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Protecting Our Children

Why Some Children Avoid Their Parents in Later Years

By JoAnn Hamilton
March 7, 2006

What you do, how you react to problems? What you say and how you say it will affect your children, according to Sal Severe, Ph.D. and author of "How to Behave So Your Children Will, Too." If you are intense and sharp as you speak to them, the probability is that they will speak to you in the same way, if not as a teen, later as an adult. Ask yourself how they are learning to feel about you? If you do not listen and understand as you communicate, or if they perceive that you do not listen and understand, they won't do that to you. If you don't build meaningful, loving relationships, you likely won't have them later.  


This idea was forcefully illustrated in a column by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar called "Annie's Mailbox." ("Many parents and children estranged," Deseret Morning News, Feb. 4, 2006).


Evidently, an older mother was frustrated because her daughter really didn't want to talk to her. Annie pointed out that perhaps the daughter didn't have the emotional wherewithal to make the adjustments and compromises necessary for a good relationship. Then this column listed a series of letters that illustrate future problems that may happen to us if we do not take the time to build meaningful relationships when our children are young.


I want to quote several because there is a parenting message for all of us in each one:


A mother in New York: "I am now 60 years old, and I can never remember my mother giving me a hug or telling me she loved me. My only memories are of criticism. When I do see her, she tells me she's lonely and would rather be dead. I've been in therapy for years ... and I doubt I'll ever reach a point where I actually want to spend time with mother."


A mother from the Midwest United States: "My mother is overbearing, prickly and d if ficult. It has taken me years of therapy to understand how her behavior affected me. We speak on the phone every few weeks, but for my own emotional well-being, I keep my distance."


A mother from Florida: "My mother is in a nursing home where the staff thinks she's a sweet old lady whose kids don't visit. Growing up, we were slapped, hit with broomsticks and knocked down stairs. She told us we were stupid and useless. I have no desire to see her."


A mother from Florida: "My parents were abusive and critical. As a child, they told me I was worthless and dumb. As an adult, they said I spent too much money and was too lenient with my children. I couldn't win, so I quit playing."  


A mother in West Virginia: "My mother lives two miles from me, and I rarely speak to her because of years of emotional abuse. ... If Mom said, ‘I'm sorry' and sincerely tried to change her destructive ways, I'd be back in a heartbeat."  


A mother from California: "I just returned from visiting my grandmother on her 99th birthday. When one grandchild entered, Grandma remarked, ‘You've certainly put on a lot of weight.' It doesn't take a genius to figure out why we don't hurry back."  


I have seen some adults fix relationships in later years, but it is much easier on everyone concerned if our behavior is kind, gentle and loving all of the time.  


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