(16) Growth Mindset Hacks to Reboot Bonds Between Adult Children and Senior Parents

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Problems between seniors and their adult children weigh heavily on some seniors who struggle to work through conflicting expectations and still retain close relationships. Times have changed, and yet a growth mindset helps us to understand both worlds and to do what it takes to bridge gaps with healthy bonds that bring families closer together, while detaching them from ties that tear them apart.

1. Offer them freedom and space to pursue interests and friends on social media.

Rather than expect any adult child to share private details of their lives avoid the temptation to try and read between the lines of their online posts. When we trust our adult children to navigate life’s potential problems without our help we free them to communicate more with us out of trust that we recognize their ability to handle daily challenges without our help.

2. Value their choices for a partner or welcome their single status. 

Adult children sense our anxiety over their partners or their choice to remain single. Rather than fear their “clock is ticking”  an open mind prevents us from controlling our adult childrens’ issues. Yes,  even when we claim our control is simply a desire to make things better. A growth mindset comes in handy, especially when our children struggle because we are reminded not to take their problems personally. A fixed mindset keeps up thinking we know best, and locks us into the helpless feeling of being unable to control their choices or make things better.

3. Refrain from expectations such as frequent visits from adult children.

Rather than expect adult children to call, text or visit as often as we’d like, or rather than hint at ways to foster more regular contact, it’s best to welcome children when they come, and refuse to worry about  mistakes we made to make an adult child want to avoid us. If, on the other hand, an adult child is around too often, or shows signs of being co-dependent a senior’s role is still not to tell adult children what to do. Instead we might raise a congenial discussion  about it, as one adult to another adult to clarify what we each desire or hope for regarding the frequency and depth of contact. Most importantly, at the same time we listen carefully to what they see as desirable in visits, as we attempt together to reach an agreement that supports and cares for all.

4. Avoid judging adult parents for flaws such as strictness, or lenience with their kids.

While it can be especially difficult  not to say something at times we disagree, that restraint is what’s needed to avoid conflict and reserve space for sharing other issues with more joy and less voltage. The last thing that will build healthy bonds between seniors and adult children is the perception that we are taking sides against them. Through honest discussion with caring tone seniors can help overly strict or extra lenient adult children to set healthier parental approaches as they grow alongside their families, and enjoy our support for stellar parenting skills they already possess and use well. 

5. Support choices adult kids make rather than impose personal differences.

Seniors may doubt their adult kids’ daily decisions about how to handle finances, what workplace choices they make,  or who they choose to befriend, Far better to listen to the reasons adult kids choose to share and support their different perspectives while encouraging adult children to enjoy choices as both lessons and lifelines. Our support as seniors, especially when adult children’s decisions don’t align with our own, gives them confidence to make mistakes and learn valued lessons as stepping stones forward.

6. Ask if they need help, but refuse to intervene when they wish to risk things alone.

It’s hard to see our adult children struggle, as we want to swoop in and bail them out of stressful situations. Rather than fix things, we do more for adult children by listening to their ideas, learning from their differences, and encouraging what we see as  their remedies  to difficult situations. It is here that our relationship most changes, and here that we also communicate our own desire for healthy autonomy to adult children. We rarely want our kids to tell us how to relate to people, or lead our lives as if we were unable to use our different talents to make the best choices for our lives. Perhaps we cannot realistically expect to be affirmed or even valued for personal choices we make, but in communicating our unconditional love for them, we can retain our healthy relationships without sacrificing our freedom to be the best and growing version of ourselves. Mental and emotional health relies on our growth mindset opportunity to retain a sense of independence, on one hand while we also retain the right to ask for their ideas or support when it’s desired, on the other.

7. Ask two footed questions, rather than offer unsolicited advice.

When our adult child comes to us with an issue about their struggles in life  they may well be looking for a compassionate and empathetic ear. In this case seniors have a unique opportunity to strengthen relationships with love while we also encourage use of a growth mindset in response. Rather than say, “Here’s what I would do….? Ask instead, “What do you see as your best result here?”  Rather than say, “If it were me, I would …” Ask instead, “What would this look like it everything stacked in your favor?” Rather than jump in with, “Look at this through the other person’s eyes… Ask instead, “How would you help a peer through a similar situation?” Rather than say, “I will support you in every way you wish.” Ask instead, “In a perfect world, what’s the best support you could see here?”  The key is to determine what specifically they are looking for and how we might  respectfully encourage their roles in the driver’s seat to resolve issues, calm conflicts, or reclaim lost hope.

8. Trust in the ability of adult children to  bounce back after tough breaks.

When we see adult children as capable of tackling tough issues, and when we resist the temptation to offer unwelcomed advice, we support their growth in crafting their best solutions. By using our personal inner strength to navigate life’s challenges, we also inspire others to access and awaken that same grace and inner strength. Such trust or inner strength  is not always as evident as we’d wish, but an open or growth mindset shows our genuine value for adult children as competent and resilient leaders.  We might articulate different times they thrived simply by using and growing inner abilities they already possess.

9. Turn blame for past problems or shame for missteps into kindness for the present

Rather than blame ourselves for being a bad parent or shame an adult child for unmet expectations in our relationship focus on growth such as genuinely kind and caring words in every present encounter. While it’s mentally and emotionally healthy to take responsibility for mistakes we’ve made, it does nobody good to dwell on the past or continue to regret what we’ve already apologized for. Most parents love their children and do the best they can with what resources they had at the time. Few parents forgive themselves for gaps they caused in the relationship, and we offer greater care for others, only after we forgive and care more for ourselves first. That inner kindness and forgiveness is what will be felt by adult children faster than expectations of their expressions of forgiveness.

10. Avoid telling an adult child how they should think, believe or feel.

Rather than say, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” instead it’s likely a better idea to apologize if  something arises that we could have done better. When it comes to beliefs we may model our inner convictions by simply showing love and kindness to adult children in the best ways we are able, and in spite of sticky situations that arise. This takes listening with open hearts and minds, and a deliberate attempt to just be there with them in the moment, rather than try to defend ourselves as a response. Even if we are caught unaware, and if we do not know what to say, our love goes a longer way to strengthening the relationship  if we simply show that we are listening to hear and understand and learn.

As seniors we can embrace challenges, build resilience, and achieve our goals of loving relationships with our adult children. We can disagree and retain our agency without being disagreeable. We can also recognize our own growth areas whenever we lose our joy, or feel we have to look up to see bottom. Growth mindset skills empower us to bounce back from tough breaks, change the way we think, and see how capable we really are.

But staying adaptable we begin to solve problems by taking on new adventures together as we embrace a growth mindset.

This also includes those moments when adult children and their senior parents both begin to benefit more because joy and peace help us to thrive when it no longer depends on or burdens the other person. And when our growth mindset helps us to exchange blame or shame for humor and happiness we tend to  forgive and forget a bit easier in order to truly enjoy each moment with those we’ll always  cherish dearly, our adult children.

Session 16 Growth Mindset Hacks to Reboot Bonds Between Adult Children and Senior Parents

Two-footed Questions to Address Mita Growth Mindset Senior Sessions

1). How does a Mita Growth Mindset help adult parents and seniors when expectations such as taking care of our elders are part of their tradition.

2). How can our mindset help to avoid judgement when adult kids make mistakes that wound or break relationships?

3). Where do expectations fit into a growth mindset approach to senior – adult children relationships?

4). Is it ever a good idea to support an adult child financially?

5), Why do two-footed questions work as opposed to giving advice?

6). What can seniors do if blame and shame has been a stifling part of their past family relationships?

7). Does a growth mindset impact deeply help faith beliefs? If so how so?

8). What is meant by the statement, “Seniors thrive only when it no longer depends on burdening or depending on the other person?”

9). What if adult children do not wish to discuss an unhealthy relationship with a senior parent?

10). How does what we say and do with adult children literally change the chemical and electrical circuitry of our brains?

FINAL Question:  What’s one activity we can do to remove a fixed mindset and add a growth mindset for this topic? What if we started a discussion on a hot topic between ourselves and an adult child to get their ideas. The key would be to replace guilt or shame with the delight of brain facts and a growth mindset approach on this topic.  What might we learn from or teach one another? Have fun!

Dr Ellen Weber‘s Growth Mindset Materials and Publications Below:

Grace Mindset Book – audio

Grace Mindset Book – paperback

The Teen’s Growth Mindset Workbook – paperback

Growth Mindset Interactive Materials at TPT

Mita (Growth Mindset) Strategies in Class and Beyond

Student Assessment that Works – a Practical Approach