Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What to Look Forward to When Your Child Turns 18

Kat commented:
I would love to hear more about what life looks like to age out with brain issues. Causes, effects, what works, what doesn't (and why), ideas to try etc. I would like to have a better idea of what improves with time, fewer hormones, more awareness and what might get worse. Almost all of our kids age out. What happens ever after?

I should begin by stating that as in every situation, every child is unique and this has certainly been true of the 5 "adults" we currently are parents to. As our children hit "adulthood" they do so in varying ways. However, here are some things that you can look forward to. The first set are things that as parents we can have a paradigm shift about. We can change OUR thinking and thus our approach.

1) You are no longer legally responsible for them. This is so freeing. It has changed my perspective in several ways. No longer do we HAVE to accompany them to court hearings (even though we still do). We don't have to worry about their false allegations resulting in child protection investigations, because they are no longer children.

2) They are not required to live at home. I have found it quite freeing to be able to say, when they are complaining about something that they hate at the house, "you don't have to live here. You're free to go at any time."

3) ANything that is done for them is now a gift even if they don't see it as such. I remind my "adult" children sometimes, that we are not required any more to provide them with anything. What we are doing for them is strictly because we love them, not because anyone is making us do it. This may sound harsh and unnecessary to people who are raising neurotypical kids, but for kdis with RAD who are always calculating what they are "owed" this strikes a cord that seems to make sense to them.

4) It's all on them. While I am willing to give advice when asked and help out when it is necessary, I put all the responsibility back on my kids when they become "adults." They ask me how to get out of a mess and I ask them to tell me what they are thinking. I remind them of their "adult status" and ask them to articulate what they are going to do. I make it clear that I cannot force them to do anything anymore because they are adults so they have to make their own choices.

Now, some things that I have seen change in some of our kids as they mature:

1) Yes, the finally start to figure some things out. Slowly, as they are faced with their own adulthood, they start to put pieces together. Well, at least some of them. Kinda. :-)

2) They do a lot less blaming. I have found that my kids do less complaining and blaming of me when I continue to put things back on them. I remind them of the choices they have made and they do less arguing than they used to as teenagers.

3) They ask for advice more and actually listen to it. Something happens and suddenly parents are a resource instead of idiots. But this only takes place if they are asking for the advice, not if it is unsolicited.

4) They begin to put together some connection between their own actions and the consequences. They blame us less, I think, though they still have moments of "this is all your fault".

The years from 18-25 are tough ones for anyone, and our kids who have all these challenges, are going to face tough stuff. They will make mistakes. They are going to stumble and fall several times. As parents we can help by standing alongside and offering a non-anxious presence as they bumble through the consequences of their choices.

I have found myself free of the blame that I had when they were children and able to disengage much more quickly from their nonsense. I am no longer responsible to know where they are or what they are doing, and that is freeing to me. I no longer feel like I have to give them money for non-essentials (not that I've ever done much of that, but they could guilt-trip me, or try to, when they were younger).

I am not sure how much different THEY are, but my entire view is different for my adult children who have graduated from high school. Now it is their time to make it or break it... my major parenting responsibility, according to the law is done. That means that I am free to give anything and everything I want to, but i don't HAVE to do it.

There is a fine line between support and enabling, and I'm not sure we always do it right. But we try.

Wow, what a bunch of random thoughts. Do any of them make sense or ring true with any of you?


Integrity Singer said...

thank you, this is a very helpful post. Um ... book? yes? please? because girl, you know it's time to put all of THESE experiences on the page for the rest of us ...

just sayin'

GB's Mom said...

I have 3 adult (post high school) children and a lot of what you said mirrors my experiences. There is a difference between children who will manage some kind of independence and those with FASD severe enough that they probably will never be completely self sufficient. I have enjoyed watching the transition of your style with your adult children. It is inevitable, but you did it with style :)

Annystribe said...

With our 10 kids now adults, 4 of them adopted sibs with neurotypical issues, I totally agree with your statements. With any adult child there is the moment where they get it and all of a sudden we are wise.

But for my adopted kids, it is a learning curve where they all of a sudden have to face the consequences of their lives we were trying to help protect them from. It is through these years, where we stand back and watch and we were oh so right, we become wiser and they trust us more in the end. For each of mine adopted at the ages of 7 to 15, they have found their biggest gains through the TOUGH STUFF and hitting bottom. It is those phone calls, I dread but also have to welcome as they have come to trust the advice.
I have also learned that to bail them out only prolongs the agony of repetition. There is not enough money in the world to keep up with their escapades. But we will help when it comes to their safety... A ride to the homeless shelter or food shelf, a bus ticket to their home from being stranded on one of their adventures to "make it big". But in the end they do learn and on to to the next connect the dot moment.
The greatest gift out of this, is the youngest of the sib set is watching the misadventures of her siblings and has decided that she is going to live at home until she is 90.... as she trusts us too much.

The best advice going through this... praying for their protection from themselves and others who will victimize them for their nievate.

Lee said...

I am occasionally seeing those glimmers of a different relationship w/ my eldest. It is hampered by the fact that his deficits make him unable to live independently and emotionally and developmentally he is still very much a young teen (think 14 or 15) rather than the 24 y/o young man he is physically. Howver the raging hormones have leveled and occasionally he does seem to "get" stuff better. Or at least argue about it less. :-)

Anonymous said...

We have 7 still at home and 5 out "on their own." Some of the adult kids are doing okay, some are not. Only one of the 5 is really doing pretty well. We are learning the same lessons in finding that "fine line between support and enabling." Sadly, 2 of our 5 are NOT doing well at all, but they have made their choices and we have simply had to back out of their lives and we'll be here when they are ready to be safe, healthy, and appropriate individuals. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.