not start enforcing boundaries or attempt to push their way in. Instead, let the adult child set the pace with your relationship and strive for genuine connection through friendship. Meet them where they are and apply crockpot patience as you slowly begin working toward developing a new family identity.

    Before and after the wedding, biological parents should spend time with their adult children – alone . This will help to maintain family bonds without the constant sacrifice of having to share a parent. Even adult children need one-on-one connection with their parent, especially now.

    We’ve seen step-couples resist these strategies simply because they didn’t think it was necessary to consider their adult children: “We’re just moving on and they’ve got their own lives” or “We shouldn’t have to plan our life around the opinions of our grown kids”.

    Unfortunately, this attitude inevitably leads to resentments, broken relationships and heartbreak on both sides. Don’t allow this to happen in your family. Continue to learn about step-family dynamics and reach out for help. Your intentional efforts will positively impact the trajectory of your family’s future!

    QUESTION: How can you be more intentional and understanding when handling the mixed emotions of your adult children?

    Many people over the age of 55 remarry after their spouse dies or divorces them. According to the Pew Research Center, 67 percent of adults between the ages of 55 and 64 take the plunge again. At the same time, half of people older than 65 remarry. Men are more likely to remarry than women, the research shows.

    But while remarriage can be a solution to loneliness, it can cause potential legal nightmares for adult children and other relatives when the husband or wife dies. A joyous wedding that likely brought two families together can divide the new spouse and the children from the first marriage when it comes to the deceased’s estate.

    After actor and comedian Robin Williams died in 2014, his third wife and children from an earlier marriage battled in court over his watches, among other things. Williams had an organized estate plan, reports said, but had not included his personal items.

    Estate planning attorneys and financial experts agree: If you plan to remarry, update your estate plan first. Lay out who you want to get everything – even mementos or small things you assume people wouldn’t want. Documenting every single asset is important. As long as the will shows the intent of the deceased, the courts are usually accommodating.

    Before you remarry, you might consider an airtight prenuptial agreement. Most courts recognize a signed prenup even if the second or third spouse protests it after its creator has died. Most assets and finances in a remarriage shouldn’t be combined, anyway. Lay out that stipulation in your prenup, and don’t break it no matter the circumstances.

    Some people choose to establish a QTIP trust as an option to protect adult children. A Qualified Terminable Interest Property trust rolls over the children’s assets into the surviving second spouse’s name so that he or she receives an inheritance. However, when he or she dies, the children from the first marriage are the beneficiaries, and will receive their share. An irrevocable living trust is also ideal because it cannot be changed once it is set up by the person before he or she dies.

    There is a lot to consider when it comes to modifying your estate before your remarry. Protect yourself, your new spouse and your children. Contact an experienced estate planning attorney today.

    Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law. Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.

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    How to adjust when an adult parent remarries

    When divorcing and remarrying later in life, individuals need to consider and prepare for the reactions of their grown children. Parents may struggle to accurately account for the wide range of responses from adult children. Similar to kids, adult children may wrestle with rejection, emotional distress, self-esteem issues and anger.

    Rejection

    Prior to your divorce or remarriage, your child may have been used to having access to you at all times. In fact, your child may have taken for granted the time you had available to support him. The change in your relationship status may signal a change in the relationship, leaving your child feeling abandoned, neglected and rejected. When you divorce, your child may feel abandoned by the family and life he once knew. When your remarry, your adult children quickly assess how having a stepparent will impact not only the child’s relationship with the natural parent, but also how it will impact traditions and holidays, notes psychologist Susan Hickman.

    Emotional Distress

    Feeling rejected could cause your child to feel stressed. In addition to her normal responsibilities, your child now has to navigate this evolving family. While your child is an adult, and may not reside under the same roof as you and your new spouse, a marriage will impact the time you spend with that child. Minimize distress by reassuring your child that you’ll always be there for her. Schedule activities alone with your child, but also schedule activities that include your new or potential spouse; giving your child an opportunity to get to know your partner will help put her at ease. Be understanding and flexible with your child’s time, as she now may have three households around which to schedule important events and holidays — her own, yours and your former spouse’s.

    Self-Esteem

    Feelings of rejection and experiencing emotional distress can cause your child’s self-esteem to drop. He may report feeling unworthy because of the perceived lack of support. Surprisingly, there is some truth to the lack of support, as children — adult and young — in stepfamilies typically receive less support financially and emotionally than those in “first” families, reports author Susan D. Stewart, in “Brave New Stepfamilies.” As a result, these children are less likely to consider remarried parents as sources of support.

    Anger

    All of these issues combined could cause your child to feel anger. Your child may direct the anger specifically toward you, your new spouse, your former spouse, new step-siblings and in-laws. If your child experiences anger, suggest counseling and offer to attend family counseling together. While your child may want to focus on the negative aspects of the new family dynamic, steer the conversations towards examining the positive contributions each family member makes.

    How to adjust when an adult parent remarries

    Most people are very surprised to learn that adult stepfamilies, that is, those that are formed in the second-half of life and include adult stepchildren, have just as many transitions as stepfamilies with younger children. Some of the transitional issues are different, but many are the same.

    Lorain, a reader of my monthly E-Magazine for stepfamilies, wrote asking how she might strengthen her relationship with her 19, 24, and 26 year-old stepchildren. “I was 49 when I married for the first time; my husband was 55. His first wife died a couple years before we met. My husband kept his children up to date about our relationship and things were pretty civil until we married. His oldest daughter cried loudly through the entire wedding ceremony. A few months later one of the children asked how my husband’s will was structured implying that I shouldn’t get anything. From there things have continued to go downhill at a rapid pace.”

    Lorain’s experience is not uncommon, nor is her idealistic assumption that a marriage with adult children who no longer live in the home will not be impacted by the dynamics of loss and loyalty. Thankfully, adult children and stepparents do not have the same power battles that younger stepfamilies experience because the stepparent is not trying to get the children to pick up their socks or choose better friends. But adult stepchildren and older stepparents still have many emotional issues to work through, feel threatened by each other, and struggle with how the new marriage will impact familiar family relationships. Finding peace takes effort on both sides.

    The New Couple

    When Daniel’s 35 year-old son told him that he “just wanted him to be happy” the widower assumed his son was giving him permission to remarry. He wasn’t. What the son meant was, “I would hope that mom’s memory will keep you happy enough.” Daniel assumed he had his son’s blessing and got married. His son’s withdraw from contact alerted him to the problem at hand.

    As an older parent and stepparent you must realize that adult stepchildren—despite their age—frequently feel:

    • fearful of being abandoned or isolated from their only remaining parent. Unfortunately, they have already tasted grief in a very real way; your marriage may renew or intensify this sadness.
    • loyal to their original family. Maintaining a strong family identity is important for adult children. Accepting a stepparent means the established family ties and special family holidays and celebrations must stretch to make room for newcomers. This isn’t easy and frankly it hurts. Please don’t take this personally—it’s not really about you. It’s about home no longer feeling like home.
    • disloyal toward the divorced or deceased parent and guilty about letting the stepparent in.
    • jealous and replaced by their parent’s new partner. They may have been the “apple of their parent’s eye” but now the stepparent holds the key to the parent’s heart (and time and energy).
    • concerned about the family finances. Money issues are common and must be addressed. Adult stepchildren have a right to know how their family inheritance is going to be managed (this is not “greed”) and you should be proactive in addressing these matters with the children so their fears can be put to rest.
    • resentful that their children, the grandchildren, may not receive as much time and energy from their parent as anticipated. Especially when one parent has died adult children may invest heavily in wanting their children to spend time with the grandparent. Your marriage threatens this and creates another loss for everyone.

    As a new couple you must apply patience and understanding to these strong emotions. Do not be offended by them. When confronted with difficult responses from adult children, assume a humble position and listen to their fears and concerns. Accept them where they are and try to be responsive to their needs for information (especially about financial matters), emotional contact, and time as they adjust to yet another family transition they didn’t seek out.

    Adult Stepchildren

    It is very important that you begin by acknowledging your own strong emotions about your parent’s remarriage. The feelings mentioned above are very common; if you don’t take ownership and responsibility of them, they may lead you into withdrawal, criticism, or hurtful behavior.

    Without question, a parent’s remarriage ripples through the generations of your family. It may take a great deal of time for you to open your heart to a stepparent and their extended family. Don’t feel compelled to feel love for them, but strive to act in loving ways. Resist the urge to withdraw in anger or judgment. And finally, be sure to acknowledge that your parent has legitimate needs and desires that include pursuing a dating or marriage partner. Doing so does not diminish the important of your other parent, your family history, or their relationship with you.

    New Beginnings

    I strongly encourage both adult stepchildren and the new couple to educate themselves about stepfamily living. There is a labyrinth of emotion and practical transitions to work through and it takes understanding and effort by both generations. But it can be done. That’s the beautiful thing about love—there’s always room for one more!

    Getting married is a huge and exciting life change. You’re embarking on a new life together and taking your first steps towards your future as a married couple. One thing that is sure to change as you enter this new phase of your life is your relationship with your parents.

    Seeing their child get married is bittersweet for many parents. After all, you were their whole world for a long time, and they were yours. Now you’re changing allegiances as it were. It’s no wonder that parental relationships can quickly become a source of stress in a marriage.

    It doesn’t have to be that way though. Navigating your new relationship with your parents with positivity and respect is possible.

    Here are some of the key ways your relationship with your parents will change after marriage and what you can do to keep the relationship healthy.

    Your parents are no longer your main emotional support

    For many years, your parents were one of your main emotional supports. From kissing skinned knees as a kid and being there through school dramas, to supporting you as you went on to college or a job, your parents have always been there for you.

    After you get married, your spouse becomes one of your key sources of support, and the change can be challenging for you and your parents.

    For the sake of your marriage, get into the habit of turning to your partner first, and encouraging them to do the same. Your parents don’t have to feel pushed out, though – make regular time to get together for a coffee or a meal and catch them up on what’s going on in your life.

    You become more self reliant

    Marriage represents leaving the nest and becoming more self reliant. Of course this isn’t the 17th century and the chances are you’re not literally leaving your parental home for the first time, nor are ladies expected to be obedient while men earn all the money!

    However, even if you’ve been financially independent and living away from home for years, marriage still represents a psychological shift. Your parents can still love and support you, but it’s time to stop relying on them.

    Honor this change by acknowledging that your parents don’t owe you anything, nor do you owe them, so you can meet each other as equals.

    Physical boundaries become more important

    Your parents are used to having you to themselves from time to time and of course familiarity can breed a certain lack of boundaries. After marriage, you and your spouse’s time belongs to yourselves, each other and your children first of all, and your parents after.

    This can be a difficult adjustment for parents. If you find your then popping in unannounced, coming for an afternoon but overstaying their welcome, or assuming you will put them up for a week’s vacation, some things need to change.

    Setting clear boundaries around your time and space will help you manage expectations and keep a healthy relationship with your parents. Be upfront about when and how often you can see them, and stick to that.

    Your priorities change

    Your parents are used to you being their top priority – and they’re used to being one of yours. Realizing that your spouse is now your main priority can be difficult for even the most loving parents.

    This can lead to resentment, interference, or bad feeling between your parents and your spouse.

    Clear communication can go a long way here. Sit down and have a good heart to heart with your parents. Let them know that you need to put your spouse first, but that you still love them dearly and want them in your life.

    Many issues boil down to insecurity on your parents’ part as they adjust to your new dynamic, so do your best to work on that insecurity together. Be firm but loving as you set boundaries, and offer plenty of reassurance that they’re not losing you.

    Financial issues become a no-go zone

    The chances are your parents are used to being involved in your financial decisions to at least some degree. Maybe they’ve lent you money before, or perhaps they’ve offered advice on jobs or finances, or even offered you a place to rent or a share in the family business.

    After you’re married, this involvement can quickly cause tension. Finances are a matter for you and your spouse to tackle together without any outside interference.

    This means cutting the apron springs on both sides. You need to set good boundaries with your parents around financial issues. No ifs or buts – financial issues are a no go zone. By the same token, you need turn to your spouse with financial issues, not your parents. It’s best not to accept loans or favors unless you really must, as even the most well-intentioned gestures can quickly become points of contention.

    A changing relationship with your parents is inevitable when you get married, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. With good boundaries and a loving attitude you can build a strong relationship with your parents that’s healthy for you, them, and your new spouse.

    How to Set Boundaries with Adult Children

    How to adjust when an adult parent remarriesSetting Boundaries with Adult Children

    Adult children can actually wreak more havoc on your marriage than young children sometimes. When parents disagree on how much support to offer their adult children, it can result in feelings of hurt, anger, and resentment.

    It’s important to learn how to define your relationship with adult children. Once they are grown up, parents often become more like friends or a mentor. However, many parents struggle with their relationship with their adult children. This can lead to a variety of marital problems.

    Adults Acting Like Children

    Plenty of adults just don’t act grown up. Whether you’ve got a 40 year old son who chooses to play video games over mowing the lawn or a daughter who just can’t keep a job, adult children who behave immaturely can be stressful.

    Perhaps you have adult children who want to borrow money. Or maybe they even live with you. Learning how to set limits and boundaries is important.

    The Danger of Enabling

    There’s an art to supporting someone without enabling them. Adult children who still depend on their parents often are allowed to get into this situation because their parents enable them.

    Perhaps this relationship stems from parents who want to be needed. The empty nest syndrome leads to lots of adults feeling lonely and empty. This can make them desire to have their children still need them as it gives them a purpose.

    Often parents engage in an enabling relationship because they feel sorry for their grandchildren. They may say something like, “I just don’t want the kids to suffer.” Although well-intentioned, these sorts of sentiments can often foster dependency if the parents are constantly bailing out their kids for the sake of the grandchildren.

    Develop a Plan as a Team

    It’s important that you and your spouse work together on determining how to respond to your adult child’s requests. If your child is asking you for money, a place to stay, or favors, talk about how to respond. Develop a plan together as a team.

    One of the worst things that can happen is if one spouse secretly helps out without telling the other. Although you may think “slipping a $20 bill” to your child is helping, it may be very harmful to your marriage if your spouse hasn’t agreed to it.

    This can become especially complicated when adult step-children are involved. You may think it’s not up to your spouse to have any input into whether or not you loan your child money or babysit the grandchildren for free. However, it is important to work as a team together on all of these sorts of decisions.

    Set Limits and Consequences

    Setting healthy boundaries and limits is important. If you’ve been overextending yourself or giving too much, you may need to step back. Also, just because you want to feel needed or you want to help out, doesn’t mean you should.

    If you rescue your child every time he’s in trouble, you may be making things worse in the long run. How will he ever learn how to stand on his own two feet if you always bail him out? Saying no to your child can sometimes be the best thing to do, even when it is hard to say.

    It can be hard to make those changes. If you’ve been loaning your child money every time he calls, saying no won’t be easy the next time he asks. It’s likely if he’s used to you doing it, he may resist as well. This is why it is important to work together as a team with your spouse.

    Develop a response that you can offer in the event you are caught off guard. Agree that you won’t give an answer for at least 24 hours. So the next time you get a call that says, “We need money,” respond by saying, “I’ll have to talk it over with your father and we’ll get back to you tomorrow.” This will allow you time to consider it and give you a chance to talk about it beforehand. It will also show you are presenting a united front.

    Seeking Marriage Help

    Sadly, many marriages end up in crisis due to conflict over adult children. Sometimes one parent reaches the boiling point and just can’t take it anymore.

    If this is the case, make sure to seek professional help. A marriage counselor can assist you in working together on being supportive without enabling. Counseling can also help restore your marriage as you work to negotiate a healthy relationship with each other and your adult children.

    Related Posts

    • Adult Children Moving Back Home
    • Setting Healthy Boundaries for the Marriage
    • Financial Boundaries Within the Marriage
    • Adult Kids and You! Part I
    • What children need

    This article was written by Amy Morin, LCSW, and posted on Wednesday, November 14th, 2012 at 1:17 pm. It is filed under Family. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

    1. What Do You Do If Your Girlfriend’s Father Doesn’t Give You His Blessing?
    2. How to Tell My Overprotective Parents That I Have a Boyfriend
    3. How to Deal With Stepchildren & Their Mother
    4. How to Save My Marriage When My Spouse Hates My Parents
    5. How to Deal With Jealousy in Adult Stepchildren

    How to adjust when an adult parent remarries

    When you marry someone, you create a new life and a new home. If you have been close with your parents, that could require you to set boundaries to keep them from interfering in your marriage or spending too much time with you as you begin your married life. Setting boundaries can be sticky, but with persistence you can maintain boundaries that make your relationships with your spouse and your family work.

    Why Set Boundaries?

    If you are relatively young, your parents might still be used to an arrangement in which they set the rules and you obey. Once you are married, that dynamic changes, and it can be difficult to make the transition, according to psychologist Dr. Juli Slattery for Focus on the Family in “Setting Boundaries with Parents.” If you don’t set those boundaries and do it early, you can create conflict between you and your new spouse. Your spouse may not appreciate your desire to talk things over with your mom or dad and could feel slighted by your choice of confidant.

    Which Boundaries?

    The boundaries most important to set can depend on the areas in which your parents feel most free to butt in. Financial, emotional and physical boundaries are good ones to set, according to Amy Morin, LCSW, in an article entitled “3 Healthy Boundaries to Set With Your Parents After You’re Married” on The Marriage Counseling Blog. Explain that it’s your prerogative to make your own choices, successes and mistakes in these areas. You can determine how you deal with money and credit, as long as it does not crater their credit. You should turn to your spouse first to share personal and career matters, as well as marriage bumps and highs. Your parents don’t need to know what goes on in your bedroom or determine how you parent your kids and conduct your social life.

    Boundaries Conversation

    Gently tell your parents that you appreciate and love them, but that you and your spouse need to be the decision makers regarding how you conduct your life. Thank them for their parenting efforts, and ask them to trust that their parenting has prepared you for this day. Promise to consult them if you need their advice, but ask them to realize the final choice is yours. Be clear about the boundaries, such as not showing up unexpectedly at your home, keeping their advice to themselves unless you ask for it, respecting your spouse and treating you as an adult, suggests the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center in an article about cutting the cord.

    Maintaining Boundaries

    Stand shoulder-to-shoulder with your spouse regarding interference from your parents. Discuss concerns and then approach your parents to set or adjust boundaries. Openly offer your primary loyalty to your spouse, with whom you should continue to establish a loving, intimate relationship. If you continue to enforce boundaries when necessary, your parents will finally learn to live with the new dynamic.

    How to adjust when an adult parent remarries

    If you want to ensure that your kids have something at the end of the day, you have to take the additional steps and spend the additional money to draft a plan that protects them.

    Many people are remarrying later in life, after amassing some assets and wealth. Those who also have adult children often face a difficult challenge: How can they plan their estate so that it provides for their new spouse but still protects their children’s inheritance?

    Ruth Driscoll, director of advanced planning with Northwestern Mutual, sees this situation all the time. “We know that half of America’s marriages end in divorce, and we know that many of those people will find love again,” she said. “For those who are parents, it’s often important to them that their children still receive an inheritance — something that tells their kids that they were important and meaningful in their lives.”

    But planning your estate isn’t always easy in these situations. Many couples want to wait to pass along the inheritance until both partners are deceased. While these couples often rely on verbal agreements to ensure that an inheritance is passed along, Driscoll has seen this backfire. Instead, she recommends that you spend the time and money necessary to create an estate plan that will protect your children’s interest.

    Give Directly

    One of the best ways to safeguard your children’s inheritance is to give to them directly. There are a few ways that you can do this, according to Driscoll. One easy way is to give them a direct gift in your will. “If you give some of your assets to your children from your first marriage,” Driscoll said, “and some to your current spouse in your will, that ensures that your kids get something.”

    Another way to do this is to make them the beneficiaries or partial beneficiaries of assets that aren’t governed by a will. These include things like IRAs, 401(k)s or insurance policies. If you do plan to go this route, you may need your spouse’s permission. That’s because 401(k)s, qualified plan assets and life insurance that you have through your employer are governed by federal law and require your spouse to sign a spousal waiver in order to allow you to name someone else as the beneficiary.

    Another way to protect your children’s legacy is by giving directly to them while you’re alive. “I always encourage people to do lifetime gifting,” Driscoll said. “It’s a good idea for a lot of reasons. You get to see their reaction, and you are alive to watch them enjoy their inheritance.”

    Create a Trust

    One of the easiest ways to protect your children’s inheritance is to create a trust. By doing that, you can make money or assets available for your spouse to use during his or her lifetime and also ensure that it gets distributed to your children upon your spouse’s death.

    “Your surviving spouse can get the net income of the trust, or he or she can be allowed to take out money for certain discretionary purposes, or you could establish a set annual amount for distributions from it,” said Driscoll. “Because the money is protected in a trust and you didn’t give the money to the surviving spouse outright, if there is anything left, you’ve made sure that it’s going to go as you had directed.”

    One consideration with this strategy is that it doesn’t guarantee that your children will get anything. “For example,” said Driscoll, “your spouse could spend it all on his or her own living expenses or travel. Or if the surviving spouse goes into a nursing home, unless the trust is drafted in a specific way, the money could quickly be used up for those expenses.” To help prevent that, she suggests that you also plan for how you and your spouse would pay for long-term care expenses.

    Create a Prenuptial or Marital Property Agreement

    If you have assets that you don’t want to automatically transfer to your spouse after your death, another way to protect against this is to sign a prenuptial agreement before you remarry or a marital property agreement after you marry. These documents outline what belongs to whom and what is to happen to those assets upon death or dissolution of the marriage. While you would still need to specify what should happen to marital assets in a will or other estate planning document, and while these prenuptial agreements may not help should there be a long-term care event, these agreements can help safeguard assets you intend to leave to your children. “Those documents can help clarify property and asset distribution after death,” Driscoll explained.

    Don’t Commingle Assets

    Keeping your assets separate may be another way to pass property along to the next generation. That means that if you own your own vacation home when you get remarried and want it to go to your children when you die, you should keep it in your name only and ensure that your spouse doesn’t pay for any of the expenses related to the house. If you commingle your assets, that could mean that your spouse has a legal claim to those assets—even if you specify that the asset should go to your children upon your death.

    These laws vary from state to state. Some states also give spouses rights to assets that were kept in your name, so this won’t protect your assets entirely. For this reason, it is important to seek out legal counsel in your state when making these decisions.

    Good Planning Is Worth It

    When it comes to protecting your legacy for your children, Driscoll emphasizes that investing in good estate planning is worth it. “If you want to ensure that your kids have something at the end of the day,” she said, “you have to take the additional steps and spend the money to draft a plan that protects them.”

    When Driscoll was in private practice, she helped draft estate plans every day and was often moved by how much better her clients felt once they had drawn up their plans. “After the paperwork was signed, there was a huge sigh of relief,” she said. “My clients were always so thankful that there was finally a plan in place.”

    This publication is not intended as legal advice. Individuals should seek advice based on their particular circumstances from an independent legal advisor.

    The Northwestern MutualVoice Team is a group of professionals who share insights and opinions from experts and industry leaders across the enterprise. Our vision is to inspire others to take action and plan for their financial future through topics ranging from financial planning, retirement planning and distribution strategies, wealth accumulation and preservation, to leadership, philanthropy and innovation.

    Establishing the Primary Relationship
    Preventing Grandparent Favoritism

    How to adjust when an adult parent remarries

    Q. My mother passed away five years ago. My father remarried a woman with whom I have done my best to get along. Problem is, my father now does not have the same family values or personality that I grew up knowing. I know that things change, but this has been so drastic. My siblings and I (with our children) used to spend every Sunday at my father’s. Since he married her we have not been invited over! I’m not sure how to change what’s in my heart and accept him for who he is now without feeling resentful and hurt for the father I no longer have. Plus, this woman has so many relatives I am now supposed to consider my relatives. I’m overwhelmed. Any advice?

    A. So many think the little ones are the only ones affected by the remarriage of their parents. Your situation is living proof that adult children have just as many problems when their parents remarry as do young children.

    We have found that a parent with adult children might not take the same care a parent with younger children takes when integrating a new companion into the family. They often figure “the kids are adults, they get it.” And, then they go about their business.

    Unfortunately, this practice often backfires and can actually sabotage any relationship the adult child has with a parent’s new partner. The adult child thinks, “I had a great relationship with dad before mom died—it must be this new person that is keeping us apart” when it’s not, it’s just a desire to start over and thinking that the kids are older and understand a desire for a life of his or her own, the parent does not do the necessary relationship groundwork before remarrying.

    It’s not uncommon for the surviving parent to feel the adult child’s distrust, but not understand the feeling for what it is. They begin to feel a little guilty for starting over and as a result, pull away even further. It becomes a cycle of misunderstandings at a time when everyone needs each other the most.

    After a relative or friend passes, we look to those left behind to supply a degree of normalcy or balance to our lives. We feel forever changed by the passing; but we expect them to stay the same while we get our bearings. But, the loss has changed them, too, and they are also looking for their balance. Some move on to other relationships—this supplies the balance they need.

    When a parent decides to get involved with someone new, it’s easy for a child to become resentful, fearing that their living parent is trying to forget the parent that is deceased. Plus, children rarely see their parents as someone’s husband or wife. Even when he was married to your mother it’s likely you thought of dad as YOUR dad, not your mother’s husband. Now that he is married to someone other than your mother, it’s more apparent that he’s not just your dad, but someone’s lover and as you allude to, you may have to get to know him again. Communication on both your parts is the key. It sounds as if both of you have to tell each other how you really feel.

    All of this, the death of your mother, the grief associated with it, your dad’s remarriage, the huge changes all round, is not in your control and would make anyone feel overwhelmed. And, now, to top it all off, there may be kids in your dad’s life that are just your age–and he spends more time with them and not with you!

    Try not to take that personally. It’s not uncommon for mothers to spend more time with their adult children’s families than father’s do. Her kids go to see their mom and as a result, develop a relationship with your dad.

    Plus, if you ask most kids, even kids whose parents are not divorced, they will admit that they regard Mom’s house as “home.” Your mom has passed on and there’s another woman there.

    It may feel like it’s her house now and that can be very disconcerting for a child of any age trying to cope with the death of his or her mother and her father’s remarriage. Bottom line, when you go see your dad, it doesn’t even feel like home any more, and all the players have changed.

    Because Dad and his new wife are older, you may automatically think they know how to handle all this and that their behavior is calculated. From experience, we here at Bonus Families can tell you it may not be. They may be at a complete loss in how to combine families.

    This means, if you want a relationship with your dad, you may have to try to move past those hurt feelings and introduce Dad, his new wife, and her family to the new you, not wait for their lead. Obviously, by their actions, they need your help.

    And, don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the reaction you want the first time. Everyone in your family has been hurt by your mom’s loss, everyone is grieving, everyone is trying to pick up the pieces and start over.

    Here are some things that may help you cope as you learn to see another side of dad:

    1. After a loved one passes, learn to accept that life will never be exactly the same, but it can be just as good. Striving “for the way it used to be,” will just frustrate you, promote depression, and extend your grieving period.
    2. Learn to see your parent’s new companion as a friend who makes your living parent happy—not a replacement for your deceased mom or dad. They are not, they probably don’t want to be, and putting them in that role is unfair to both them and the memory of your deceased parent.
    3. Respect your parent for their wish to keep living a full life.
    4. Allow time to heal your heart.

    Dr. Jann Blackstone specializes in child custody, divorce, and stepfamily mediation. She is the author of six books on divorce, remarriage, and co-parenting, specifically, Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce and Separation, Ex-Etiquette for Weddings, Ex-Etiquette for Holidays, and My Parents are Divorced, Too: A Book for Kids by Kids, published by the American Psychological Association, now in it’s second printing. Dr. Blackstone is also the founder of Bonus Families,501 c3 non-profit organization dedicated to peaceful coexistence between divorced or separated parents and their combined families.

    3 Healthy Boundaries to Set With Your Parents After You’re Married

    How to adjust when an adult parent remarriesParents and in-laws can play a big role in marital satisfaction. The boundaries you set, or don’t set, will impact your relationship in many ways. A lack of boundaries can certainly cause a lot of marital strife and sadly, can lead to divorce.

    There are lots of reasons why people don’t set boundaries with their parents. Sometimes it is a lack of understanding of healthy boundaries. Someone who grew up in a really enmeshed family may not think it’s intrusive for his parents to want to be involved in the major decisions in the marriage. However, if his spouse has different ideas, it can lead to a lot of conflict.

    Sometimes people don’t set boundaries out of guilt. For example, “I don’t want to tell my mother she can’t come over every day because she’s lonely and I’d feel bad.” In other cases it is out of fear. For example, “I don’t want to tell my Dad he can’t go with us to the bank because he’ll be mad.”

    Although allowing your parents to cross boundaries may help you try to keep the peace in the short-term, it’s likely to have long-term consequences. A couple can’t truly be a couple if there are other people involved in their decisions. A healthy marriage requires privacy and intimacy, which aren’t possible when there aren’t healthy family boundaries.

    1. Financial Boundaries

    Allowing your parents to be involved in your finances once you’re married can be disastrous. Although it often starts with the best of intentions, it can turn sour quickly. For example, if your parents loan you a few thousand dollars to help you get a new car, pretty soon they may want to know how you can afford to go to the movies if you haven’t paid them back yet.

    How much you make, the type of debt you have and your personal budget doesn’t need to be anyone else’s business. If you and your spouse agree to talk to a parent in confidence to ask for advice or to get a little help with your taxes, make sure you are both on board with what that might mean.

    If your parents are constantly trying to convince you that you can’t afford that apartment or that you don’t really need that new vacuum cleaner, it’s going to lead to conflict in the marriage. As a couple, you need to be able to make financial decisions together without pressure or outside influence that isn’t welcome.

    2. Emotional Boundaries

    Once you get married, your spouse should be your major confidante and source of emotional support. However, some people still turn to their parents to be their main source of support when there’s a problem or when they need advice. This will certainly prevent you and your spouse from having a truly intimate relationship.

    For example, if you are worried about your job, talk to your spouse, not your mom. Or if you’re excited you just got offered a raise, make sure your first call is to your spouse and not your parents. These sorts of things truly help separate your relationship with your spouse from your other relationships.

    Your partner needs to be the person who gives you the most support. There should certainly be other fans in your life who cheer you on and help you out, but your spouse should be your go-to person. If your parents are used to fulfilling those needs for you, it can be tricky at first to change the focus to your spouse but if you keep setting limits, over time, it gets easier.

    3. Physical Boundaries

    Physical boundaries include things like your physical space, which may be your home or your apartment and your time. Families with poor boundaries may have parents who camp out at their house for extended periods of time while uninvited or who take up a lot of your spare time.

    Obviously, there may be reasons why these boundaries need to be changed at times. If you’ve fallen on hard times and need to move into your parents’ basement for a bit, you may find those physical boundaries a bit blurred. Or if you have elderly parents who need a lot of help, it’s likely that they’ll take up a lot of your time.

    However, it’s important to set limits that you and your spouse are comfortable with. If you don’t want your mother-in-law doing your laundry, speak up and talk about it with your spouse. Or if you don’t want your parents showing up at your house every night, set some boundaries that will help you to have some private time together with your spouse.

    Related Posts

    • Setting Healthy Boundaries for the Marriage
    • How to Set Boundaries with Adult Children
    • How Not Forgiving Your Parents Can Impact Your Marriage
    • Working Together to Set Boundaries with Adult Children
    • Financial Boundaries Within the Marriage

    This article was written by Amy Morin, LCSW, and posted on Wednesday, March 13th, 2013 at 6:39 am. It is filed under Family. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

    How to keep the peace and your love.

    THE BASICS

    • Why Relationships Matter
    • Find a therapist to strengthen relationships

    How to adjust when an adult parent remarries

    When Jean fell unexpectedly in love 11 years after her cherished husband’s death, it felt like an incredible blessing, a life bonus, after years of grief and loneliness. “I felt alone during the last two years of my husband’s life, when I was his primary caregiver, and the kids didn’t visit much. In the years since, they’ve urged me to get on with my life and to devote myself to being a loving mother and grandmother—which I have done,” she says. “But when I met Steve, who is a widower, at church a year ago, I felt a whole new dimension of life re-open for me. Loving Steve doesn’t take anything away from my kids and grandbabies—at least from my perspective—and adds so much to my life. But my kids don’t see it that way. They think I’m dishonoring the memory of their father, among other things. It’s very hurtful to me that they’re begrudging me this chance to love again.”

    Ben is sensing a similar lack of enthusiasm among his adult children for Alicia, his first serious girlfriend since he and their mother divorced nearly a decade ago. “They have no interest in knowing her,” he says sadly. “I’m welcome to visit the grandkids, attend family weddings and such but only if she is not included. I can understand that they feel loyal to their mother and don’t like to see a new person with me. But that’s reality. My ex-wife remarried three years ago without the psychodrama I’m seeing here. I love my kids and don’t want to hurt them. But, at the same time, their unwillingness to give Alicia a chance hurts me.”

    Unfortunately, the situations in which Jean and Ben find themselves are not that unusual. According to Wednesday Martin, the single greatest predictor that a marriage will fail is the presence of children from a previous marriage or relationship—and it makes no difference whether the children are minors or adults. In a survey of professional studies of the impact of adult children on remarriages, Martin found that adult stepchildren resent stepmothers the most, even if the stepmother came into the picture years after their parents had divorced. She found that adult children can harbor unresolved anger and grief over a parental divorce, hostility to the new person and anxiety over the impact this new marriage may have on their relationship with their parent and the financial changes this new marriage may bring to their lives.

    Research by Richard Warshak has found that the underlying dynamics of this conflict can include jealousy, narcissistic injury, desire for revenge, competitive feelings, and parent-child boundary violations.

    What can you do to enjoy your new love and keep peace with your adult children?

    Be realistic in your expectations. Don’t expect your adult children to be immediately delighted at your news. They have an attachment to how things were before. No one can or should try to replace their other parent. And know that when a new person comes into a family system, there can be a lot of anxiety among the children—both minor and adult—about how they will fit into your new life. Introduce your new love to them gradually, at ordinary times rather than at major family events, as your love and commitment deepen. Don’t expect—or demand—that your adult children share your enthusiasm. Give them a chance to know this new person over time and to develop their own relationship with him or her without ultimatums. At the same time, let them know that you expect a certain level of civility toward the person you love even if they may never feel close.

    Make one-on-one time with adult children a priority. A lot of conflict between adult children and a newly-in-love parent comes from the adult child wondering how he or she will fit into your new life, worrying about a loss of closeness with you. Let them know that your love is consistent and forever. Don’t insist that your new love be part of every get-together with your adult child. Giving a high priority to time alone together can make a huge difference in your son’s or daughter’s acceptance and support.

    Keep clear boundaries. Even though they’re grown, your kids are unlikely to relish hearing all the details of your new life and love. Grown or not, children don’t really want to think about their parents’ sex lives. Respect the parent-child boundaries and don’t regale them with TMI.

    If your new love seems to be trying to isolate you from your family and long-time friends, discuss this with him or her now. Let your new love know that, as pivotal as he or she is to your life, your kids are right up there, too. Invite your love to talk with you about feelings she may be having and what perspective he has on closeness with family and old friends. Discuss how to resolve any disagreements about these relationships without cutting off important people in either of your lives.

    Let the kids know that your door is always open. Don’t slam it shut by not inviting them to the wedding or boycotting theirs because they’re reluctant to include your new love. Leave room for compromises and agreeing to disagree while being there for one another. Let them know that your love for them is unconditional and forever—even though you may be disappointed in their behavior at the moment. Reassure them that they will always hold a special place in your heart.

    THE BASICS

    • Why Relationships Matter
    • Find a therapist to strengthen relationships

    Wednesday Martin, “Guess Who Hs the Power in a Remarriage with Children”, Stepmonster (blog), Psychology Today, October 7, 2009.

    Richard A. Warshak, “Remarriage as a Trigger of Parental Alienation Syndrome”, American Journal of Family Therapy 28, no. 3 (2000).

    I’ve dropped my daughter off thousands of times. From kindergarten through college, each milestone brought its own unique mix of sadness, excitement, and terror. But as difficult as those moments were, I could always take comfort in knowing they would be over. Eventually, the bell would ring, the class would end, and she’d come back to me.

    This time was different. For the first time, I didn’t know when I’d see my daughter again.

    My wife and I did our best to be positive as we carried boxes into her apartment and helped her put dishes away. We knew our adult child was ready for the challenge, but I wasn’t sure I was.

    As we watched her wave goodbye from the staircase railing, a sea of regrets streamed down my face. Our time was up. Had I done enough?

    Parenting an adult child

    For better or for worse, her decisions are hers to make and consequences hers to bear. If she makes mistakes—and she will—it isn’t a reflection of us or our parenting ability. Likewise, if she succeeds, we can’t pat ourselves on the back. Her success is hers.

    Good or bad, it’s on her now.

    But parenting an adult child is new territory for us. So here are five ways we’re learning not to be toxic parents.

    1. We’re changing the way we influence.

    As her father, I will always have a significant influence on her life, but in a very real way, my time for shaping her values has passed. Friends, co-workers, and romantic relationships will now hold much more sway in her day-to-day life than I will. This doesn’t mean my teaching days are over, but it does mean the way I teach must change.

    No more lectures and unsolicited advice. Instead of jumping in with solutions, I need to ask, “Would you like help figuring this out, or do you want to try and do it on your own?”

    When help is requested, I can’t assume the type or extent. Again, I need to ask, “How would you like me to help you?”

    I’ve always told her she could do anything. Now is the time for me to prove that I meant it.

    2. We’re releasing control of our adult child.

    When she was a child, parenting required us to exert a certain level of control over her life. We monitored where she went, what she did, and who she did it with. If she crossed a line, privileges would be suspended or revoked.

    But as an adult, she’s the one who decides how she spends her time and who she spends it with. It’s uncomfortable for us, but we need to give her the freedom to make her own choices. She won’t always do what we would want, but we can trust God won’t let her go.

    “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

    3. We’re changing how we respond to bad choices.

    No matter how good of a job we do as parents, our children will eventually make some pretty bad choices. God is a perfect Father and His children messed up, so there’s no reason to think I’ll be able to parent better.

    But when an adult child does make bad choices, we can learn from how God responded:

    • He pursued us. Even though Adam and Eve tried to hide, God made the first move toward reconciliation. (See Genesis 3:8-11.)
    • He listened. God knew what happened, but He still gave Adam and Eve a chance to explain themselves. (Genesis 3:11-13)
    • He let them experience consequences. They had to work hard and experience pain. (Genesis 3:16-19)
    • He offered help. God gave them their first set of clothes to get them started. (Genesis 3:21)
    • He is patient. God doesn’t force us to do the right thing but patiently waits for our return. (2 Peter 3:9)

    Sometimes the choices an adult child makes cause pain deeper than we knew was possible. They teach us the meaning of words like grace, truth, and longsuffering. Though they break our hearts, a loving parent will never give up hope, never stop praying, and always look forward to the day when, like the father of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), our relationship can be restored.

    4. We’re making prayer our primary weapon.

    Unfortunately, my prayer style has always been: Try it on your own first, then ask God if you can’t figure it out. Now that I have an adult child, the paradigm has finally shifted. Prayer has become my primary weapon.

    My prayer is that she will remember the Bible holds the answers to life’s questions, that she surrounds herself with a community of believers from a strong church, and that she seeks guidance from God through prayer herself.

    5. We’re realizing she isn’t an adult child at all.

    Our daughter once told us that no matter how old she was, she felt she would always be seen as a child by the family. In many ways, she’s right. It’s hard not to see the face of an innocent baby hiding behind all the grown-up clothes and hair. But just because I will always see daddy’s little girl doesn’t mean I can’t also see the amazing woman she has become.

    One of the best ways to demonstrate that I see her as an adult is by asking questions and honoring her answers—even if we don’t like them.

    • Would it be okay for us to visit?
    • How long would you like us to stay?
    • Are you planning on coming for Thanksgiving?

    Either she is an adult, or she is a child. She can’t be both. Continuing to view her as a child is disrespectful, will stifle her growth, and push her away. If she is an adult, then we need to treat her as an adult.

    A new day

    A few days after driving back home, I stood in the doorway of my daughter’s old room. I stared at her perfectly made bed and wondered how the time had gone so fast. But just before the sadness came, I heard a gentle “ba-ding” from my phone. All it said was “Good morning,” but it meant the world. My baby was okay. And I knew I’d be too.

    Parents of a blended family face plenty of challenges, but there are things you can do to make communication easier and help children adjust to their new reality.

    • Divorce and Child Custody
    • Families

    How to adjust when an adult parent remarries

    The so-called “blended family” is no longer an aberration in American society: It’s a norm.

    Planning for remarriage

    A marriage that brings with it children from a previous marriage presents many challenges. Such families should consider three key issues as they plan for remarriage:

    • Financial and living arrangements. Adults should agree on where they will live and how they will share their money. Most often partners embarking on a second marriage report that moving into a new home, rather than one of the partner’s prior residences, is advantageous because the new environment becomes “their home.” Couples also should decide whether they want to keep their money separate or share it. Couples who have used the “one-pot” method generally reported higher family satisfaction than those who kept their money separate.
    • Resolving feelings and concerns about the previous marriage. Remarriage may resurrect old, unresolved anger and hurts from the previous marriage, for adults and children. For example, hearing that her parent is getting remarried, a child is forced to give up hope that the custodial parents will reconcile. Or a woman may exacerbate a stormy relationship with her ex-husband, after learning of his plans to remarry, because she feels hurt or angry.
    • Anticipating parenting changes and decisions. Couples should discuss the role the stepparent will play in raising their new spouse’s children, as well as changes in household rules that may have to be made. Even if the couple lived together before marriage, the children are likely to respond to the stepparent differently after remarriage because the stepparent has now assumed an official parental role.

    Marriage quality

    While newlywed couples without children usually use the first months of marriage to build on their relationship, couples with children are often more consumed with the demands of their kids.

    Young children, for example, may feel a sense of abandonment or competition as their parent devotes more time and energy to the new spouse. Adolescents are at a developmental stage where they are more sensitive to expressions of affection and sexuality, and may be disturbed by an active romance in their family.

    Couples should make priority time for each other, by either making regular dates or taking trips without the children.

    Parenting in stepfamilies

    The most difficult aspect of stepfamily life is parenting. Forming a stepfamily with young children may be easier than forming one with adolescent children due to the differing developmental stages.

    Adolescents, however, would rather separate from the family as they form their own identities.

    Recent research suggests that younger adolescents (age 10–14) may have the most difficult time adjusting to a stepfamily. Older adolescents (age 15 and older) need less parenting and may have less investment in stepfamily life, while younger children (under age 10) are usually more accepting of a new adult in the family, particularly when the adult is a positive influence. Young adolescents, who are forming their own identities tend to be a bit more difficult to deal with.

    Stepparents should at first establish a relationship with the children that is more akin to a friend or “camp counselor,” rather than a disciplinarian. Couples can also agree that the custodial parent remain primarily responsible for control and discipline of the children until the stepparent and children develop a solid bond.

    Until stepparents can take on more parenting responsibilities, they can simply monitor the children’s behavior and activities and keep their spouses informed.

    Families might want to develop a list of household rules. These may include, for example, “We agree to respect each family member” or “Every family member agrees to clean up after him or herself.”

    Stepparent-child relations

    While new stepparents may want to jump right in and to establish a close relationship with stepchildren, they should consider the child’s emotional status and gender first.

    Both boys and girls in stepfamilies have reported that they prefer verbal affection, such as praises or compliments, rather than physical closeness, such as hugs and kisses. Girls especially say they’re uncomfortable with physical shows of affection from their stepfather. Overall, boys appear to accept a stepfather more quickly than girls.

    Nonresidential parent issues

    After a divorce, children usually adjust better to their new lives when the parent who has moved out visits consistently and has maintained a good relationship with them.

    But once parents remarry, they often decrease or maintain low levels of contact with their children. Fathers appear to be the worst perpetrators: On average, dads drop their visits to their children by half within the first year of remarriage.

    The less a parent visits, the more a child is likely to feel abandoned. Parents should reconnect by developing special activities that involve only the children and parent.

    Parents shouldn’t speak against their ex-spouses in front of the child because it undermines the child’s self-esteem and may even put the child in a position of defending a parent.

    Under the best conditions, it may take two to four years for a new stepfamily to adjust to living together. And seeing a psychologist can help the process can go more smoothly.

    Thanks to James Bray, PhD, a researcher and clinician at the department of family medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

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    Love may be better the second time around but, if you have children from a prior marriage, the money stuff can get messy

    How to adjust when an adult parent remarries

    Money—and the decisions related to it—can cause tension in any marriage. But when one or both spouses have been married before, as is the case with more than 40% of recent marriages, the issues become far more fraught.

    That’s especially true for older couples, for whom—unlike younger generations—remarriage is on the rise. According to a Pew Research Center study, two-thirds of previously married people ages 55 to 64 have remarried, up from just half roughly 50 years ago.

    That means the financial tensions that often come along with love the second (or third or more) time around are on the rise too.

    Here’s why: When you remarry, you typically come into the union with more money than you had the first time you got hitched. Plus, you may have financial baggage from your previous marriage.

    Throw adult or nearly-grown kids from your past relationship into the mix, and an already fraught subject becomes even more emotional.

    You want to show your commitment to your new partner, of course. But you also want to ensure that if something happens to you, the assets you intended to go to your children don’t end up with your new spouse—or, worse, if he or she then dies, in the hands of your new partner’s kids or his or her next honey.

    “People who marry for a second time have split loyalties because they really care about their new spouse and they really care about the children,” says Laurie Israel, a divorce lawyer and author of The Generous Prenup: How to Support Your Marriage and Avoid the Pitfalls.

    To ensure your children get what you want them to have, and your new spouse does too—without hurt feelings and undue tension—here’s what you need to do.

    Get a prenup and a postnup

    Sure, “nups” have a reputation as unromantic. But a strong prenuptial agreement is the best way to make certain you get the financial outcome you want.

    “A good prenup gives the person with more assets peace of mind about what they’ll keep, and what they can pass to their children,” says Benjamin Valencia, a family lawyer and partner with Meyer, Olson, Lowy & Meyers in Los Angeles. “And it gives a person with less assets peace of mind that they won’t be left out on the street.”

    The agreement, which can cover property and financial holdings you bring into the marriage as well as any you acquire during it, should clearly lay out what you and your new spouse will share, and what will stay separate. Retaining sole ownership of assets you want to leave to your kids makes it simpler for them to inherit later.

    If your new partner is doing fine financially, and you want your kids to get most of the money and property you owned before you got married after you die, it’s also a good idea to ask your soon-to-be spouse to formally waive his or her rights as part of the prenup.

    It’s a sensitive issue to raise, no doubt, and you may think you’re covered if you’ve spelled out your wishes in a will (more on wills shortly). But under many state laws, a spouse’s right to claim a big chunk of your assets, typically a third to a half, can supersede a will—unless a prenup says otherwise.

    More stories about family finance

    Work with your own lawyer to be sure you’re getting advice that puts your interests first, and your future spouse should do the same.

    You can find a qualified attorney through the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers here. Expect to pay about $5,000 each.

    To give the prenup even more legal authority, after you’re married, create a second legal document, known as a postnup, affirming everything you agreed to in the prenup.

    Update your estate plan

    The prenup deals with the assets you bring into the marriage and accumulate during it, while your estate plan focuses on what happens to them after you’ve passed away.

    A good estate lawyer can help you create the tools necessary. But, as with a prenup, it helps if you and your spouse have already discussed what you’d like to do.

    “You don’t want to let the estate attorney drive the conversation,” says Manisha Thakor, vice president of financial education with Brighton Jones. “Start with the outcome that you want and then the lawyer can create the structure to achieve it.”

    For example, if you pass away before your new spouse, you may want your savings and investments to provide financial support while he or she is alive. But after that, you may want your children to inherit.

    To ensure that happens, your lawyer would need to set up a type of trust, called a qualified terminable interest property (QTIP) trust. You can’t rely on everyone involved just doing what you wanted after you’re gone, assuming they even know what that is.

    At the very least, you’ll want to update your will—or draft one, if you don’t already have one—to spell out who you want to inherit your savings, investments, home (if you own one in your own name) as well as cherished possessions, such as jewelry or other family heirlooms.

    Expect to pay an estate attorney around $1,000 for a simple will and about $5,000 or so for QTIP or another trust. You can find a lawyer near you through the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel here.

    Name names that spell out who gets what

    Also update the beneficiaries on your life insurance policy, IRA and other savings and investment accounts. Otherwise, if the names on the documents don’t agree, these beneficiary designations could override what you’ve said you want to happen in your will or prenup.

    Want both your new partner and your kids to get a piece of the pie? You can name multiple beneficiaries on most of these accounts—say, giving half to your spouse and splitting the rest between your children, or however else you want to divvy things up.

    One exception: your 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored retirement account. By law, your spouse is entitled to inherit all of this money. If this isn’t what you want to happen, your spouse must legally waive his or her rights, either in a pre- or postnup or a company-provided form.

    Think yours, mine, and ours

    Any income or assets you earn or acquire after you remarry that you haven’t specifically addressed in a pre- or postnup will likely be considered joint property.

    If you want to keep some of these assets separate, it helps to have physically separate accounts.

    For example, you might have a joint account with your new spouse that you use to pay your living expenses. But you might keep money you use to cover expenses for your children or want them to inherit in an account in your name only or a joint account with them.

    Bonus to joint accounts : The money will pass directly to whoever is named on them when you pass away, no questions asked, and without going through probate.

    Drawback: If you have joint holdings with your children that they know about, they would be free to tap those accounts now. Maybe your kid would never do that, but it’s something to think about.

    However you ultimately choose to set up financial housekeeping, make sure to talk it through with your new spouse and your kids beforehand.

    Being clear about what you want and why, and underscoring that the goal is to make sure everyone you love is taken care of financially, can go a long way to defusing tensions and hurt feelings.

    How to adjust when an adult parent remarries

    “We love his parents, but they have a way of creating chaos between the two of us that has gotten to the point that we are seriously considering divorce,” says Karen.

    “I see this scenario in my office frequently,” says psychologist Dr. Susan Hickman. “In most instances, the parents of the now-adult child didn’t have good boundaries when they were raising their child. Now that their child is an adult and has a family of their own, the parents believe they have the right to be involved at this same level with their grandchildren and the parents.”

    Think helicopter parents who seek to control all aspects of their child’s life. Now fast forward to what this looks like when their child marries and attempts to raise children in a healthy environment.

    “I’m watching what his parents are doing, thinking this is insane,” Karen says. “They have a key to our home and will show up unannounced, which I think is rude. They talk about me to my husband and seem to constantly be trying to pit us against each other. When I tried to talk with my husband about this, he became angry and felt like I was dishonoring his parents.”

    “Being raised in this type of environment is like being emotionally blackmailed,” Hickman says. “The terror you felt as a child who is vulnerable to the parent stays the same over time. As an adult, when you’re dealing with your parents you still feel that same terror you felt when you were 4. This is why so many young adults have difficulty breaking free. Only by violating these assumptions can this unhealthy chain be broken.”

    Karen and Bob are struggling with next steps. However, many young adults actually recognize the problem and seek help, which can create even more friction between the couple and parents. And, boundaries and limits often anger parents and in-laws. Then they can become even more difficult.

    “As adults start breaking free from this toxic family dynamic they should expect resistance from the parents,” Hickman says. “In the process of creating a new dynamic you will probably experience pressure to get back in line. This is a sign that you are moving in the right direction.”

    Here are Hickman’s suggestions for how to deal with and break free from meddling parents:

    • Set boundaries and stick with them. Your marriage and family are your first priority.
    • Be patient. Things will not change overnight.
    • Learn to disengage. Don’t participate in manipulative behavior. This is not as much about you as you might think.
    • If your parents choose not to have a relationship with you because of the boundaries set, that is their choice. Don’t feel guilty about it.
    • Don’t be afraid to seek help. An objective party who can encourage you and help you keep perspective.

    “Many couples have successfully walked this road and eventually developed a healthy relationship with parents,” Hickman says. “Don’t give up!”

    ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

    When tough love serves your adult child’s best interests.

    Over the years, I have repeatedly seen how it is easier to build a child than it is to repair an adult. As I write in my book, 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child, healthy boundaries between children and their parents are crucial for children to become healthy adults. Boundaries with our children and teens must, of course, come from a place of love, compassion, and respect—that is for sure.

    Setting boundaries with our adult children, especially those who are articulate, manipulative, and can present very persuasive arguments, can be very challenging. Does helping your adult child tend to become a pattern of unhealthy rescuing? If you try to “save” your adult child every time he or she is in trouble, you may be making things worse in the long run. Do you struggle with knowing where to draw that fine (or not so fine) line between letting him learn how to stand on his own two feet and bailing him out? Parents, for sure, need to be thoughtful about how to assist their adult children without enabling them.

    Adult children who remain overly dependent on their parents often are allowed to get into this situation because their parents enable them. Perhaps this relationship dynamic stems from parents who want to be needed. Setting boundaries with your adult child can sometimes be the best thing to do, even when it is hard to say, “I am here to listen and here’s what I can offer, but I also think you will feel better about yourself if you figure this out on your own.”

    Recently, a colleague of mine revealed that his 26-year-old son had called him one night a year ago in a crisis. Apparently this young man had used drugs and was kicked out of the sober living facility that he was living in at that time. My colleague, who had a history of getting sucked into a myriad of past crises with his son, calmly told his son that he’d have to figure this out on his own. When my colleague shared this story with peers, they were very critical of him.

    As it turns out, recently, his son shared with my colleague that his strong boundaries and limits had helped him realize that it was time to stop the madness. Over the past year, this young man has held steady employment, maintained sobriety, paid for his own sober living facility, and is assuming responsibility for his financial debts.

    Obviously, every family’s circumstances are different. Yet over my 25 years as a psychologist, the adage, “Give a person a fish, she will have dinner; teach her how to fish, she will never go hungry,” rings more true than ever.

    Whether you’ve got a 35-year-old daughter who keeps asking for money while falsely claiming she will pay you back, or a 25-year-old son who just can’t keep a job, adult children who behave immaturely can be stressful. I have seen many sad stories in my office of families with children over age 21 (in one case age 44!) who still are overly dependent on their parents. It can be very challenging for parents to set limits with adult children who have become overly dependent. The parents often feel drained and emotionally depleted. They want their child to be happy on his own, yet they live in fear of not doing enough to help their child get there. This is by no means an easy situation!

    In some cases, these adult children may have significant mental health issues, including addictions, which need to be addressed. At the same time, mental health treatment does not have to be mutually exclusive from the adult child contributing to their recovery in any way they can. Too many times, however, I see parents overly rescuing their children from their problems. While it may feel good for parents to do this, the implicit (or even explicit) message to the child is, “You’re not competent to make it on your own.” Parents in this situation can help themselves to be mindful of enabling their child by being carefully considering the following questions:

    • Does your child now act entitled to, and demand, things you once enjoyed giving—car privileges, gifts, perks at home, or rent money?

    • Does it feel like you are living from crisis to crisis with your adult child?

    • Do you sacrifice too much to meet your adult child’s needs?

    • Are you afraid of hurting your child?

    • Are you feeling burdened, used, resentful, or burnt out?

    Encouraging Them To Live In Their Own Skin—Skin That’s Also in The Game

    As children either graduate or quit school, they need to increasingly have “skin in the game” and strive toward being self-sufficient. This does not mean parents should abruptly put their adult child on the street. At the same time, the adult child needs to “own” his or her goals and plans to become self-reliant.

    Sometimes, crises occur that send children back home such as a bad breakup, problems at college, or health issues. This is acceptable as long as there is a plan in place for the adult child to become independent.

    Try not to be adversarial as you encourage your child to become more independent. The goal is to be supportive and understanding with a collaborative mindset. Be calm, firm, and non-controlling in your demeanor as you express these guiding expectations below to motivate your adult child toward healthy independence:

    1. Encourage working children to contribute part of their pay for room and board.

    2. Don’t indiscriminately give money. Providing spending money should be contingent on children’s efforts toward independence.

    3. Develop a response that you can offer in the event that you are caught off guard. Agree that you won’t give an answer for a certain time period, whether it be the next morning or at least for 24 hours. For example, the next time you get an urgent call that says, “I need money,” respond by saying, “I’ll have to talk it over with your father,” (or, if you are single, “I’ll have to think it over”) and we’ll get back to you tomorrow.” This will allow you time to consider it and give you a chance to think and talk about it beforehand. It will also show that you are remaining steady in your course while presenting a united front.

    4. Agree on a time limit on how long children can remain at home.

    5. If you can afford it, offer to help pay starting costs of rent on an apartment.

    6. Make an agreement for decreasing contributions to rent until the child is fully responsible.

    7. Remember that you always have the right to say, “I changed my mind” about a previous promise.

    8. Set limits on how much time you spend helping your child resolve crises. Encourage the child to problem-solve by asking, “What are your ideas?”

    9. Remember you are not in a popularity contest. Be prepared for your child to reject you. He or she will most likely come around later.

    10. Attend support groups if your child has a substance abuse or emotional problem. Only give spending money to an adult child consistently involved in treatment.

    Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein is a psychologist, personal and executive coach, and motivational speaker in the greater Philadelphia area. He has been on the Today Show, radio, and has written four popular books, including 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child. You can also follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

    By Debbie Reslock | Apr 23rd, 2019

    Anyone who’s ever been through a divorce knows the heartache involved. Broken promises and dreams. A future forever altered. But as parents, watching your child navigate the emotional minefield of ending a marriage can trigger every fierce instinct we possess.

    Learning how to be supportive yet not overstep the boundaries is not an easy task for any mother. Keeping our feelings to ourselves often proves even harder. But although we can’t take this pain away from our child, there are ways we can help. Unfortunately, there are also ways we can hurt.

    Here are a few guidelines to consider if you’re struggling to find your place while trying to help them recover from one of life’s hardest curves.

    4 ways you can help

    1. It’s almost always better to keep negative opinions of your soon to be ex in-law to yourself. Even if your child was wronged, it doesn’t help to tell them they made a terrible choice for a partner or share that you knew it wasn’t going to last. It’s better to be a good listener, if your child needs to talk or vent, without judgment. And when it comes to telling others, unless you’ve been asked to spread the word, let them do the talking. It’s not your story to tell.

    2. If there are grandchildren, be a harbor for them, especially in this storm. Let them know that your love for them and your relationship is still strong and will never change. Help them understand they can share any thoughts or concerns freely. Don’t pump them for information about what is happening at home, like whether mom or dad is dating or spending enough time with them. Always remember that your child’s ex is still your grandchild’s parent.

    3. If your son or daughter seems to be struggling to move forward from the divorce, encourage them however you can. Divorce can be such a blow to self-esteem and confidence. It’s not helpful to tell them how they should feel or what they should do, but let them know they may be stronger than they think and will get through this.

    4. As much as possible, try to remain positive with the relationships that have grown from their marriage, including the other set of grandparents. Drawing the battle line is rarely helpful to anyone. None of us are perfect and sometimes despite our best efforts, marriages end. Feelings toward others won’t end just because they’re no longer legally a part of the family. If there are grandchildren, remember you will likely see this side of the family again for birthdays, graduations and other life events.

    4 ways that can hurt

    1. On the other hand, even if you’re close to your daughter or son in-law and consider them as one of your own, your loyalty should still go first to your child. Many parent-child relationships have been strained by continuing a friendship without considering how this may make your adult child feel, particularly if they didn’t want the divorce. They may need your undivided loyalty, especially in the beginning.

    2. A mother’s instinct to swoop in and fix the problem can be pretty strong as soon as we know our child’s in trouble, but hold yourself back. Remember, this is an adult who doesn’t need that from you now. Ask how you can help. They may want you to play an active part or a supporting role. Divorce can bring on powerful feelings of failure and wounded self-worth. Make sure they know you’re there for them.

    3. For most divorces, it’s not just one person’s fault, but it will be harder for you if it was your child mainly responsible for the split. Unless they want to share, don’t pry into their life to find out what happened. This is not the time to blame or point out their shortcomings or look for faults in their spouse in an effort to balance out the guilt. And don’t make this about you, no matter how disappointed you feel or loved their soon-to-be-ex.

    4. Let it go. I’ve known parents who just couldn’t accept that their child’s marriage was over and expressed their disappointment every chance they could. It’s hard to admit that the life you wanted for your child isn’t going to happen, but it works out that way sometimes. I know a woman who asked her daughter why she couldn’t make marriage work with a perfect husband. Remember that your words can hurt and may not ever be forgotten – or forgiven.

    Life does get better

    Divorce is hard, no matter the players, but it’s between the two people who were married and doesn’t involve you directly. Emotions run high but eventually and hopefully – everyone will find acceptance and look toward the future once again.

    As parents, when our kids hurt, it’s pain twice magnified. We have our own sense of loss but also must stand by and witness theirs. It’s not always easy knowing where we belong in an adult child’s life. But making sure they know there’s a safe spot to land may be what they need the most. As they go through one
    of life’s hardest moments, don’t underestimate what it means for them to know there’s someone out there in the world who is always in their corner.

    And that’s a place where we’ve always been.

    1. Boundaries & Expectations Exercises
    2. How to Apologize If You Hurt Your Sister or Brother
    3. How to Nicely Tell Your Mom to Back Off
    4. How to Explain Something Clearly
    5. Strategies for Fathers Dealing With Mother-Daughter Conflicts

    How to adjust when an adult parent remarries

    It’s normal in childhood for siblings to fight and push each other’s buttons, even to test some boundaries. But once brothers and sisters cross the threshold of adulthood, crossing boundaries can have greater consequences. Some adult siblings may repeatedly ask their brothers or sisters for money, request excessive time and attention from them, or invade their privacy. If your sibling is consistently behaving in a way that makes you uncomfortable, it’s important to express your discomfort and set clear boundaries for yourself in order to grow and maintain a healthy adult relationship.

    Step 1

    Write about the problem before talking to your sibling. Identify the source of your discomfort by starting a journal entry about what your sibling does that makes you upset, and why you feel this way. Then decide on a solution that would be comfortable for you. If your sibling wants to come to your house for dinner every night, and you think that’s too much to ask, how often would you prefer to have dinner together, and where? Focusing on positive solutions instead of negative feelings will be the first step in maintaining the health of your relationship.

    Step 2

    Decide on a good time and place to talk to your sibling. This should be a comfortable setting for both of you. Consider meeting at a coffee shop or taking a walk in a park so that the setting for your conversation is neutral, and neither of you feels trapped. Setting boundaries is likely to be awkward at first, so make sure that the surroundings allow both of you some space to process the conversation.

    Step 3

    Plan what you’re going to say. Remind yourself to stay calm, and to assume that your sibling has good intentions. If you both care about each other, then s/he probably never meant to hurt you. Instead of starting your request with a negative remark about his/her behavior, start with a positive remark about your relationship. Dr. Jerry Cook, associate professor at California State University, Sacramento, recommends reminding your sibling that you value your relationship before broaching the subject of boundaries.

    Step 4

    State your boundaries clearly, framing them in terms of your needs instead of your siblings’ behavior. Propose a clear solution that might work for both of you. Your sibling’s feelings may initially be hurt, but remember that if both of you value the relationship, an honest conversation will strengthen your bond in the long run. Ask your sibling what he/she thinks of your proposed solution. Remember to listen to your sibling and seriously consider his/her point of view.

    Step 5

    Reinforce the boundaries. It may take some time for your sibling to negotiate the new rules you have proposed for your relationship. When your sibling says or does something that makes you feel good, let him/her know. But if your sibling crosses the line again, calmly remind him/her that those actions are hurting you, and request that he/she stop. Over time, setting clear boundaries in an adult manner will create more positive behavior for both you and your siblings.

    How to adjust when an adult parent remarries

    Remember that Sarah Jessica Parker movie Failure to Launch? It’s a romantic comedy about a 30-something-year-old man, Matthew McConaughey, who still lives with his parents. Nothing too crazy about that…but we soon learn that neither he or his parents ever really want to see him leave the nest. This is enabling a grown child. And while it’s natural for parents to want to help their children at every age, sometimes their helping hand can morph into enabling, especially when their kid is a 30-something-year-old dating Sarah Jessica Parker.

    But enabling your grown children isn’t always so clear cut. How do you know if this applies to you? Here, we help break down the signs that you’re enabling your grown child and also share helpful tips on how to stop.

    “From a technical perspective, enabling happens when a parent removes a naturally occurring negative consequence from a grown child’s life, and the child doesn’t learn from the experience,” explains Dr. Lara Friedrich, a licensed psychologist who works with families. “Said differently, it’s when a parent and child get stuck in a cycle that keeps both dependent on the other in a way that doesn’t allow for the adult child to make mistakes and grow.”

    Part of the reason this may happen is because the parent doesn’t want their child to grow up and leave them in the dust, so to speak. “Sometimes parents enable without being aware of it when they are afraid of having a child separate into a full-fledged adult. When that separation is too painful, parents will take unhelpful steps to keep the child close, even if it impedes the child’s personal growth,” Dr. Friedrich says. For example, “writing your child’s cover letter for them every time your child gets anxious keeps them needing you, which may feel good. But it stops the child from stepping out on their own and teaches them that they’ll only accomplish their goals with your help.”

    So instead of learning how to become a functioning, independent adult, your child gains a sense of entitlement, learned helplessness and lack of respect.

    “They will expect the same enabling treatment from other people in their lives and only engage in relationships where they can be selfish and the center of attention,” says Dr. Racine Henry, a marriage and family therapist based in New York and the founder of Sankofa Marriage and Family Therapy. “Also, enabling does not require your child to respect you or consider your feelings. This may limit your ability to be independent and live your life on your terms because you will have to be constantly available and responsible for another adult.”

    From everyday tasks like doing the laundry and cleaning for your grown child to bigger issues like making excuses for their drug addiction and criminal activity, enabling can crop up in different ways.

    Here are some signs you’re enabling your grown child:

    1. You make any and all decisions for your adult child.

    Your child depends on you to make decisions for and with them about everything, Dr. Henry says. “It is one thing to offer advice but if your adult child relies on you to decide about jobs, friends, romantic partners, etc. they are codependent in an unhealthy way.”

    2. Your adult child doesn’t respect you.

    They don’t demonstrate respect for you or observe any boundaries you set. “If you say, ‘don’t call me after 10 p.m. or I won’t allow you to live with me any longer’ and they continue to do these things, you could be enabling this behavior,” Dr. Henry says.

    3. Your adult child can’t accept ‘no.’

    If your child has an extremely negative and visceral reaction when you say “no” to their requests, Dr. Henry says that this is a sign you are enabling negative behavior.

    4. You pay for everything, all the time.

    If your grown child lives with you and doesn’t chip in toward household expenses and/or you pay their bills, you’re establishing a bad habit.

    5. You ‘baby’ your adult child.

    You shouldn’t have to teach your adult child things they should already know how to do, such as laundry.

    6. You feel overwhelmed, taken advantage of and burnt out.

    “It’s harmful to the parent because it can infringe on their time, money, energy and freedom, and it keeps them involved in the child’s life in a way that’s no longer productive,” Dr. Friedrich explains.

    If you think you might be enabling your child, here are some steps you can take to stop:

    1. Set boundaries.

    “Boundaries are the key to helping your adult child be more independent,” Dr. Henry says. “You can of course provide help and be there to rescue them in case of emergency, but they should attempt solutions on their own. You can start by thinking of what boundaries you are comfortable with. This can apply to space, time, money, availability, etc., then you can decide to either have a conversation with your child about these limits or you can begin enforcing these limits as soon as possible. The key is to be consistent and implement effective boundaries. If your adult child is uncomfortable and/or unhappy with the boundaries, it’s a sign the boundaries are effective.”

    Dr. Friedrich agrees, saying that you need to become “clear on how much time, money and energy you are willing to put toward your child’s issues. Tell your child this limit. If the child is constantly asking for money, figure out what works and say, ‘I can give you $50 toward fixing your car this month,’ for example. Or ‘I am giving you $____ to help with having job-appropriate clothes this year.’ If they need rйsumй help, pick a time limit and stand by it.”

    2. Learn to be OK with seeing your child struggle.

    “Focus on increasing your own tolerance for witnessing your child struggle,” Dr. Friedrich says. “If it is too hard to watch, or if you find yourself being pulled in again and again, talk with a therapist to get a better understanding of what’s happening. Together, you can create a customized plan to break the cycle.”

    3. Tell them to Google it.

    “When your adult kids ask you how to do something, suggest that they Google it. It might sound harsh, but they are capable. They will figure it out,” says Rebecca Ogle, clinical social worker and licensed therapist who practices teletherapy in Illinois. Along those same lines, she says to stop doing things for your kids that are their responsibility. “By stopping, you give them the opportunity to: A. Do nothing and suffer the consequences or B. Do what they need to. The choice is up to them.”

    SPECIAL FROM Next Avenue

    Hint: ‘How can you live like this?’ isn’t a good conversation starter

    As my 29-year-old son was ticking off all the weddings he and his girlfriend would be attending in the coming 12 months, I blurted, “So when are you getting married?”

    Mom. ” he said (I swear I could hear the exclamation marks of annoyance) before his sister chimed in, “Yeah, I’d like to know, too.”

    I was grateful that took the attention away from me, but I was in the wrong — overstepping parental bounds and sticking my nose where it did not belong. I know perfectly well that young adults hate it when their parents pressure them about marriage, so my only self-defense is that my mouth was working more quickly than my mind. I really do expect that when my son and his girlfriend have news that involves a wedding, my husband and I will be among the first 100 people to know.

    Dances With Words

    Over the past several years, I’ve been discreetly observing young adults (not my own) on the phone with their parents. I wanted to learn the slam-down-the-phone triggers so I could avoid them. Parents often say ridiculous and sometimes hurtful things. We forget that we’re speaking to mature people (not that they always make it easy to remember). We condescend when maybe we should remember that what seems innocent or even playful to us is nails on a blackboard to them.

    There are just certain things that parents should never say to their grown children. Ruth Nemzoff, resident scholar at Brandeis University and author of “Don’t Bite Your Tongue: How to Foster Rewarding Relationships With Your Adult Children,” makes the point that parents transgress the bounds of how we should be talking even before our children grow up. “We fantasize that we can say anything we want to our kids, but the truth is, we never could,” she argues. And, as both we and our kids age, our blurt-it-out tendencies seem to grow worse.

    This list is meant to help you avoid uttering those unintentionally hurtful things I’ve heard parents say over the years, and to offer some less offensive alternatives. (And just for the record, I’ve said most of them myself.)

    6 Things You Should Never Say to Your Grown Child

    1. Have you gained [lost] weight? Like most of us, I’ve read all the articles that warn us not to nag our preteen and teenage kids — especially our daughters — about weight or eating habits. And yet I saw this on my cousin’s son’s Facebook page when he returned from his junior year abroad: “Home five minutes and Mom asks, Have you gained weight?” His friends quickly replied with comments along the lines of “Yeah, mine, too” and “I don’t tell her she’s fat.”

    Say instead: “I’m so glad you’re back! I really missed you.”

    2. What’s that on your face? Really and truly I have heard parents call out their adult kids’ zits. And I understand — sort of. From our perspective, our kids are perfect, or nearly perfect, so any blemish is a shock. But from the kids’ point of view, it’s “There you go, ragging on my appearance again.”

    Say instead: Nothing. However, if your adult child shows up with an actual bruise or cut on his or her body, I feel it’s legitimate to ask about it. (If he or she doesn’t want to talk about it, let it drop — unless you have a suspicion that something bad has happened. But that’s a whole other blog post.)

    3. How come you hardly ever call (or text) these days? I’ve found that parents and their adult children define “hardly ever call” quite differently. I know that when my son’s number hasn’t shown up on my caller ID for three or four days, I begin to worry — unnecessarily, of course. These phone silences have more to do with what’s going on in his life than how he feels about me. Sometimes he’s just been really busy. It’s easy to forget that he’s a separate person with his own life. So every morning I repeat this mantra: “Today my kids may feel no need to talk to me.” When they do call, engage, don’t nag.

    Say instead: Don’t — just text a quick hello.

    4. It’s all for the best; [So-and-so] was a jerk anyway. Never speak too negatively about your adult child’s partner when they split up, especially if the couple has a habit of breaking up and getting back together. This is a hard one because if someone treats your child wrong — even your self-sufficient adult child — your mama/papa bear protection instinct goes on high alert. But what happens if you badmouth the badly behaving ex? You think your kid won’t remember exactly what you’ve said and repeat it to the reinstated sweetheart? Maybe wait it out a month or two before lambasting the b_____.

    Say instead: “How are you feeling? Do you want to talk about it? I’m here for you.”

    5. How can you live like this? You go to visit and see they’ve got a week’s worth of dirty dishes on the counter — while complaining about mice and cockroaches. Whether they had to do chores when they were growing up or never lifted a finger to clean up after themselves, your adult kids may have ideas about hygiene that don’t match yours. There’s always hope that when they settle into a job and a relationship and have kids, they’ll start washing their sheets more often.

    Say instead: “Let’s go out to eat!”

    6. What do you expect me to do? I mean, really. Really. This is your kid, and he or she expects you to fix it, whatever it is: a job rejection, a romantic rejection, a fight with a friend, a bee sting. Grownup problems are still boo-boos, and boo-boos are still within your bailiwick. Yeah, it can be exasperating, especially if they reject your advice out of hand. But remember those papers you John Hancock’ed when you left the hospital with your bundle of joy? They meant being a parent is a lifetime commitment, including having continual conversations. So here it is, another opportunity to have a meaningful discussion that will nudge our fledglings onto the road to responsible adulthood.

    Say instead: What can I do to help?

    And One Day the Tables Will Turn

    Researchers, including Kira Birditt, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, report that tensions between parents and their grown offspring may be more upsetting to the parents than to the children. Apparently, we are more emotionally invested. As I’ve said to my kids, “There’s no way you’re going to understand how I feel until you have kids of your own.” Of course, that’s probably not the right thing to say.

    Linda Bernstein has written hundreds of articles for dozens of magazines and newspapers, writes the blog GenerationBsquared and teaches social media at the Columbia University School of Journalism.