Parents of divorcing children are often
unsure how to help a grown child who is hurting. Wiley said American
parents are unsure about their role in a married child's life from
the moment their son or daughter announces an engagement.
When grown children divorce, our
feelings only become more complicated. "We want our grown children
to be independent because we believe that our children's success as
grown people validates our parenting," she said.
But it can be difficult for parents to
watch such a drama unfold without offering an opinion, particularly
if they have strong feelings about the child's spouse. Those
feelings can run the gamut from strong attachment to extreme anger.
Wiley said the developmental needs of
the two generations don't mesh very well at this point. "Middle-aged
and older parents are thinking about their legacy at this stage in
their lives. They're concerned about what they have accomplished and
what they are leaving behind for future generations. And they want
to impart their wisdom to their children and grandchildren," she
"But adults in their 20s and 30s are
establishing an independent identity from their parents," she said.
"They're trying to figure out who they are, and a big piece of that
is learning how to interact with a partner in an intimate way. If
things aren't going well, they probably won't want to hear the
wisdom their parents are eager to impart."
Wiley said that a grown child's reasons
for divorce may be difficult for his or her parents to understand.
"Our ideas about marriage have changed a lot in the past few
decades. Older adults didn't see divorce as much. And they probably
didn't consider divorce an option for themselves either," she said.
In past years, marriages were more of
an alliance between families than two individuals. And women didn't
have the careers or skills that allowed them to be economically
self-sufficient, Wiley said.
"But today's marriages are based on
romance," she added. "Couples like for their parents to approve of
their choice, but they don't give them too much input. Young couples
today decide to stay married based on whether they are happy or
not," she said.
Stephanie Koontz, a historical
researcher on U.S. families and relationships, writes that the
"happy 1950s marriage" was largely a myth and that marriages are
probably no more unhappy than they ever were. For this reason, many
middle-aged parents may think that grown children should "tough it
out for the sake of their children."
Wiley warns parents to be "very
cautious in giving advice because adult relationships are
complicated." She says, "Remember that the marriage was a decision
they made, the spouse is someone they loved, and they don't want to
hear you say, 'You made a stupid choice.'
"Also, be careful what you say about
the spouse, because they may get back together."
[to top of second column in
Unless specifically asked, offer
emotional support instead of advice. "Offer a shoulder to cry on and
listen to their stories. Try to be sensitive to what they need at
the time, but don't give them more than they ask for. Stand back a
bit and let them solve their problems on their own," she said.
Wiley says some parents worry that the
breakup is partly their fault or a reflection on their child
rearing. They may ask, "Were my husband and I poor role models?" Or,
if a son or daughter had an affair, "Did we communicate our values
Wiley said these parents should realize
that they are not the only influence on their children's beliefs and
behaviors. Peers, the media and the child's temperament all play a
role in the kinds of relationships they establish and the decisions
"We may have to watch our children make
mistakes, get into a marriage that isn't healthy for them or mess up
a marriage that we think looks healthy, but we have to remember that
it's their job to figure this out," she said.
Wiley recommends putting that nervous
energy to work in a different way. If the divorcing child has
children, grandparents can channel their energies into surrounding
their grandchildren with a cloak of family love. "Grandparents
provide stability and attention for grandchildren when divorcing
parents become preoccupied with their own trauma. They can provide a
safe place and find ways to keep the child involved in family life
in a stable way," she said.
"Make sure the children know that, yes,
your mom and dad have split up, but we love you and we will love you
no matter what. Even if you live somewhere else, we'll write letters
and send videotapes," she said.
"Grandparents should be prepared to
answer tough questions, such as, 'Why doesn't Mom love Dad anymore?'
If one parent is out of contact with the children, emphasize the
love that exists in the parent who's still there," Wiley said.
"Children are hurt most when parents undermine each other. That goes
for grandparents too. It's important for grandparents to have
answers that are fair or nonpartisan."
If their son or daughter doesn't have
custody of the children, grandparents may find it hard to maintain
contact. "Let your former in-law know that you want to be part of
the children's lives. In a worst-case scenario, courts in some
states can decide whether to give you visitation rights," Wiley
"Older adults who are watching their children go through a divorce
often feel a great deal of personal stress. Try to alleviate that
stress in ways that are healthy for you and that don't involve
blaming your child, crying on her shoulder or expecting your child
to fix your stress for you."
of Illinois news release]
It doesn't have to be
When you figure out a
few ways to make your landscaping a little easier to deal with,
you'll be able to reduce the amount of time you spend working on the
less enjoyable chores. And that means you'll have more time to
actually enjoy your landscape!
Here are some idea
starters to help you make it easy on yourself.
Something borrowed, something blue...
Or any other color
for that matter. Low-maintenance landscaping starts in the planning
stage. But there's no need to come up with all the ideas yourself.
There's a lot of free information available on the Internet. You can
start at my nonprofit website
where you'll find a lot of articles and all my former columns. Two
helpful sites are
4005803E.htm, and you can click on direct links when you go to
my website and find this column under "The Plant Man."
But one of the best
ways is to “borrow” ideas from neighbors. Go for a walk in your
neighborhood and see what seems to grow effortlessly in the soil and
weather conditions within a few blocks of your home. If it works for
them, chances are it'll work for you.
You want fries with that?
Now don't laugh, but
a good place to scope out low-maintenance plants and shrubs is at
the landscaping located at places like fast-food restaurants and gas
stations. Why? Because those plants have to survive under fairly
stressful circumstances, surrounded by heat, gas fumes, trash and
blacktop. After circumstances like that, your landscape would
be literally a breath of fresh air. Additionally, it's a pretty good
bet that someone isn't out there every day trimming, pruning and
weeding at those places; and that's another good reason to make some
McNotes while you're out and about!
The director yells, "Cut!"
Wouldn't you like to
cut down on grass cutting? Unless you're a teenager piloting a
riding mower for the first time, mowing the lawn is probably more of
a chore than a joy. Take a look in my archive for previous columns
on lawn maintenance, and then decide how much lawn you REALLY want
to have. Smaller lawn area means less mowing. If you employ a lawn
service, a smaller lawn should -- theoretically -- reduce your cost
lawn areas furthest from your house to remain unmowed, creating a
meadowlike vista and a home for small wildlife. Or think about
replacing part of your lawn with attractive stone or brick pavers.
I'll write a full column on that subject in the near future.
[to top of second column in
"Oh! My aching back!"
Tired of kneeling for
hours and then going indoors to find the Ben-Gay? Think about
building some raised beds where you can plant everything from
veggies and herbs to perennials and more. Additionally, raised beds
allow water to drain more quickly and tend to warm up faster in the
spring than in-ground planting. You can get at a raised bed easily
from all sides, too, so weeding and tending are chores that you're
more likely to actually DO!
Pick trees and shrubs
that are low-maintenance. Obvious? Yes, but often overlooked. Send
me an e-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org if you
have some specific questions about suitable plants for your
landscape. Meanwhile, here are a few quick ideas for low-maintenance
--Sargent crab apple (Malus sargenti)
-- A dwarf flowering variety with pink or white blossoms, it works
well on a lawn too, as it doesn't heavily shade the grass.
Japanese spurge -- A good ground cover, particularly under trees
that (unlike your crabapple) make lawn maintenance difficult or
honeysuckle (Lonicera arnolds red) -- This is one tough plant!
Unless you live in the Okefenokee Swamp, this one will keep growing
without much help from you.
gold) -- A really impressive shrub that can spread out to as much 10
or 12 feet wide… and is almost indestructible. It looks great on
hard-to-mow banks and slopes too!
Look for ways to make your landscape less
labor-intensive and you'll have more time to enjoy it. Do you have
any low-maintenance landscaping tips? Let me know and I'll share
some of the best with our readers!
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your
questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to
and for resources and additional information, including archived