We are hardwired to care for our children. We want them to be healthy and to thrive. As parents, we worry about their relationships, financial well-being and physical health. And there’s no way to stop this worry as it pours out of a primal part of our brains.
Amber J. Seidel of Pennsylvania State University recently conducted a study concerning the parents of adult children. She found that parents still lose sleep worrying about their children even into adulthood. The study tracked 186 families to make this startling discovery. But the researcher, Amber J. Seidel, isn’t shocked at all.
She says that many share this value of caring for older children. She continues to say that society likes to focus on families with younger children, but she’s interested in how we socialize as a family into adulthood. It’s all detailed in the study that was published in The Gerontologist.
The study used a scale of one through eight to determine the rate of support a parent believes they offer their adult children. One was for daily interaction and support while eight represents support offered once per year. Support was defined broadly to include financial assistance, emotional support, and daily chat.
A scale of one through five was used for stress. Five represents the most stress while one was for no stress at all. Each parent was then measured for hours of sleep. Moms slept for 6.66 hours per night while dads got just a little more with 6.69 hours. The survey and measurements were then compared.
The fathers reported a loss of sleep when they put in the effort to support their adult child.The dads’ sleep was not affected when the mom physically performed the support. Meanwhile, the mothers lost sleep when either the dad or the mom performed the supporting tasks. These results reveal some intriguing insights into the minds of parents.
It seems like the act of supporting the adult children physically exhausted the fathers. The men were physically drained when they had to support the adult children financially or emotionally. They even found chatting on a regular basis about mundane daily activities to be exhausting.
However, the mothers were exhausted with worry. They worried about their adult children even if the father was the one providing the support. Mothers showed equally ill effects for performing the support and worrying about the support done by dad.
The fathers, on the other hand, did not lose sleep when the mothers performed the support. It seems that worry does not lay heavily on fathers when it comes to adult children. Or, perhaps, the parents did not communicate about the child’s distress. This would make the dads rest easy as they would be unaware.
The research illustrates that parents are being more involved with their children’s lives later into the child’s life. The finding lends itself to the emergence of so-called “helicopter parents” who are hyperaware of their child’s discomfort. It also provides support to the argument for “landing pad” children.
That little cell phone in your pocket may be ratcheting up your stress. Smartphones allow families constant communication which can feel like a burden at times. It also puts parents right into an adult child’s life whether they like it or not. And simply being exposed to stresses can worry moms to a point where they don’t sleep.
Exposure to an adult child’s life can be stressful and may even inspire support from the parent. This drags dad into the equation. If dad sees his adult child struggling on social media then he is more inclined to perform support. This causes fathers to lose sleep over their adult children.
Fortunately, there are ways to cope with the constant stress of an adult child. After all, stress is healthy, normal and unavoidable. It actually serves a unique and complex function in human psychology. But it’s the way we respond to stress that can be unhealthy.
Researcher Amber J. Seidel urges the parents of adult children to analyze the type of support that they offer. Are you enabling your child by rewarding lazy or destructive behaviors? Are you trying to control your child in any way? Or are you simply letting your adult child live their life while providing unconditional support?
Many types of support are actually unhealthy. Try letting go of any control and stop enabling any negative behaviors. Then trust your child enough to let them live their unique life. Only provide support if they seek advice or find themselves in a troubled situation. This can lessen the burden on the parent.
Forgive yourself. Worrying about a child, no matter the age, is normal. And you can take the following steps to reduce the stress of an adult child even further. Living a healthy, stress-free life is one of the best ways to help your child. It means you’ll be standing on solid ground when they need support.
Eat Well And Excercise Weekly
Good nutrition and physical fitness have been shown to decrease stress. It’ll also help you to live longer so that you can provide support to your children and grandchildren longer.
Decrease Use Of Alcohol, Drugs And Caffeine
Substances, caffeine and alcohol have been proven to increase stress. Decrease or eliminate your intake.
Talk With A Close Friend Or Therapist
You’re not alone. Reaching out can help you feel connected to like-minded people going through the same ordeal which reduces stress.
Don’t Be Afraid To Take “Me Time”
It’s not selfish to work on yourself if it makes you stronger to help others.
Spread The Word
Help other families by spreading the word on social media about this unique study and what can be done to reduce stress.
Do you know any parents that could benefit from this article? Pass it along!