I’m that mom. The one who sneaks in one last look at my tiny humans fast asleep before bed. If I don’t, I can’t sleep.
I sleep on the side of our oversized queen bed nearest to the door so I can hear if one of our boys needs me in the middle of the night.
I’m constantly chatting with teachers and children’s volunteers about how they are doing emotionally, physically and mentally when I’m not there.
Some chalk it up to #momlife, but it’s just plain worrying. I naively hope it lessens after they become adults, but a recent study said that’s not likely to happen.
Once a parent, always a parent
What’s that nursery book saying again?
“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” – Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
According to a study published in The Gerontologist Journal, older adults worry about their grown children now with the same level of stress as they did while raising them.
To the point of losing sleep, still.
What did the study include?
Penn State York lead author Amber J. Seidel and her team analyzed data collected from 186 heterosexual married couples in their late 50’s who had two to three adult children.
Her team asked parents to rate different types of support they offered their children. It included support ranging from financial to emotional.
They were then asked to rate how stressful each support was on them by Seidel’s research team. It ranged from “not at all” to “a great deal.”
Seidel’s team finally asked the couples about the amount of sleep they got on average a night during supportive events.
- Wives reported roughly 6.6 hours a night
- Husbands reported roughly 6.69 hours a night
The amount of sleep loss depended on who provided the support to the adult child, according to Seidel’s team.
Women experience higher levels of sleep loss
Husbands’ sleep loss only occurred when it was a highly stressful supportive role, which he provided and not his wife, according to the study results.
However, wives reported greater sleep loss in every event the couple provided supportive roles to adult children, including when she provided the support and not her husband.
Supportive roles provided to adult children caused two different reasons for sleep loss in a couple according to the study.
- Men: The support itself affected sleep loss
- Women: Stress over the support affected sleep loss
Seidel said this study helps to understand how families continue to be “a central part of our lives throughout adulthood.”
Social media may be the cause
Although, now, in a separate study, Seidel’s team discovered the amount of social media interaction with grown children affected parents’ stress levels.
She said the trend, along with advancing technology in cell phones and social media, gave parents deeper unsolicited insight into their adult children’s lives.
Her team offered these five ways to reduce stress in order to get a good night’s sleep:
- Develop healthy eating habits
- Exercise regularly
- Exhibit mindfulness
- Join community support groups
- Seek out therapy
According to the study, the level of involvement in adult children’s lives or how they perceive their child is receiving the support can also affect sleep.
Seidel suggests parents allow their adult children to bring up issues. Not everything they post online is necessarily a stressor for them.