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3 Keys for Breakthrough Conversations with Your Adult Child


3 Keys for Breakthrough Conversations with Your Adult Child

Tess Brigham

This month I’m doing things a bit differently. When I sit down to write I always have a reader in mind. Since I work with 20-Somethings and the parents that love them, I’m either thinking about what it’s like to be a 20-Something or their parent. Well, March Madness doesn’t just refer to basketball because, this month, I’m speaking to both of you!
So, whether or not you see or talk to each other every single day or if you live 3,000 miles apart and don’t talk much, you’re both entering a new phase of your relationship. Any new phase is tough and you’re both wondering what you should be expecting from the other one.
This week we’re going to talk about expectations because we all have really expect a lot. We expect a lot from ourselves. We expect a lot from other people. We expect a lot from our jobs. Heck, we expect a lot from the hair care products we purchase and it’s because of these expectations that we suffer.
The biggest problem is we set expectations that only we’re aware of and so, when that other person doesn’t meet our expectations, we feel hurt, slighted and unfairly treated. Yet, we have no one to blame but ourselves because we set these expectations up for ourselves.
When our expectations are not met there’s a sense of “all is not right in the world.” There’s a sense of frustration and/or a feeling of being disrespected or disregarded.
So if you want to save yourself a lot of fighting and heartache as you transition into this new phase of your relationship, you both need to learn how to manage your expectations of each other and of yourselves. 
Here are the 3 ways to manage your expectations:
1) Be mindful so you can figure out ‘why’ you expect something
The thing to understand about expectations is this; they tend to stay in our unconscious until it’s too late. Most of the time we don’t even think about our expectations because well…we just expect certain things to happen or not happen. This is why we get so disappointed when things don’t work out the way we planned, we basically blindsided by something we didn’t even realize we were hoping for.
This is why it’s so important to check in with yourself so you catch those unrealistic expectations before it’s too late and you’re already disappointed.
The idea of becoming more “mindful” can feel a bit overwhelming but don’t worry you don’t need to start a daily meditation practice to become more mindful of your thoughts and feelings. The easiest way to start is to stop right now and “check-in” with yourself. How are you feeling? What are thinking? How does your body feel? No judgment. You’re just taking your emotional temperature.
Once you know what you’re thinking or feeling, you can do something about it or make a note to yourself to address that thought or feeling later. It’s amazing what happens when you start to become more aware of your feelings. The biggest thing you’ll be able to do is recognize if you’re expecting a certain outcome. Now you can assess if it’s an unrealistic outcome or how will you handle it if it doesn’t work out the way you planned?
2) Don’t assume you know, because you don’t
We all know that saying, “when you assume…” We all know we shouldn’t make assumptions, yet we still do, because hey, we’re humans and we assume at times.
Remember what I said earlier…awareness is everything. Any time you enter into a new phase of any relationship, there is going to be a steep learning curve, which means that you both need to watch your assumptions.
You may be thinking, “Hey, I’ve know this person over 20 years, I know what their thinking…” And you may know what the other one is thinking, you just don’t want to assume you do which means you both need to ask questions…a lot of them.
Questions like, “I’m moving back home for a while, am I expected to pay rent?” or “I’m going to help you pay your rent and all your bills while you look for a job but only for 3 months and then we can revisit this discussion.”
3) Communicate…because true adults talk to each other
Being an adult has its plusses and minuses. You get to stay up as late as you want and you can even eat oreos for breakfast! (Well that’s how my son sees adulthood.) The downside is that you have to well, act like an adult, all the time.
And adults communicate with each other. Well, actually, many adults don’t do this but if you’re reading this blog my guess is you want to be the best version of you, so you’re going to strive to be a mature adult who communicates their thoughts and feelings.
You can’t be afraid to talk to each other about how you’re feeling. You just want to follow some of the golden rules of relationship communication.
Always use “I” statements, not “You” statements. For example, “I want to be a part of your life and when I don’t hear from you for weeks or you don’t return my texts, I feel hurt and I also worry about your safety.” That will go a lot farther than, “You never call me back and you never return my texts, so I assume you’re in a ditch and you don’t care about my feelings.”
Take a moment to put yourself in the other person’s shoes aka have some empathy. Empathy goes a long way and it’s a very powerful tool to tap into. Anytime we can stop for a moment and think about where the other person is coming from, we’re bound to understand why they’re feeling the way they’re feeling.
Finally, always remember timing and tone. Don’t bring up big topics and issues when you know the other person may be just getting off of work and may have had a lousy day. Unless the house is on fire, you can probably wait until the other person has had time to decompress. Our tone of voice is big so don’t have big talks via text or email. Wait until you can talk on the phone or even Facetime so you can see each other’s expressions.