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Relationships - June 2019

My 21 year-old son


Maggi Stamp is a highly qualified relationship counsellor and trainer who writes each month about emotional and practical concerns and challenges that many of us meet in later life. For 20 years, as well as running a private practise, Maggi worked with the organisation Relate to help married and single people, cohabiting couples, same sex couples, families, young and old people and the bereaved to develop, foster and enjoy healthy and fulfilling relationships. No less important, as she is herself a wife, mother and grandmother, she brings a lifetime of varied and eventful experience to enhance her empathy and understanding.  

Many of her examples are based on concerns that clients, family and friends have presented over the years. In the monthly articles where she responds to issues raised by readers, she strictly respects confidentiality and never identifies those who write to her. But the individual worries they raise are invariably felt by others, so her responses can help many.

You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com 
for her to respond in the column.



My 21 year-old son

I will not print your email in my allotted web space but will try and take from your most comprehensive account of what sounds like a difficult time for you and your children to find the nub of what's worrying you.

You say you are struggling to come to terms not so much with your 21-year-old son leaving home as the way he did it.

Initially he didn't do well enough to get his desired course at university so worked at a diving centre near your home in mainland Europe. He was greatly helped and encouraged by the owner of the centre and by his wife to achieve valuable qualifications.

That he fell for someone he has known since childhood, who was visiting the dive centre, is perfectly normal. To have moved back to the UK to her parent's garden studio is fine too, although her parents allowing their 16-year-old daughter to live with him is a little unusual. What with her eating disorder and upsetting history of rows with her mum, I suspect her parents fear the disorder will come to the surface if they say she cannot sleep there with him. After a length of time they have started to object to this arrangement.

Without telling you or his employer, instead of returning home from a diving holiday, your son flew straight to his girlfriend in the UK. His boss, despite being put in a tricky staffing position by receiving late notice, seems to have been most 'parental' and understanding, telling him it is a good thing he's found a university course to start in autumn and suggesting to him he considers how his actions - or lack of - affect others.
A good lesson to learn.

You intend to return to the UK soon with your 15-year-old adopted daughter to live near the rest of your family to give her the chance of doing her A Level exams nearby. You are hoping your son might  come to live with you.

But, because he has, in effect, left home and is managing his own affairs, everyone getting back together might not be that easy. He'll have learnt a lot during this first part of his adult life. He's made some mistakes and taken rash decisions, but he's also not afraid to work. He already has qualifications and has done well to find and secure a university course.

For a 21-year-old, all is going 'normally'.

For you though, this is the beginning of having to let go of your son. You'll find anticipating that might trigger old feeling of being 'down', close to those depressions of the past when thing were so awful between you and your former husband.
But do keep hold of what you have achieved. It will re-balance those feelings.

  • You had the courage to take your children out of the country to free you from the atmosphere of distrust and absences of your then husband. That was a tremendously strong thing to do. As you say, you all benefitted from it.
  • You have a new partner who is eager to help.
  • You have raised a son who is confident enough - at the right age - to leave home and manage his own affairs, more or less. That tells me your parenting has been a success. You are strong enough not to have clung onto him, or manipulated him to stay with you. You have strengthened him too, and that is a wonderful gift from a mother to their son or daughter.
  • You know you will always want to be part of his life and be there to help him when he needs support. But let him carry on learning. If you let him manage his life and feel he's in control, he'll happily involve you because he trusts he isn't going to be treated like a child any longer.

These are positive things to feel good about. Of course you will miss him and grieve for the days when he relied upon you for most things It's perfectly normal to feel that, so let your sadness rise to the surface now and then. It's natural.

If you carry on being welcoming, in touch and encouraging, and occasionally jogging him to consider the consequence of his actions, he'll continue to develop into a fine young man. No-one knows how long his relationship will last, but a girl of 16, just over the age of consent, will also have learnt a lot about the consequences of her choices so far.

Feel good about what you have achieved and be there to guide and support him, and you will continue to be the good strong parent you always have been.



You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.


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