Hello, Anybody Out There? Part 2

Not hearing back from their grown offspring really bugs parents, but help is on the way! That’s why I sat down with Dr. Elizabeth Wolfson to learn some eminently do-able ways to improve the communications gap.

In our first post on the topic of intergenerational communications—or lack thereof—we examined how today’s grown offspring have a whole different attitude toward staying in touch. Here, we’ll discuss how to work with it.
     According to Dr. Elizabeth Wolfson, a psychotherapist in private practice and Chair of the Masters in Clinical Psychology Program at Antioch University Santa Barbara, “Be as open-minded and nonjudgmental as possible. Take the‘client-centered’ approach: ‘It’s your world and I’m merely stepping into it.’ One way to practice that is by speaking your grown offspring’s language, and today that language is a lot more visual.  Shots of everyday activities that you might once have considered banal before are now keeping family life alive, so start snapping and transmitting. You’ll also want to become familiar with Instagram, resend from Pinterest, and load up on the latest apps that loom so large in your adult child’s life.
      If communications are now a lot more visual, they are also a lot shorter. Expressing yourself in 140 characters may not be satisfying but it’s what’s happening. To move beyond the old acronyms, such as LOL, get a book or a 12 year old so you can dazzle your adult children with how hip you are. And ask their advice on your personal hash tag. To see what their adult children are up to, some parents swear by Facebook. They “Comment,” “Like,” and “Friend,” to their heart’s content. Other parents consider going on their offspring’s pages “spying” or “crossing a boundary” and refuse to do it. 
      Still other parents stay in touch via the old-fashioned phone call, sometimes bringing it into modern times through Skype or Facetime.  For some of them, a weekly call is the glue that holds their relationship together. “If you want to go that route,” advises Dr. Wolfson, “ask for buy-in in a way that demonstrates respect. For example,  ‘How would it be if we had a set date to talk?’ is likely to go over a lot better than, ‘You never call me and at least this way I’ll hear your voice once a week.’ If your goal is to keep the lines of communication open, inducing guilt may produce the opposite effect.
     In a future post we’ll look at the other side of the coin: grown offspring who call constantly, can’t hang up, and otherwise inappropriately try to stay connected.  Until then please share what works for you.

Elizabeth Wolfson, PhD, is Chair of the Masters of Clinical Psychology Department at Antioch University Santa Barbara. She also maintains a private psychotherapy practice in which she works with people of all ages and backgrounds. To contact Dr. Wolfson, please call 805-564-6642 or email her at ucspcscs@cox.net.

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