This week’s journal writing prompts deal with the fact that most of us are either grown children, parents of grown children, or both. (Those of you who are none of the above may choose to engage your imaginations for this discussion.) The parent-child relationship is complicated by its never-ending quality; at sixty, you’re still the child of your eighty-year-old parents. And, though it occurs in less-intimate quarters (most of us don’t live with our parents at that age, or vice versa), the quality of our relationships doesn’t usually change all that much. If we had combative relationship with our parents when we were young, that dynamic is often — not always — still in play when we get older. And, if our children tended to be overly dependent or too distant in their teens and early twenties, it’s likely that not much has changed.
Yet, how often do we explore our own roles in those relationship dynamics?
Try the following prompts:
- Make a list of 10 similarities between you and your parents and, if you have grown children, make separate lists of similarities between you and each of your children. Try to consider things you might not have thought about before.-
When I created the above picture, I combined images of my mother throughout her life with my own portrait. I also overlapped two of our pictures, matching the eyes. When I animated a merge of the two portraits, I discovered — to my great surprise, since I had always thought our features as quite different — that my mother and I had the same eyes. This cause me to consider other similarities I had not considered before.
- What, in your opinion are your parents’ best and worst qualities, and why do you consider them so? Likewise, what are your children’s best and worst qualities and why?
- Since we cannot recognize qualities in others that we do not also have within us to varying degrees, write about how your parents’ and/or children’s best and worst qualities manifest themselves in you: how have they shown up in your life? Do you struggle with them? What would happen if you made peace with those qualities in yourself?
- Freewrite for ten minutes about what it means to be a grown child. Then, if appropriate to your situation, freewrite for ten minutes about what it means to be a parent of grown children.
- Describe your ideal relationship with your parents. Now, describe your ideal relationship with your grown children. Where are the correlations between these two types of relationships? Do you expect different things of parents and children?
- Thinking about those ideal relationships, if you could do anything differently in your relationships with your parents and your grown children, what would it be?
- What do you think of the following quote? In the United States today, there is a pervasive tendency to treat children as adults, and adults as children. The options of children are thus steadily expanded, while those of adults are progressively constricted. The result is unruly children and childish adults. (Thomas Szasz, psychiatrist) Do you agree or disagree and why? If you agree, what has your role been in this scenario?
As always, I invite you to leave a comment. What do you think of this topic for journal writing?