Lesson for Parenting Adult Children: Be Careful about Giving Advice

One thing we often forget is that parents and children spend the majority of their livesadult children together after the kids become adults! The elders in the Legacy Project had very useful advice for negotiating relationships between parents and their adult children. Two elders share their lessons for negotiating this very important, but sometimes touchy, relationship.

Marv, 83, successfully raised two children. He points out that all the stress of child-rearing doesn’t end when they become adults:

I think to a certain extent your offspring are always children. One always wants one’s children to be happy, and I suppose it’s the most disturbing thing for parents is when they can’t see happiness in their adult children’s lives or their children’s relationships or  in their marriages.You worry about aspects of their interactions with their partners and when you can see that the way they’re interacting is not productive. You worry about your children. When they’re adults, you worry about as much when they’re adults as when they were not adults.

Of course, one outgrowth of this worry is the desire to give advice. Charles recommends that it it possible to advise children, but that the approach must be subtle.

I think giving advice requires great subtlety. Well, your adult children sometimes ask you for advice, and sometimes it becomes clear that they are not looking for advice, they’re simply looking for understanding of their points of view. So I think it’s easy for children to misinterpret your real feelings about them, and feel more pressure than one thinks they should be feeling. It’s up to the parent to be subtle enough that you are able to refrain from expressing your attitudes, so that the child feels intruded upon, or that you are judging.

Renata, 79, focused on accepting adult children as they are:

With our kids now, there’s good feeling, good relationship. You keep your mouth shut. We made out mistakes, we let them make their mistakes. But I don’t give advice unless they really ask for it. . I feel I can say most anything I want, except I would not interfere with them, even though I see something that I think should be done differently, I wouldn’t express it.

I think some parents expect too much of their kids. I think you have to accept what your kids are willing to do for you and not complain because they don’t do more for you. I think you just have to sort of give them freedom to live their lives knowing that they’re there if you need them and they know you’re there if they need you. So I think you have to stand back.

Any advice for getting along with your adult children? What’s worked for you?

New Interview on the Legacy Project and Book!

I had a great time talking with Terry Jaymes yesterday on his show “Terry Jaymes Alive.” Terry has been a great supporter of the Legacy Project and has helped spread the work on the importance of elder wisdom. In the interview, we talk about key lessons learned from older people (including how they learn to “kick out the jerks” from their social lives as they age). Take a listen here – and we TerryJaymeslook forward to your comments!

 

The Countdown Begins – For the New Book!

I have to admit – I wasn’t sure that anything could be as much fun as writing the first 30LL-book-cover-t53bi3book based on the Legacy Project – 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans. There’s something special about “firsts” – and seeing my first book on our elders’ advice for living touch the lives of so many people has been incredibly rewarding.

But I learned that writing my second book was every bit as much fun as the first! I had heard from many readers that they loved the whole book, but there was one chapter that really grabbed them – the one on love and marriage. Some folks were buying the book just for that one chapter. Couples used it at rehearsal dinners and receptions, asking their guests to offer their lessons for the newlyweds.

I am glad I listened to them, because it led me on another journey – this time to find out what the oldest and wisest Americans advise the rest of us on how to have fulfilling and lifelong committed relationships. They  told me the good and the bad, offering 30 lessons for loving – and that became the title of the book.

30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage is almost here! It will be published and available in bookstores nationwide on January 8, 2015, and can be pre-ordered now. In the book, over 700 elders (some married for 60 years and more) talk honestly about the joys and difficulties of getting and staying married. They provide detailed advice that you  can use right away on questions like:

  • How do I know someone is right for me?
  • How can I improve communication with my partner?
  • How can we avoid and resolve conflicts?
  • How can we deal with stress – from jobs, kids, in-laws, chores, money?
  • How can we keep the spark alive – for a lifetime?

Please stay tuned, as over the next few months we”ll be highlighting findings and surprises from the marriage advice of the elders. We’ll be posting new videos – and as ever looking for your comments and feedback!

“You Have to Do What You Enjoy!” Three Great Tips for Making the Most of Your Work Life

Harry, 76, told the Legacy Project about his work life and what made his career successful and fulfilling. Good lessons for all of us trying to succeed in the world of work.work

1. Having worked as a psychology professor, university counseling center director, psychologist in private practice, and as a management consultant engaged in leadership development, I have learned that you have to do what you enjoy. We spend a great deal of time at work. If it isn’t enjoyable, isn’t stimulating, isn’t fun, if you don’t enjoy the people you work with, if it doesn’t have meaning for you, then find something that does. Life is too short to do something you don’t like and enjoy.

2. When engaged in your work, put your full amount of energy into it. I have worked with people who have regretted decisions about their work and their lives. It’s better to take the risk than to wait until later in life and regret not taking the chance.

 3. Give the gift of feedback. Many of us may shy away from giving critical feedback in the workplace. Some of us may shy away from giving positive feedback. If individuals have no awareness of the impact of their behavior, how can they change it? Awareness is necessary for change. Positive feedback helps to reinforce the behavior. The awareness that one may give to another is a gift, even though it may smart in the giving.

Learning to Live in the Moment: Why Not Do It Now?

John MacGregor, 70, lived much of his life looking toward the future, striving in his distinguished academic career. His lesson is to learn to live more in the moment. He learned this in his sixties, but suggests younger people learn it sooner.

I don’t say people shouldn’t think about the future. But when you really give yourself up to the present, when you’re in the room and you look around you, and there are other people in the room and you’re able to really zero in on those other people, and being able to really sense what they’re feeling and tap in to their own presence, then it’s not aimless at all. You feel very connected, very grounded, and it’s energizing. So you receive energy by making those connections in the present moment.

And it’s not just with people. The same thing is true with a walk in the woods. If you can really open yourself up to hearing the sounds and smelling the smells, and feeling the touches, the wind, and all those things, then you increasingly feel like an integral part of that system, so that you too have feelings, and they begin to connect with what’s going on around you. You may feel small, but it’s not a very frightening smallness. Instead it’s a feeling of being a part of a larger something. There’s a connectedness that is very, very reassuring. So that’s what I mean by being present and being connected to now.

I think you inevitably look at the future, but to the extent that you can still appreciate what is going on today and at the moment, then exactly what that future is going to be continues to be an open question, and that openness I think has great value. You’re allowing in some sense your intuition to play a role, and not being afraid that somehow that intuition is going to compete with and overwhelm your reason. That the two can work together, and support one another, influence one another.

It’s not easy, particularly for those of us who spend a lot of time in academic institutions or other jobs where the rational part of you is applauded. Living in the present and enjoying life isn’t something that you complete, or accomplish; it’s something that you strive toward, something that you work on, something that you engage with. It’s a process, at least in my experience.

live in the moment.2

Luck, Flexibility, and Keeping Your Options Open

Mara’s life wasn’t always easy, but adversity taught her three very important lessons for living.good luck

I can summarize the lessons I have learned in 71 years of life. I’ve had two marriages: the first one unsuccessful and the second spectacularly successful for the past twenty years. I have two daughters and two stepdaughters and have excellent relations with three of the four. I also have six grandchildren. My husband and I agree that the most important things for a happy life are: luck, flexibility, and keeping one’s options open.

First, luck. No matter how conscientious and hardworking one is there is a limit beyond which one has absolutely not control. One’s health, circumstances, and children are subject to all sorts of outside influences. A catastrophic illness, accident, job dislocation, etc. can wreak havoc with one’s best laid plans. As far as children, no matter how carefully one supervises them at home, once they are away from hoe, other forces come into play and one can only hope that they do not come to harm. So it pays to be lucky!

Second, flexibility. To build lasting relationships with loved ones and to adapt to unforeseen problem situations one has to be flexible. You must be able to “roll with the punches” or you will be broken by them.

Third, keeping one’s options open. Often one is faced with forks in the road, choices which must be made. If one is wise, one will try not to leave oneself with no other recourse. It is not true that one can always retrace one’s steps. So one must carefully weigh the possible consequences of one’s actions. When I found myself with two young children in an unfortunate marriage, I was fortunate that I had the educational background to get a job that enabled me to obtain a divorce and support myself and my family. If I had not had this background life would have been far more difficult for us all. And that is why I always stressed to my daughters that they have a good education.

“All That Is Good is Within Us: Gustav’s Advice from Age 70

Gustav, 70, offers an uplifting lesson, telling us that “all that is good is within us” and urging us to laugh and, yes, to all that's goodhave fun!

Beloved friends,

The most important lesson I have learned is to live in the present moment. This is our gift, right here, right now. This is why it is called “the present.”

To see the outer world as a reflection of the inner world. If we would like to clean up the former, focus on the latter. Have fun. Laughter is great, belly laughter is greater.

All that is good is within us. If we want more peace, love, joy, health, happiness, etc. in the world, focus where we can have the greatest impact: within our own skin. Outside our skin we have very little control. As we clean up our mind, body and emotions, our essential goodness radiates clearly through us. This easeful, peaceful, useful joyful radiance has a greater impact than we can ever imagine.

The secret to life is to have fun. Listen to our own heart. Discover and respect our own gifts. Live a joyful life sharing our gifts through our thoughts, words and actions. Live like a child.

Laugh when we fall down, make mistakes. Get up, try again, laugh, fall down, try again. Success is ours. Everything else gives it flavor. Get up, fall down, get up. To inspire is to breather in or to motivate. To expire is to breathe out or to die. For as long as practical, follow each expiration with an inspiration.

Gwen’s List for Living – Love, Enjoy, Trust

We are still so into our elders’ lists of their lessons for living, we want to share a few more. It’s amazing how many people sat down and summed up their advice for younger generations.

Today we hear from Gwen, 70, who provides an insightful – and sometimes unusual – list of life lessons. She tells us to embrace life with exuberance list for living.2and joy, giving to others while not forgetting to take care of ourselves.

When I look back over my life, the most important things I have learned are:

I truly do create my own reality.

Be lavish in loving those close to me, Don’t hold back.

I am my ancestors, they are me, we are one.

My children are my crown, my grandchildren the jewels therein, my great grandchildren the pure gold setting.

There are times to keep my mouth shut no matter what!

Friends are precious - and they can be animals.

Beauty surrounds me as much as I allow and let it in, even in death.

Its so good to laugh, especially with those you love.

Respect others and be kind - it will take you far.

I have a soul and it can sing, when in nature with trees, flowers, and plants, it has a voice.

Gardens are heaven on earth.

I love and take care of myself; only then can I assist another, really love another, care for another.

Have fun, play, tell a joke, laugh, be silly, outrageous, every day, it keeps the doctor away.

To love myself, enjoy myself, trust myself, be good to myself. Then give of myself. Fill up first, never try to give out of an empty container, it just doesn’t work.

Words are life or death, choose wisely before opening mouth.

Harmony in a family is its greatest assest.

To remain flexible, in thought word and deed, and be ready to party at the drop of a hat!

To sing loudly and lustily even though I can’t carry a tune –  it clears out a lot of cob webs in my mind.

There are second and third and fourth and on and on chances in life. Just keep on keeping on, it’s journey.

Solitude is warm soup on a cold day, to a hungry spirit.

I am the rock in the family now, and rocks don”t make a lot of noise. They just are.

To our South Korean Fans: 당신의 도움이 필요합니다!

I hope I got that phrase right! For those of you who don’t speak Korean, it should mean “I need your help!”South Korea edition

Specifically, I would love some help in understanding something that’s wonderful, but a bit mysterious: the astonishing reaction to the Legacy Project’s message in South Korea.

After the book on the Legacy Project, 30 Lessons for Living, was published, translations have come out in German, Chinese, and Japanese, among others. Everywhere, we’ve gotten great feedback about the elder wisdom portrayed in the book.

But nowhere has the interest been as overwhelming as in South Korea (where the title is 내가 알고 있는 걸 당신도 알게 된다면).

The book was published in South Korea (with the cool cover, above) one year ago. It has been on the South Korean bestseller list since then  (right now it’s #4) and has sold  over 160,000 copies. On a site that publishes book reviews (similar, I gather, to Goodreads), it is one of the most reviewed self-help books – and mostly with top scores.

So I would love to know: Why has 30 Lessons for Living been such a hit in South Korea?

With the help of a Korean-speaking colleague, I explored the media and blog attention to the book, which gave  ideas like these:

  • Readers in their 30′s and 40′s expressed how the book helped them to think about their current concerns, like parenting, marriage, and fear of getting old.
  • Historically, young South Koreans were supposed to respect elders, but this attitude is being replaced with views of the older generation as old-fashioned and outdated.
  • The book appealed to nostalgia for times when there were stronger links between the generations in South Korea.
  • The book included questions that the readers wanted to ask their own parents and grand parents.

These reasons all seem plausible, but still don’t seem to explain entirely why 30 Lessons for Living has resonated so strongly with South Korean readers.

Any ideas out there? If so, please share them as comments!

 

 

Elder Wisdom, Elder Justice, and Elder Abuse

As readers of this blog know, much of what we do in the Legacy Project focuses on the positive aspects of aging and the potential for growth and development in later life.

It’s also true, however, that there can be a more negative side to aging, and one of the more serious problems an older person can experience is elder abuse and neglect. Over the past two years, the Legacy Project has partnered with the New Yorkelder justice City Elder Abuse Center on a project that trains interns in both the topics of elder abuse and in elder wisdom (you can check out past posts from the interns elsewhere on this blog).

So I was thrilled when the Elder Abuse Center invited me to do a podcast, based on my years of work in both the fields of positive aging and of elder abuse. The podcast looks at the problem of ageism in our society, and how ageism holds back attempts to create elder justice. I also got the chance to speculate about how the Legacy Project might be used in preventing ageism.

Click here to visit iTunes & download the Ageism & Elder Justice Podcast.