Sanity SaversTM and More...
July 2006


Just in time for picnics with relatives and kids home for the summer, this month we talk about family dynamics and how you can improve these important relationships.

Sparked by my recent Today Show appearances, enjoy these topics near and dear to my heart:

  • Letting Go of Your Grown Kids
  • Better Sibling Relationships

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Wishing you health, peace and balance.


In this issue
  • Sanity SaversTM
    Letting Go of Your Grown Kids
  • Happenings
  • Sanity Savers
    A Good Daily Habit
  • Sanity Savers TIPS
    Better Sibling Relationships
  • A Thought

  • Sanity SaversTM
    Letting Go of Your Grown Kids

    This is one topic I am passionate about, and not long ago, I wrote I’m OK You’re My Parents to address many common adult child-parent issues. Here are highlights of the conversation Matt Lauer and I had on the Today Show on June 6th.
    >>View TODAY SHOW: Letting Go of Your Adult Children.

    Challenge for Most Parents
    It’s hard to believe when they’re young that your kids will ever grow up. But it happens. You’ve taken care of them, watched them grow, laughed and cried with them and now it’s time to let them go. Not an easy task. Moms and dads of college kids and career bound 20-somethings sending their children off in the world, find that they, too, have some growing to do. New relationships are forming with their adult children and quite possibly with their spouse and even themselves.

    Refrain from Helicoptering
    You’ve heard the term and know what happens. Parents who can’t seem to let go, hover over their kids in college and in the work world, or encourage them to live at home without expecting their children to be responsible. These parents overstep their bounds by visiting too frequently, attempt to solve roommate and dating snags on a cell phone or via instant messaging and even select their college student’s courses. They do their children’s laundry, prepare their meals, and cater to them as if they were young children. Sometimes the line between being helpful and intrusive is a fine one but it is there and must be addressed.

    Involved or Overinvolved?
    Don’t wait until your son or daughter becomes too dependent, angry or resentful. If they are already expressing negative comments about your parenting, use it as a wake up call and realize the inevitable. A parent’s job is to prepare their child for an autonomous and independent life. One in which they are allowed to make their own decisions, choose their own relationships and use both successes and mistakes as learning experiences. They need to learn their own way of dealing with the world and if their parent is always doing things for them they will not learn to listen to their own voices and find their own way. They need to work through situations, develop negotiating and decision making skills, become their own advocates and in the process develop a healthy sense of self and a feeling of “I Am Capable. I Can Trust Myself. I Can Solve Problems, I Can Do It.”

    Launch Your Kids
    It’s not easy launching your kids out into the “real” world but you can do it. Yes, you will be sad and wondering about your own future without your child who NEEDS you but your relationship will transform into a more adult, mutually respectful one where your role will shift to that of a mentor, source of support and encouragement and will benefit both of you. Let your kids blast off into living their own life while you stay grounded and balanced in yours.

    Reach for these Sanity Savers instead of your cell phone the next time you get the urge to give parental advice (which you should not be dolling out until asked.)

    1. Wait for Them to Call You – Most parents know . . . when they need money, they’ll call. Same holds true when your kids want advice, a shoulder to cry on or to share in a celebration. The first thing you can do in letting go is to reduce your calls. Resisting constantly being in touch helps your young child be on their own. Ironically, refraining from frequent calling, sends the most important message your kids will hear; you TRUST them, have CONFIDENCE in their decisions and RESPECT their lives. You’ll not only save on cell phone minutes, but you’ll help build their self esteem from afar. Don’t be available 24-7 and don’t think you are your child’s alarm clock.
    2. Listen – What everyone wants is an ear to listen. Someone to acknowledge thoughts and witness life events. To review the day, week or month and shoot the breeze. So listen up. Remember to stop talking, don’t interrupt, be interested, affirm their comments and resist jumping in to judge, criticize or give advice.
    3. Ask Questions – Once you’ve mastered Listening 101 (this may take some getting used to), you can answer their questions with some of your own. If your daughter says, “Which job offer should I take?” rather than making a selection, respond with, “Which one will be better suited to your talents?” Let her think and help her think it through. This is how she will be able to process problem solving and make sound decisions of her own. You’re a guide to help your children think about their options. Don’t overtake this process with your own agenda. Encourage your son or daughter to use campus, community or employment resources.
    4. Give Advice When You’re Asked – When they’re really wrestling with a situation and you’ve listened and have asked some good thought provoking questions, you might want to offer some advice. Either wait until they ask you (and they eventually will if you have really listened) or ask their permission to give advice. It sounds strange to ask for “their” permission, but this will show that you value them and want to understand their struggle. A good way to offer advice is to reflect on a similar circumstance in your own life and how you handled it, good, bad or indifferent. They want to learn from you and your experiences, but only if you give them the room first to figure it out for themselves. They must develop their own critical thinking skills and a sense of mastery.
    5. Get a Life – Yes, that’s right, YOUR OWN LIFE. Find a fulfilling life in which you develop your own interests and your own independence. And keep some of the money that you may be spending on your kids when they live with you at home without contributing to the household expenses for your own retirement. As each of your children leave the nest, you’ll be given more and more time to develop your own interests, work and relationships. This is the time to renew romance with your partner, delve into a pushed aside project, take a course, or write that book that has been waiting to emerge. Find different outlets for the energy you have put into active parenting for so many years. Travel, join a gym, partake in a gourmet club. Get the picture? The time you’ve always longed for is here and now. Enjoy every minute of it and maybe your kids will call YOU more often and say, “Hey, you’re having way too much fun down there. I think it’s time for a visit.”


    TODAY Show
    Tuesday, July 4th, 7:30am
    Influences of Adult Sibling Relationships
    Dates and times of additional upcoming segments will be posted on Dr. Dale's website.

    Naomi's New Morning (Naomi Judd)
    The Hallmark Channel

  • Ties that Bind - July 30th
  • Foundations - August 20th

  • Dates and times to be announced on Dr. Dale's website.

    The Lisa Birnbach Radio Show
    Wednesday, July 5th, 9:20-10:20am
    Adult Sibling Relationships
    Every other Wednesday, beginning July 5th, from 9:20-10:20am hear Dr. Dale LIVE on the air on the Lisa Birnbach Show (airs every Mon-Fri 9am-Noon EST)
    >>Go to Lisa Birnbach Show

    Jack Birnberg Radio Show (WVNJ)
    July 11th, 9:30am
    When A Child Dies

    Sanity Savers
    A Good Daily Habit

    Upon waking, say aloud two things or the names of two people you are grateful for having in your life.

    Studies show that being grateful is a way to gain more happiness.

    Even when things are not going exactly on track, be grateful and focus on the positive!

    Sanity Savers TIPS
    Better Sibling Relationships

    On May 4th, I appeared on the TODAY Show to talk about birth order in families and touched upon one of my favorite subjects (and the subject of one of my books) . . . sibling relationships.

    Keeping the Connection
    Good adult sibling relationships is first and foremost about communication. We all have our lives to live and it’s sometimes difficult to maintain close bonds when family members live far apart, have different lifestyles and busy schedules. Whether your sister lives across the country or across town, keeping contact via telephone, email and in-person visits are the best ways of maintaining the connection. Being in touch on a regular basis will help your relationship thrive. There is less of a need to play “catch up.”

    Look at Your Relationship with Sibs Today
    But no matter how often you talk or have family get- togethers, there still might be “stuff” lingering from years back or family dynamics that get in the way of maintaining stronger ties. Why not take a closer look at your relationship with your siblings and see if better awareness can improve your connection?

    Here are Sanity Savers TIPSTM to shed some light on maintaining stronger and better relationships with your brothers and sisters.

    1. What was your model for a sibling relationship? Look at your parents’ relationships with their siblings and other sibling relationships that may have affected you. If your father had a falling out with his brother and did not speak to him 15 years, how might that have affected your relationship with your brothers and sisters (to say nothing about your cousins)? Did your mother have a close relationship with her sister and therefore EXPECTS you and your sister to feel similarly towards each other? Or, did her mother set her up to have a distrusting, jealous relationship with her sister and continues to plant seeds of conflict between the two of you? Knowing how your model for interacting with siblings was formed will give you insight into how you deal with your own brothers and sisters. Maybe it’s time to challenge what you were raised with, do things differently, take another approach or define and design a better model.
    2. Are you able to share in your sibling’s accomplishments? When your brother or sister excels in something are you able to acknowledge it with sincerity? How about celebrating with them? Letting go of childhood competitions and rivalries allows your sibling relationships to mature and grow. Honor them as individuals. Deal with what gets in the way of your being able to do that.
    3. Can you describe your sibling in terms that are unique to you without parental influence? Have you made an effort to create an adult sibling relationship that reflects the kind of people you are and the nature of a relationship you would like and feel comfortable with at this moment in your lives? Recognizing your “little” sister or “big” brother as individuals who have their own lives, desires, interests, values that may or may not mirror yours, allows for respect and better relationships.
    4. Can you focus on having a relationship with your sibling that is not defined as it was when you were children in your parents’ home? We all grow older but some of us don’t grow up and because of that, our view of our sibling does not change. Just as your mother may still talk to you as if you are 12 years old, you may be treating your sibling as you did when you were children. Examine and let go of the destructive patterns you previously engaged in and allow yourself to be open to a different type of interaction and feeling for your sibling. Bring your relationships with your sibling into the present.

    To understand more about sibling relationships and birth order especially if you are raising your own children, consider some of these other important factors that can seriously impact relationships among siblings:

    • Family Size - How many children are in the family and what is their gender (expected and / or desired)? Consider the years between the children, the effects of any miscarriages, and deaths of children before or after each child was born.
    • Stresses – What were the economic conditions within the family? Consider financial hardships, moves, job loss, mental and physical health/illnesses, caregiver issues or other deaths in the family.
    • Marital Harmony / Disharmony – Is this a “happy” home or one with lingering tension and anger? At what point was there a separation or divorce, remarriage and the introduction of other, new family members?
    • Roles / Attitudes / Responsibilities / Characteristics and Needs of Other Children – Are the parents tuned into each child regarding their own needs and relevant sibling issues? Is fairness a value when considering the treatment of siblings? What kind of response and care is given to a sibling who has a disability and how is this child perceived within the family?
    • Temperament / Parental Expectations – How do temperaments vary, mesh and clash among siblings and parents? Consider the various expectations parents and other relatives and teachers place on each child.
    • Values – How do parenting styles and involvement differ with each of the children? What are some of the values that are shared by family members and other caregivers?
    • Rivalries / Competition / Favoritism / Feelings – In what ways are the children encouraged to become their authentic selves, to develop and pursue their unique interests and talents? In what ways are children singled out in the family? What are the dynamics between the siblings and are those behaviors and interactions encouraged or discouraged by the parents?

    A Thought

    Some think it's holding on that makes one strong; sometimes it's letting go.

    Sylvia Robinson, author

    DALE V. ATKINS Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist, lecturer and commentator in the media who appears on the Today show.

    She has more than twenty- five years of experience and focuses on living a balanced life, parenting, aging well, managing stress, life & work transitions, family connections and healthy relationships.

    Dr. Atkins is the author and/or co-editor of several books including:

  • Sisters
  • From the Heart:
    Men and Women Write Their Private Thoughts about their Private Lives
  • Families and their Hearing-Impaired Children
  • I'm OK, You're My Parents
    How to Overcome Guilt, Let Go of Anger and Create a Relationship that Works
  • and her latest book . . .

  • Wedding Sanity Savers
    How to Handle the Stickiest Dilemmas, Scrapes and Questions that Arise on the Road to Your Perfect Day.
  • Find out more....
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