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Relationships - August 2017

What IS fair?


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.



What IS fair?

Dear Maggi,

I am fed up with my situation and upset too. Ever since our son and daughter-in-law found out that my husband voted 'Leave' in our Brexit referendum and there was an almighty row, they have hardly been to visit us. We are missing so much of our grandchildren's lives that it leaves me feeling rejected and unhappy. As well as that, from the things that were said, we feel criticised for being part of the older generation.

It is so miserable these days in our house. What can I do to persuade my son to get things into a different perspective? We are still his mum and dad, who love him, and care about him and his family just as much as we always did!

Worried Mum


This is a problem which, it seems, has hit a lot of families in the last year. It really has struck a raw nerve in the younger generation. It is sited deep in the insecurity they feel about the decision to leave the European Community, 27 other countries to which we have been closely connected for all their knowing years. And I can understand that. It is all they have known. Yet we, as a nation, have voted to dissolve many of the ties that bind us to those neighbour nations.

My own family is no exception. Although I myself chose to vote 'Remain', the upset, anger and disbelief in my sons, who voted likewise, was directed indiscriminately at all older people, fearing their way of life would be under threat and feeling too that those responsible for the upheaval ("the old" as it was put in one heated moment) were to blame for it all.

We seem to be living through a period of history with a special mood, a ‘zeitgeist’ throughout the world which embodies ideas and beliefs particular to our times. Technological and intellectual changes are quickening the need for radical re-thinking about how working life is planned, how children are raised and educated, how transport, trade, medical care and even leisure and retirement are funded and arranged.

Younger generations seem to see anyone who has retired or is close to it as 'lucky old people'. They do not face the prospect of having to work until they’re almost 70. They might well own their home and have little or any mortgage. They have time to travel, money to spend and leisure unlimited. And their taxes, they feel, have funded all that!

It is true that in some ways the post-war generations are the lucky ones, with pensions more generous than they are going to be in future - pensions, moreover, starting “early” at ages 60 or 65. But most pensioners know all too well how misleading that 'lucky old people' label’ can be. After decades of hard work, people look forward to a healthy retirement, and those who get a 'happy and healthy' one are indeed fortunate. But for many, pensions are meagre, so their finances are a constant worry. For others, anticipated leisure time is, instead, devoted to caring for their own parents, or supporting their own working children by caring for grandchildren, or caring for an ailing spouse. That’s work too! 

Those of us born before the 1960s did not have what so many younger generations regard as essentials. I'm sure you all have your own memories of homes without modern gadgets, electricity, central heating, double glazing, telephones, abundant food, cars.

What we learned by living a harder life, of making and mending, was part of what made us successful and careful - adults who looked after what we had, giving the young their comfortable family homes and, indeed, beginning to provide those new essentials! And so we are often dismayed by some younger people’s lack of awareness, not having a clue of how to conserve and maintain what they have: ‘it stopped working’ equals ‘throw it away and buy another’.

Our backgrounds, experiences and differences can create a wall of misunderstanding and resentment between the generations. We older ones are perhaps as much at fault in our attitudes towards the way of life of the younger generations as they are for not trying to understand what has made us the people we are.

There is nothing worse than a 'preachy ' parent. You know, the sort who says "You don't know you're born, you young ‘uns. In my day...blah blah..." So do avoid going anywhere near that kind of hectoring monologue. But to have two-way conversations about different experiences and backgrounds in a factual, history-telling way, not a ‘this is how everyone should be’ way, makes it easier to help younger people understand. And in a healthy conversation, you and your husband are obliged to ask about your son’s main influences too, and listen to what he tells you whether you agree with him or not.

Worried Mum...I feel that it is you who will be needed to smooth the way to mending what has broken in your family. How does your husband feel about his decision now we all know more about it? Not everyone who voted ‘Out’ is any longer sure that it was the right thing to do. But here we are, with the break getting closer week by week.

We see so many unfair things in life, and for many in the UK, this is one of the big ones. Younger generations have their own ways of measuring fairness and these are very different from those of older folk. It won’t help your son to change his attitude by telling him it isn't fair to blame older people for the present disarray in the country because they voted in a different way than his generation.
I'm sure he thinks it isn’t fair that the result is what it is. But a huge lesson in life is learning that fairness is a slippery fish.

What you can do is to talk with him about the closer society around the family in which everyone has a degree of control and responsibility. That responsibility is that everyone strives to ensure the bigger issues do not break or damage all of you as a unit. You were once a close and supportive group - so you can be again. Society works when we can accept that not everyone in a family has to think in exactly the same way. We aren’t clones - we’re individuals with our own feelings, thoughts and experiences. Tell him that your husband did not vote to damage him or the grandchildren. That vote was based on his own thoughts and experiences, just as your son, and you, voted according to yours.

None of you did anything to deliberately harm your loved ones.
It might well take a while to persuade him to accept that family cohesion is more important than avenging his own sense of general grievance for the country’s future governance by laying blame on both of you, but do be patient and gently persistent. I’m sure you will find that his fears are for the future of his own kids - for him, they are the future just as we represent the past.

But your grandchildren are being deprived of their grandparents for the sake of a political principle. AND THAT IS NOT FAIR.



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


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Relationships - December 2016

Sex and the boyfriend


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.


Sex and the boyfriend

I have surprised myself. My sixteen year old daughter has said she wants her boyfriend to stay the night, in her bedroom. We have two older sons and never felt like this about them when they said they were staying over at their girlfriends home.

My wife and I have talked and talked about this and are struggling with how to say no, to our very open and honest young daughter.
I can't bear the thought of my girl having sex with a boy under our roof. We're not religious but it really doesn't feel right.

I feel so silly making a fuss about this. At 53 I should know what to say, and why. But that just isn't happening.

We've put her off for now but we are bound to be back in this situation again. There's the Christmas and New Year holiday coming up soon and I'm getting more un-easy as time goes by.

What can I say?


Oh yes, that milestone which marks your child's next big adult step is becoming unavoidable. Many parents whose children are now adult will have been where you are now and none of them will have found it easy to know what to say or do.

All kinds of pressures are at play here.

  • Your daughter is unmistakeably sexually aware/active - she may already be having sex with her boyfriend
  • You are reluctant to make yourselves unpopular with her by saying no but are feeling very uneasy
  • You are not yet feeling ready to see your daughter leave her childhood (and implicitly you) behind
  • It is hard to see her being much more reliant on the company and the affection of someone her own age than on you
  • You are, naturally, concerned that she might get emotionally hurt if she takes such a bonding step with a boy, or that she might get pregnant, and that her education might suffer.

This is a time when you need to be strong in your parenting, strong in knowing what you can personally deal with at this point and strong enough to be open and honest with her about what boundaries you wish to put in place. Yes, you might be unpopular with her if you decide to say that he cannot share her room if he stays overnight, but that is only one of many times a parent will be unpopular. You are her parent, not her best friend who wants to go along with everything she does.

Ask yourself why you were able to cope with her older brothers telling you they were staying overnight with their girlfriends. 'Out of sight out of mind'? How did the parents of those girls handle the situation? It is perhaps still considered ok for boys to go off and do this, but when it comes to your own doorstep and your own daughter, things change.

You know your daughter. Is she street-wise in terms of looking after her sexual health? Does she know about the importance of contraception?
These are things you need to know in order to make your decision. She has shown respect for you in asking permission. She obviously cares about you. You in turn need to respect her by showing concern and interest in how she intends to stay safe. You cannot protect any child from getting hurt no matter how closely you wrap them. They have to take more risks as they enter adulthood in order to learn, and it is one of the hardest things to stand by and watch them take their first steps towards it knowing they'll make just as many mistakes as you, have as many thrills and successes, and as many regrets or hurt feelings.

Talk to her, do your 'safety checks', tell her how you are feeling and always let your daughter know you love her and will always be there, in the background, when things get tough - or when she just wants to be mum and dad's girl again for a while.

You say you have no religious belief that makes this stage of your daughter's development clear in terms of what a parent must do. Can you work out what makes this next stage hard for you? Is it the thought of the girl you see as your child having sex with her boyfriend? Is it that you fear for her emotional or physical safety? Is it that you would be horribly embarrassed?

I'm not saying that any of these things are not natural and normal. They are, totally. What I want you to consider is that they are your - not your daughter's - feelings, fears and embarrassments. She has come to you to ask, after all. You and your wife have to decide - for yourselves - how you might respond to her request. And for that you need to be clear about your reasons, so that you can explain to her and stand by them if you are telling her "no, not yet" or need to negotiate.

Get to know her boyfriend better. This is important. Once you are used to seeing him regularly in your house and you are at ease with that, then you will find there comes a time when you are ready to say ok to him staying over. You might even be the ones to suggest it!

But be prepared for the possibility that you do not warm to him. You might not be comfortable with him. If you say no after a period of seeing him often, you need to trust your instincts and be aware that to say no would then mean she could merely stay overnight at his home instead.
The truth is that you have to go through this 'barrier' and get used to your more adult daughter's next life stage. It is always uncomfortable for parents, but we all face it, go past it and survive it. The more smoothly and honestly that is done the better for your child. And you will have done your best.

Explain, negotiate, and have a wonderful Christmas and New Year holiday.




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


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