Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on October 4th, 2015, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 7, Episode 1, Summer Lovin


Plotline: Claire and Phil Meddle
Last season ended with Phil attending Alex’s graduation celebration by a robot on Skype. At the end of that show, Andy gets set to take Beth for a drive to catch the sunset and propose while Phil tries desperately to get his attention.
Phil: It’s Haley! Haley’s the girl! You love Ha– (no audio) love each other! Where are you going? You guys love each oth– You’re making a huge mistake!

When the audio fails, we’re left dangling with no resolution about whether Haley and Andy will end up together. Tonight’s premiere begins basically where it left us – with Phil continuing to meddle. Again the family is all together except for Phil who joins in on speakerphone.
Phil: Haley, Andy’s on his way to propose to Beth! (Everyone gasps.)
Claire: Ahhh! That’s very sweet!
Phil: It’s not sweet! Haley and Andy love each other, but they don’t know it!
Claire: Whoa. (Then to Hailey) Is that true, Honey?
Haley: Dad, what makes you think he’s in love with me?
Phil: I could tell by the way he hugged you goodbye.
Claire: Phil, are you sure about this?
Phil: Claire, I think I know the look of love in another man’s eyes.
Haley: This is crazy! Should I call him?
Phil: His phone’s off, but he said he was going to the beach.
Haley (sighing): I know what beach he likes.

With that Claire and Hailey jump in the car and head to the beach where there’s more parental meddling.
Claire: Oh, god! There they are.
Haley: Should I do this? I shouldn’t do this. I’m gonna do this.
Claire: Honey, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. You got to be really sure of this. You’re gonna go over there and break them up for what? To hang out or to date until the next guy comes along?
Hailey: Who knows? But shouldn’t we get a chance to find out what we are?

To see more of Claire and Phil’s meddling, click here.

The twenties have become a time for self-discovery. Like Haley, many twenty-somethings are trying to find out what they are. Some change jobs, housing, and romantic partners repeatedly. Others depend on their parents for financial support. And many are close to their parents too – texting them all day long or living in their basements.

But their dependence and closeness doesn’t mean that young adults want or appreciate their parents’ unsolicited advice. Instead, our advice tends to make them feel like a little kid – which puts us parents in a tough position. We want to help our young adults avoid mistakes. But the advice we offer probably won’t be well received or heeded – even if it’s desperately needed.

In general, the best advice on giving advice to a young adult is to hold your tongue unless your guidance has been requested. However, there are a couple exceptions.

It’s wise to speak-up if:

1) It’s about their health or safety. If you believe your young adult’s health or safety is at risk, it’s worth speaking up even if it puts a strain on your relationship. This doesn’t mean speaking your mind if they’re simply making choices that are different than the ones you’d make if you were in control – for example, staying out later than you’d like night after night or dating someone you don’t like. But it does mean saying something if you suspect that they are driving home drunk or if you have reason to believe they are in an abusive relationship.

2) Your money is at stake. How you spend your money is one thing that you have full control over. This doesn’t mean using your money to control things that are unrelated to finances. But if you are providing financial support, it makes sense for you to set ground rules about what you will and will not pay for, and it’s important that you speak-up if the agreement is not being honored. For example, if you’re footing the bill for college, and your student is not making reasonable progress towards graduation, voice your concern. Similarly, say something if your adult child is living at home until finding a job, and you notice that they’re not looking for work.

It will help your relationship if at the end of the conversation you acknowledge that the final decision is theirs. And that you’ll continue to love and care about them even if what they decide means that you can’t continue to support them financially.

If you need to say something, it doesn’t have to begin with advice. Consider beginning by asking questions, but don’t make it an interrogation. Instead, try to make the tone conversational. And as you listen, try to show genuine curiosity about how your young adult sees things.

If your young adult believes that you’ve listened, that you respect their right to have opinions that differ from yours, and that you recognize their interests and take them into account, they are much more likely to give your ideas a fair hearing.

Connecting Lines:
Record Modern Family and use it to connect with your kids – whether they’re teens or young adults. You might be surprised how much you’ll laugh together while watching and learn from each other in the conversations that follow.

Below are a few conversation starters for this episode:
– How would you feel if you were Haley and I acted like Claire and Phil did?
– Are there things I do that feel like meddling to you?
– Do you think there are some topics about which a parent should have a say? Do you know how I feel about this?
– If you needed some advice but didn’t want to ask me, who would you go to?

Sources and Resources: “Mistakes Parent Make that Push Adult Children Away” by Jeffrey Arnett, Ph.D. and When Will My Grown-Up Kid Grow Up?: Loving and Understanding Your Emerging Adult by Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, Ph.D. and Elizabeth Fishel; picture from ABC

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