Parenting adult children: 2 books to help you navigate this minefield

By complete coincidence we have recently been sent two books to review, on parenting adult children, All Grown Up by Celia Dodd and Once a Mother, Always a Mother by Annette Byford. I have four children and would never say that either I, as a parent, or my children were perfect. As with every parent, it is always a learning curve and a work in progress. Each generation is different so we have to adapt to the times. I would hate to have young children now with all the nightmares of cyberbullying etc. However, as a work in progress, we learn from our mistakes and we can always benefit from some good advice professional or just from someone who has been there before.

Before our children were born we may have read one or two books about becoming a parent and there was plenty to choose from. However, there has been very little written about parenting when your children become adults. And let’s all be honest it can cover decades and all sorts of situations – when they leave home, when they ‘boomerang’ back, becoming a mother-in-law, a grandmother and every other role in between.

So it did not surprise me that two authors decided to tackle this subject.

Once a Mother, Always a Mother by Annette Byford

Annette says in her introduction that since her children are well-established in their adult lives she now knows that “parenting continues in tidal waves, with phases of distance and separateness, followed by phases of intense engagement.”

This book follows the timeline of stages of motherhood from early years to children leaving home, through the stable of incorporation of children’s partners into the family, grandparenthood and eventually the need for adult children’s support in advanced old age and potential frailty.

The book also contains interviews with other mothers about their experiences and puts them into a psychological context. Annette is an experienced psychologist and psychotherapist so she can draw on her professional career combined with being a mother herself.

I appreciated all the short stories which highlighted this intensely personal and often complicated experience of having adult children. This is a book that you can pick up, read just one chapter or story, and draw on the experiences of other mothers. It is so reassuring to know that you are not on your own, you have had the same feelings/angry moments/emotional times. Most importantly there is wise advice given on how to solve or avoid these issues.

I found this book very non-judgemental, agreeing that we can have issues with our children in our ever-evolving relationship with them but that this is quite normal. It is how we solve these moments that are more important.

All Grown Up by Celia Dodd

Another brilliant book on this stage of life for a mother. Celia Dodd looks at how you can deal with different issues that can occur through no fault on anyone’s side. How can we be experts on all that life throws at us and so this chapter would really help those mothers who recognise that a child of theirs needs help.

Some of the brilliant topics are:

  • Being a couple again after the children have left home
  • Living with an adult child who has returned home
  • Eating disorders
  • Bereavement
  • Communication
  • When a parent meets a new partner
  • Crises in adult children’s lives – redundancy, losing a job, getting divorced, infertility
  • Recognising the less obvious stresses your child may be experiencing – mental health issues

And the list goes on an on. Again this is a book to pick up when you feel you need some help or read it all at once so that you are forearmed.

I think every parent could benefit from reading both of these books as at some point we will undoubtedly come head-to-head with one or more of these issues.

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