Ask Amy: How can I stop constantly worrying about my adult children?

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dear Amy: You often mention the need to practice “compassionate detachment”, especially with adult children. I need advice on how to make this change.

There’s a saying that being a parent is like having your heart wander the world without you, and it’s so true. As a mother who is “as happy as my most unhappy child”, I struggle with this all the time.

I’ve really gotten better at not offering unsolicited advice and feedback, but I constantly worry about the choices they make and feel their pain perhaps even more intensely than they do ( and often long after).

The situation is compounded by the fact that one of my adult children has significant mental health issues. It’s to the point that I often wake up in the middle of the night worrying.

Do you have any techniques or books you would recommend that would help me develop greater compassionate detachment?

Concerned: You probably remember the old Dunkin’ Donuts ad: “It’s time to make the donuts!”

Your adult children are having a negative experience, and your mommy brain is saying, Ding! It’s time to make the donuts! And either you take action or you fall into worry mode (or both).

Developing loving and compassionate detachment is a process that involves a certain amount of realistic self-assessment. Some people are more prone to worry than others. And any time your child is dealing with serious health issues, it will trigger a wave of concern.

It helps to realistically ask yourself what your worries are for. Does your fretting serve your children, ease their pain or soothe their wounds? Does it make you (or them) stronger or more resilient? Does it make you a better person or parent, or is it better suited to serve your highest purpose?

No. Worrying diverts your mind and saps your strength. Worry expresses a parent’s burning desire to control the outcome, even though they know they can’t.

If you truly understand and accept your helplessness; If you accept that other adults have the right to make choices, even bad ones, you’ll find that often the most powerful thing you can do is respect others through their challenges.

I often imagine this powerful process of witnessing as holding hands and walking together – neither leading nor being led. Letting go of your need to worry is liberating, even for the person you are worrying about.

And once you truly understand that you don’t have to do the donuts, you’ll experience your sweetest relationships in a new way.

Persuasive teachers who will help you overcome these feelings and impulses are: Pema Chodron, Brene Brown and Glennon Doyle. All have several books and video teachings available.

dear Amy: Several years ago, longtime friends ghosted us. No argument precipitated this event.

I asked what was wrong and was told that she and her husband “decided to travel alone because they are fuddie-duddies”.

We had vacationed together for years and there was no change in the way we made the arrangements. They totally cut us off after that and there has been no contact since.

A recent photo on social media showed the spouse looking quite frail, like he was on chemo. I don’t know if I should reach out, because I’m not sure — or if I should leave things as they are.

Friend: If you are connected with this couple on social networks, you have a channel through which to communicate.

Yes, I think you should reach out. You don’t need to refer to this spouse’s frail appearance, but you can message them saying, “I just saw a picture of ‘George’ on FB and it made me think of you and remind me of some of our times together. I hope you are both well and I encourage you to contact me if you ever wish to be in touch.

dear Amy: Regarding the letter of “Proud Daughter of a Veteranthe National Cemetery Administration (part of Veterans Affairs) has a new process to help veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors plan burials with military honors.

Here is the website:

— Ted Wong, Branch Manager-CX Communications Support, Office of Veterans Experience

Ted: Thanks! To clarify – this site helps families determine eligibility. It is not necessary to register before the death of a veteran.

©2022 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency

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