© 2021 WRVO Public Media
bg.jpg
Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Health

How involved should mothers of 20-somethings be in their kid's life?

Mothers of 20-somethings have to negotiate a new relationship with a child who's not a child anymore. But may still expect mom to "take care of things" in a crisis situation. This week on “Take Care,” WRVO's health and wellness show, hosts Lorraine Rapp and Linda Lowen speak with psychologist and author Harriet Lerner. They began by asking her whether mothers should feel responsible for how independent -- or dependent -- their adult children are.

Harriet Lerner: The first piece of advice that I would give to mothers is that your child, whether she’s 20 or 40 or 10 is not your product. And I think too often mothers are blamed or glorified for what their children become. And as a mother you have control over your own behavior and you can certainly improve that and do better in terms of facilitating a better relationship with your daughter. But you’re not responsible for the sort of person that – now we’re talking about a daughter in her 20s – that that child has become. So if you’re adult child is struggling, that does not mean that you caused it. It does not mean you’re a failure as a mother. And if your child is moving along swimmingly, that is not necessarily the result of your perfect mothering. And I think it’s so important to realize this, because mothers have always been glorified and blamed and seen as much more powerful than we are, which causes  mothers a great deal of suffering.

Linda Lowen: I think it’s helpful to hear that message. You know, our children are independent of us. How involved should mothers be or expect to be at this stage with an adult 20-something child?

Lerner: Well, unfortunately, there’s no book that will tell you the right amount of giving and the right amount of doing and when to say “enough.” And by the way, the answer will be different for different mothers. It will depend on your culture, your birth order, the tradition out of your own personal history. So, you know that’s a very big challenge; it’s an ongoing challenge.

Lorraine Rapp: I think parents, and mothers in particular, want to be involved in their child’s life, but don’t want to overstep. Dr. Lerner, I want to talk about some practical advice you may have of setting up the right boundaries so your child can bloom and flourish.

Lerner: It’s a good idea to give advice or offer help when your child asks you for help. And you can say, “I’m always here to help you, let me know.” Be calm and cordial to all the other important adults in your daughter or son’s life, even if you don’t like them – you know, your ex, your mother-in-law. Kids of any age get quite anxious when the important adults that they need to have a relationship with don’t get along. You know, another piece of advice I would give is that it’s good for the mother, for us, to put our major energy into living own life as well as possible. How you are navigating your own relationships as a mother is more important than what you say.

More of this interview can be heard on "Take Care," WRVO's health and wellness show Sunday at 6:30 p.m. Support for this story comes from the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York.