Opinion: Introducing “Dear Susi Q”

Kathleen “Kay” Wenger is clinical supervisor of behavioral health programs at the Susi Q Senior Center. Photo courtesy of Laguna Beach Seniors

An Exclusive to The Independent

“Dear Susi Q,” brought to you by nonprofit Laguna Beach Seniors, is intended to provide a helpful bi-monthly advice column for readers on matters including relationships, retirement, home safety, transportation, mental/physical health, and local entertainment and educational resources. It’s “Dear Abby” for the Laguna Beach crowd.
Qualified staff, support group leaders, and volunteers stand ready to answer your questions, so please send them to [email protected] We can’t wait to help.
No identifying names will ever be used. Some questions, such as today’s, may be a composite of several submitted.

Dear Susi Q,
My adult child, 50, recently got divorced and is living with me, at my suggestion. However, now I feel like I’m losing my independence. He’s treating me as if I’m a child. He wants to know where I’m going and when I’ll be back. He’s hyper-vigilant about my health, what I eat, how much exercise I do. I know it comes from a place of love, but I can take care of myself! I don’t want to hurt his feelings. How do I handle this? — Frustrated

Dear Frustrated,
Yours is an increasingly common dilemma, especially since the pandemic. I’ve found that family dynamics don’t change much over the years—in fact, I know of a situation where a 102-year-old, her 80-year-old daughter, and her 60-year-old granddaughter living together found themselves repeating the same familial patterns, much to their combined annoyance.
I suggest sitting down with your son and having a conversation about boundaries. It’s important to set expectations when sharing a home, no matter who your roommate might be.
Let him know that you are comfortable with the way you have organized your life and home. Co-create an agreement, preferably in writing, which might include appropriate times to have friends over; sharing the TV; who cooks and cleans up and when; privacy needs; neatness; financial contributions; and more. Don’t say, “we’ll see how it all works out”—make sure that you are firm when you state your requirements. It’s your home, after all.
This is often easier said than done. If you can’t afford a therapist and need one, please know that the Susi Q offers a “Feeling the Blues” program funded by grants and run by therapists highly qualified in family counseling and relationships. Just click on thesusiq.org/support-services-catalog.html for more information.
Your agreement can always be revisited and revised but it will provide a strong basis for amicable co-habitation with your son! All the best moving forward.

— Kathleen “Kay” Wenger, LMFT, LPCC, Clinical Supervisor, Behavioral Health Programs

Editor’s Note: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. Use of this column is not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice.

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