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Rethinking the family model

My colleague, Tess Miller, wrote the blog below about being a guardrail for our children. I love this blog for one very important reason; Recognition that children need to push back when they are getting ready to leave the nest.

As my son is entering the adult world he has yet to push back. He makes funny jokes about his development by saying "Aren't I supposed to be refusing to help now ?" I must say, I feel lucky in this because it makes my parenting job easier but also a little sad because he may never reach the point of feeling confident enough to live on his own.

I've seen the stage that parents of typical kids go through. The endless fighting, the disrespect and the lack of a loving relationship. And I've also seen these relationships blossom into an amazing place of love and respect once the children have entered adulthood. The action demonstrated as teens does not in any way determine their adult form. These teenaged actions, as Tess points out, are normal and a

part of growth. And there's even tales of the teen giving the most push back to the parent they love the most. I'm sure we have all felt it was easier to leave a relationship in anger than to talk through it. Not a technique that I recommend but one we are all guilty of.

So back to my son. He's a loving, kind man and he still does love to hang out with his parents. In truth, we love to hang out with him too. As the years have gone on, and it has become clearer that JJ might be living with us forever and because of that, I had to rethink my ideas about the family unit. Old school conditioning was blocking my way of seeing the advantages of keeping the family together. My initial vision was that he would grow up, go to college and pursue a career in a new place. Trying to imagine him with us forever, required a new mindset. Young adults who aren't on the spectrum are also showing a preference for this new lifestyle of staying with the folks. The kids are just not interested in moving out. I could make a judgement call here but I prefer to see this as an important shift in our culture. When man began as a species (and for much of our existence until the 1950's to be exact- at least in the USA) families, stayed together for a life time. Sons stayed to work farms, daughters moved into the husband's home with his parents, single daughters and sons stayed at their parent's homes indefinitely and elderly parents were cared for by their children. The family unit remained solid and every growing.

So what changed in 1950? The idea of husband, wife and 2 children happened. Post World War II, our family roles were dictated to us and the housing landscape changed. Women were expected to stay home, raise the kids, run the house and cater to the husband. Husbands were expected to go to work and provide a nice suburban home. The big problem here is that the kids were then expected to grow up and repeat this system. No extended family was accounted for in the scenario. Elder parents were shipped to nursing homes, and after one generation, the now adult kids had to move away to get jobs or attend college and women decided they had enough. This oppressive system was also failing to recognize women as professionals and not allowing for the diverse parenting combinations we recognize now.

We are many years beyond the 1950's and we've been fighting the ripple effect ever since. But today's youth is helping us change this. Their desire to remain in the family home is allowing us parents to see that keeping the family unit together is not such a bad idea. It's economically smart and you can be there to support them through the first few years of adulthood. And as the parents age, the adult children can be there to offer their support. As much as I hope my son eventually flies, I also hope he'll want to stay near.

So how will you adapt your family? My hope for you is that you stay flexible and do what's best for your heart and your core values. There is no one perfect answer but whatever you do decide be sure it'a choice that brings happiness and harmony to your lives.

To learn more about the traditional extended family model, watch my interview with Shua Khan Arshad on The Caretakers. She explains her experience growing up in a traditional home in Pakistan.

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