My College:
Dear Adina

Should I Offer Relationship Advice?

Adina Glickman


Dear Adina,

I have a question about how (and whether) we can advise our kids on the subject of choosing a life partner. Say my child has been dating someone who doesn’t treat them with respect. How do I handle that, knowing my child might hold anything I say about their “love” against me and might tell the person, too?


Dear Parent,

A generous helping of parental skill and patience is needed to finesse the impossible task of being involved and staying out of the way simultaneously.

As our kids make decisions we don’t agree with, bring people into their lives we don’t like or approve of, and choose hairstyles, tattoos, diets, professions or partners that befuddle us, our job is to love them and stay open to them.

And it’s not a shallow display of support that’s needed. We really need to dig deep to make room for the stranger who used to be our child. Which means being willing to meet them anew, according to the identity they have begun to form for themselves. It’s exhausting I tell you. Didn’t we just finish nailing the tweenage identity? Now young adulthood has a whole new set of rules? Jeesh.

When they’re little, it’s our job to stand in the way of things that are harmful to them. First we yank them back as they dash into traffic, then we tell them to look both ways, and eventually, they remember for themselves and learn how to anticipate what may be harmful and how to protect themselves. When they’re on their own, we only get to protect them if they ask us to.

That you have asked whether it’s even okay to talk to them about their choices tells me you have a gut sense that doing so may not be advisable. Good instinct!

Take some time to unpack the many layers of intention and emotion that go into this kind of conversation. It’s tricky when the harm you see is coming from someone they care about. From 30,000 feet it sure looks counter-intuitive to stick with and love someone who disrespects us. But our kids do it all the time. With us.

Yes, we parents love and disrespect our children constantly. How? By overriding them when we’re too tired to negotiate. By pigeonholing them as “shy” or “responsible” or “trouble-maker” and crowding them into an identity that they then have to live up (or down) to. By suggesting they wear our choice of hat/pants/shoes instead of theirs. By turning their quirks or missteps into the funny stories we share with our friends. By assuming that whatever expertise we rely on to run our own lives automatically makes us experts at how they should run theirs. By telling them that respect has to be earned, as if there’s some secret dance they have to do to be treated with dignity. And by telling them they aren’t good at choosing life partners.

Full disclosure: I’ve done many of these things, and regret the damage this has done to my kids’ sense of self.

It’s so much easier to see from a distance. When we observe someone disrespecting our child, we see them being domineering, undermining our child’s agency, belittling them, ignoring boundaries, or being purposefully unkind or insulting as a way of exerting control. When and if you want to intervene in a protective way, it’s crucial that you do so without echoing the very disrespect you’re trying to protect them from.

The way to talk with our kids about the people they’re dating is to model the respect we want them to value. Rather than presenting ourselves as the authority on what’s good for them (aka being domineering or undermining their agency), we can be curious about what they feel is good for them and ask questions without judgment or ulterior motive.

Instead of questioning their decisions (aka belittling them), we can share the experience of how we feel when we see them being disrespected, or better yet, share the challenges we've experienced in caring about people who don’t always treat us well, and talk about the confusion we may have experienced in being intimately connected to someone who both loved and disrespected us.

And finally, instead of jumping right in as if we know what they need (and ignoring boundaries), ask if they want to know how we feel. If they say no, we should be ready to say, “Okay, I respect that,” and stand back.

Remember that early relationships are about trying things on to see if they fit. Young people are learning what relationships feel like and how to participate in them without you.

If they do ask for advice, speak from your own experiences rather than judging theirs. Share the lessons you’ve learned about dating and life-partner-choosing. Tell them what you wish you could go back and tell your younger self. Ask what they picture for themselves when they have the same conversation with their kids someday.

And with care and humility, acknowledge the ways you may have taught them to accept disrespect as part of the package of intimacy.

If your child is truly in an abusive relationship (well past the line of disrespect), know that extricating themselves with or without your help will be painful and potentially dangerous, so please consult with experts on how to intervene. Here are a few resources: safehorizon.org, helpguide.org and thehotline.org

Yours,

Adina Signature

Have a question? Ask Adina

Adina Glickman is the founder of Affinity Coaching, which offers academic, life and career coaching to young adults. She is the former director of learning strategies at Stanford University and is the co-founder and director of the Academic Resilience Consortium, an association of faculty, staff and students dedicated to understanding and promoting student resilience. Learn more at adinaglickman.com.

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    2 days ago
    CollegiateParent

    4 UNEXPECTED ADVANTAGES OF REMOTE LEARNING

    -shared by Rose Bender, Graduate Student, University of Washington

    If your child has made a temporary shift back to remote learning, they may be feeling teleported back to the early days of the pandemic.

    This (re)loss of structure can be particularly challenging.

    Reframing remote learning as a unique and special opportunity can help as they dive into yet another round of Zoom classes.

    1. ASKING QUESTIONS IS EASY! Thanks to Zoom’s chat function, speaking (typing) up with a question in a big lecture is easier than ever. No need to worry about if you’re interrupting the professor, or wonder what your voice might sound like at 9am before you’ve had breakfast. Just type in the chat, and the professor will answer at their own pace. Anxiety gone!

    2. THE MID-CLASS GOOGLE. Today’s class is on something you KNOW you learned it last semester, but you just can’t seem to remember specifics. No need to flip through pages of your notebook. Ask Dr. Google while class is still running alongside you, and you’ve barely missed a beat!

    3. WATCH AT YOUR OWN PACE. Despite your mid-class Google, you are still feeling totally lost on what was covered today. Instead of trying to slog through a dense textbook, you can thank everyone’s new best friend, Zoom Recording! Watch the lecture a second time; you can even slow to 0.5x speed for the parts that really tripped you up. Alternatively — after today’s class, you’re feeling like the material is WAY too easy for you. Maybe it’s a required class that’s review of something you already know, or it’s just a subject that’s not one you want to dive into. In the age of remote learning, it’s okay to skip Zoom lectures and opt entirely for Zoom recording, making use of captions and the 1.5x speed button to tailor your learning experience to exactly what you need.

    4. MORE TIME FOR MIDDAY WELLNESS. You’ve slashed your commute time down to zero from 15 minutes of trudging through snowy sidewalks, or in my case, cycling through gray Seattle rain. Perhaps you’ve skipped lecture entirely, opting to watch it on 1.5x speed later that evening instead of in the prime hours of the day. You can use that extra time on something good for yourself -- when the sun peeks out, hop outside for a midday walk or run. Instead of microwaving frozen chicken nuggets, chop up some fresh vegetables or take that midday grocery trip to get that missing ingredient for an elaborate salad.

    Many students today have an unprecedented loss of structure. But reframing the loss of structure as a potential gain — a gain in more freedom of how we spend our time — helps me feel lucky to be in school at this unique moment.

    Wishing everyone a successful semester!

    -Rose
    ... See MoreSee Less

    4 UNEXPECTED ADVANTAGES OF REMOTE LEARNING  -shared by Rose Bender, Graduate Student, University of Washington  If your child has made a temporary shift back to remote learning, they may be feeling teleported back to the early days of the pandemic.  This (re)loss of structure can be particularly challenging.  Reframing remote learning as a unique and special opportunity can help as they dive into yet another round of Zoom classes.  1. ASKING QUESTIONS IS EASY! Thanks to Zoom’s chat function, speaking (typing) up with a question in a big lecture is easier than ever. No need to worry about if you’re interrupting the professor, or wonder what your voice might sound like at 9am before you’ve had breakfast. Just type in the chat, and the professor will answer at their own pace. Anxiety gone!  2. THE MID-CLASS GOOGLE. Today’s class is on something you KNOW you learned it last semester, but you just can’t seem to remember specifics. No need to flip through pages of your notebook. Ask Dr. Google while class is still running alongside you, and you’ve barely missed a beat!  3. WATCH AT YOUR OWN PACE. Despite your mid-class Google, you are still feeling totally lost on what was covered today. Instead of trying to slog through a dense textbook, you can thank everyone’s new best friend, Zoom Recording! Watch the lecture a second time; you can even slow to 0.5x speed for the parts that really tripped you up. Alternatively — after today’s class, you’re feeling like the material is WAY too easy for you. Maybe it’s a required class that’s review of something you already know, or it’s just a subject that’s not one you want to dive into. In the age of remote learning, it’s okay to skip Zoom lectures and opt entirely for Zoom recording, making use of captions and the 1.5x speed button to tailor your learning experience to exactly what you need.  4. MORE TIME FOR MIDDAY WELLNESS. You’ve slashed your commute time down to zero from 15 minutes of trudging through snowy sidewalks, or in my case, cycling through gray Seattle rain. Perhaps you’ve skipped lecture entirely, opting to watch it on 1.5x speed later that evening instead of in the prime hours of the day. You can use that extra time on something good for yourself -- when the sun peeks out, hop outside for a midday walk or run. Instead of microwaving frozen chicken nuggets, chop up some fresh vegetables or take that midday grocery trip to get that missing ingredient for an elaborate salad.  Many students today have an unprecedented loss of structure. But reframing the loss of structure as a potential gain — a gain in more freedom of how we spend our time — helps me feel lucky to be in school at this unique moment.  Wishing everyone a successful semester!  -Rose

    Comment on Facebook

    Definitely good way to look on the “bright side”, thanks for sharing

    Love the optimistic perspective!!

    Finding the good Rose! Love this!

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