From Dr. Jane's Notebook

Family Ties

The other day, a woman in her 30s confided in me that in spite of her age, she found it impossible to disagree with her Mother. On the outside, she displays a difficult smile while inside, she feels angry and usually punishes herself after visits with her mother for not saying what she really feels. In her own words, "My mother still treats me like I'm eight years old and for some reason, I take it!"

It is indeed a difficult change to become an adult in the eyes of our parents. It can be very awkward asserting one's new boundaries and opinions. As my friend claimed, "I don't want to hurt my mother's feelings, but the cost is that I'm hurting my own."

As a mother, I often find it difficult as the "parent" to assert my boundaries and values with my own children. My rules are not always popular, and there is the risk of their rejections and objections. However, my assertiveness will, in the end, win their respect, as children need boundaries to feel secure and that they can rely on my judgments.

As I consider my future role, that of "parenting my parents" (as the jargon goes), I can't help but wonder if parents also need a sense of security about their children; if they too need to know what we really think, and how we have come to perceive the world so that they can also feel confident as they come to rely on us.

As the holidays come upon us, many of us will have the opportunity to share time with our relatives. As the end of one year marks a passage of time and growth, the stage is set for the sharing of our personal growth and our authentic selves. In sharing personal growth with parents, remember:

Once you've acknowledged respect for your parent's perspective, there's no need to enter into a debate or to feel defensive about your differing views. Like a parent, you may become less popular for the moment, but the long-term gains will pay off.

ęCopyright 1985, 1995, Jane Rosen-Grandon, All rights reserved.

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Last Updated September 26, 1998 by Gary M. Grandon, Ph.D.