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Helping a grown child
get through a divorce

[JUNE 21, 2003]  URBANA -- "A divorcing son or daughter may not welcome a parent's advice, but they're not likely to shrink from a comforting embrace," said Angela Wiley, expert in family relations at the University of Illinois.

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 said.

"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 this article]


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 strongly enough?"

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 they make.


"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 said.

She adds: "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."

[University of Illinois news release]

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Make it easy on yourself

By Steve Jones

[JUNE 20, 2003]  Taking care of your piece of the planet shouldn't be all hard work. Rather, it should be enjoyable, rewarding and pleasurable. Yes, there will be some work involved, and for most us that is part of what makes it rewarding. But all work and no play soon makes Jack decide to quit bothering!

It doesn't have to be that way.

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 www.landsteward.org, where you'll find a lot of articles and all my former columns. Two helpful sites are http://muextension.missouri.edu/xplor/
and http://www.gnb.ca/afa-apa/40/05/
, 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 too.

Consider allowing 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 this article]


"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!

Let ’em grow!

Pick trees and shrubs that are low-maintenance. Obvious? Yes, but often overlooked. Send me an e-mail steve@landsteward.org if you have some specific questions about suitable plants for your landscape. Meanwhile, here are a few quick ideas for low-maintenance landscaping:

--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.

--Pachysandra or Japanese spurge -- A good ground cover, particularly under trees that (unlike your crabapple) make lawn maintenance difficult or impossible.

--Arnolds red 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.

--Forsythia (Lynwood 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!

[Steve Jones]

The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to steve@landsteward.org, and for resources and additional information, including archived columns, visit www.landsteward.org.



Animals for Adoption

Animal Control open Saturdays 

[APRIL 18, 2003]  Beginning April 28, Logan County Animal Control is experimenting for 60 days with Saturday hours. The new hours are 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays. Only registration, payment of fines and animal pickup can be accomplished on Saturday. Adoptions must take place during the week.


Logan County Animal Control's hours of operation:

Sunday    closed

Monday  –  8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Tuesday  –  8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Wednesday    8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Thursday  –  8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Friday  –  8 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Saturday  –  closed

NOTE: Beginning April 28, hours will be 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on weekdays
and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays.

Fees for animal adoption: dogs, $60/male, $65/female; cats, $35/male, $44/female. The fees include neutering and spaying.

Vickie Loafman, animal control warden

Maurice Tierney, deputy animal control warden

Tammy Langley, part-time assistant

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