Ask Amy: Sons’ calls trigger mom’s anxiety

Dear Amy: I have trouble insulating myself from the anxiety caused by my young adult sons’ life issues. They are 21 and 26 years old.

I’ve done what I could as a mom to raise independent adults. They are doing well for the most part (the younger still in college), but we are close and they confide in me. This can really send me into a tailspin.

Our older son has chosen a lifestyle that is built around being outdoors, but his work can be sporadic and he can be very scattered.

I believe he may have some depression and doesn’t always take his meds for his ADHD. But I’m glad he confides in me, and I prompt him to take care of himself.

Our younger son has chosen an extremely competitive academic and professional path. He seems to have built in good options for himself, but recently he had a fender bender in the car, and I worry about him.

My anxiety about my sons really impacts me on a daily basis, and is not healthy. (My husband does not worry like this.)

I worry about their futures and their ability to become the people they want to become, have successful careers, and support themselves.

Any words of wisdom?

— Worried Mom

Dear Worried: First for the sharp shock: You will thrill to your kids’ victories and worry over their defeats for the rest of your life.

Relationships with your children represent life’s longest game, and so you have to find healthy ways to pace yourself — otherwise your heart will stop every time your phone rings, and you’ll have a panic attack over every fender bender.

Mind you, the only thing worse than the phone ringing, is the phone NOT ringing, and in that regard you have an enviable relationship with these young men.

The fact that they honestly share their trials and concerns with you means that they will likely be good partners and parents if they choose that path.

When your sons share (or overshare) about challenges in their lives, ask yourself: Do I need to act? Am I being asked to do anything?

You should then focus on your anxious reactions. Talking it through with a therapist could help; I would also suggest paying close attention to how your body feels when you are getting anxious. Does your breath quicken, does your heart race?

Controlling your breathing can help you to mitigate some of these symptoms and let some of these feelings go.

Also remember: Your sons will fall. They will fail. Their paths to “success” may not look familiar to you.

Do they know how anxious you are? Being as honest with them as they are with you might inspire them to volunteer more reassurances, and fewer reasons to worry.

Dear Amy: I live in a popular winter vacation area, and I have guest(s) who invite themselves and stay for seven days.

They don’t want to do anything but enjoy the sunshine, so that leaves me cooking every meal.

I live far away from restaurants, so eating out every meal isn’t an option, plus when we do, I end up paying for everyone.

While I enjoy seeing them, I need some way to let them know that a three- to four-day stay is long enough.

They don’t think they are any trouble, but it’s too much for me.

What can I do without hurting their feelings or make them feel unwanted?

— Nervous

Dear Nervous: I receive so many questions about people who invite themselves for extended stays in others’ homes!

I’m going to assume that your annual guests might believe that they have a standing invitation because they’ve been doing this for so long.

You’ve been waiting on them for years now (and paying for their meals when you eat out)! They have NO incentive to do things differently.

You have feelings too! Perhaps it’s time for you to honor your own feelings.

You need to tell them: “A week-long stay is too much for me, now. I also no longer cook for people. I do want to see you, but let’s talk about ways to make your visits easier on me.”

Dear Amy: Like “Cleaning in Culver City,” who was going through old letters, I started going through old photos. I gave them to the people pictured in them. I think we all enjoyed these trips down “memory lane.”

— Photo Sensitive

Dear Photo Sensitive: Regarding old photos: Youthful looks are almost always appealing (or amusing). Youthful thoughts often lead to discomfort.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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