We worried about them when they were toddlers; we had anxious moments when they started school; our hearts were thumping when they were learning to drive. Most of us thought we would sleep a deeper, sounder sleep when our kids became adults.
Researchers have come up with some interesting findings in that regard. Dads may lose more sleep over the adult kids than moms.
The study, which ran online in January in the Gerontologist, looked at data from interviews with 186 married couples who had two to three adult children. The underlying premise was that sleep problems in older adults are associated not only with a variety of negative physical and mental health problems but with relationship issues with their grown children. To compile comparable measures, researchers asked parents how often they provided different types of support to their grown kids. The list included almost every interaction we might have with our children--from talking about daily events to offering emotional support, practical help, advice and financial assistance. They also asked the parents to assess their sleeping.
The findings conclude that relationships with adult children have different associations for sleep quality among middle-aged husbands and wives. Overall, though, when it comes to worrying over supports for grown children, dad's are the bigger nail biters than moms--as measured by quality of sleep.
Here's what the study says:
...husbands’ more frequent support provided to their adult child was associated with less sleep, which validates the findings that support may be an indicator of caregiving (suggesting burden) rather than an indicator of a parent/child connection for fathers. When husbands provide more frequent support to adult children, it is often more need based than mothers, that is, it is in relation to life problems experienced by the adult child.... Thus, support may be more taxing for fathers making it more difficult for husbands to get a sufficient amount of sleep as a result of the time and energy demands related to giving such support.
The researchers see their study as a way of fine tuning sleep therapy for parents of grown children. We may see it as confirmation of what we already know: The kids may be grown--they may have kids of their own--but being their parent never ends. We are, as the old saying goes, only as happy as our unhappiest kid. Even if that kid is forty.