For this month’s “Dear Therapist” roundup, I’ve gathered together a set of columns on one of the topics Lori covers often: parenthood.
Parents write to Lori frequently. They seek advice on how to help their young kids who are struggling socially or emotionally, are acting in confounding ways, or are coming out of the closet. Older parents write in asking about adult kids who have adult problems of their own—unhappy marriages, financial strain, loneliness, addiction. Regardless of age, the question parents ask is usually the same: What is my role here?
That makes sense, because in some ways, that’s the central question of being a parent. Parenting is not like friendship or marriage—relationships whose fundamental structures remain stable over time, even as the dynamics change. Parenting, by contrast, is constantly evolving, as children grow from babies to toddlers to adolescents to adults. At each stage, parents have to recalibrate what their role is—how much control they have, how much protection and support they should offer, how much to stand back and let their child fly or flail. This does not always come naturally, and can even be quite painful. “One of the hardest aspects of being a parent is the reality that if you raise your child well, that child becomes an adult who will go on to make her own life decisions,” Lori writes to one advice-seeker who is upset about her daughter’s choice to live far away. “If we love our children, we must ultimately let them go.”