I have been counseling and coaching parents of struggling adult children for over thirty years. Many emails are sent to me from parents reaching out when I write posts about dependent adult children. These are usually heart-wrenching stories about adult children who are failing to thrive.
I hear many anxiety-laden stories from parents who understandably do not want their adult child to experience emotional pain, financial strain, or any other form of discomfort. Complicating matters, many parents feel they have failed when considering those adult children who can’t, or are unwilling to support themselves.
Before I go further, it is important to bear in mind that struggling adult children are not a homogenous group. Some adult children may have dropped out of school. Others may have been able to master a trade or hold a job, and then withdrew from the world of work. Others may have not been able to be successful in college. Some adult children may have been successful in college but were not able to successfully function in the workplace. There also are adult children who function poorly due to mental health issues or substance abuse.
What are parents of adult struggling children to do amidst worrying over their emotional health and financial self-sufficiency? On the one hand, there may be scenarios in which financial support of adult children is not only warranted, but necessary. On the other hand, letting your adult child struggle, and even fail, may spur them to take on more responsibility to succeed. .
Clearly, each situation where an adult child struggles to become self-reliant is different and there are no easy answers.
Words of Wisdom from a Adult Child
A few months ago I wrote a related post about parents finding it helpful to say seven words to their adult children which were: “I think you’ll feel better if you…..”
Many readers emailed me that those seven words are far more supportive than saying something negative with the word, “better” such as, “You better” [get a job, contribute to our mortgage, e.g.]
Yet one young adult reader wrote me and suggested his own seven words for parents to say to their adult children. These are:
“How can we work together to improve…”
These words suggested by this young adult reader have a positive, collaborative tone. It is understandable for parents and adult children to become embroiled in spoken and unspoken power struggles. But when parents take a more calm, firm, and non-controlling approach when communicating with their adult child, there will be less emotional reactivity and more ability to connect and problem solve in more effective ways.
In short, avoid being adversarial when engaging your adult child who is struggling. Instead, be positive, supportive, and collaborative and notice how your relationship likely becomes less strained. And as another huge benefit, discover new, shared understandings!
I provide phone coaching to parents who feel stuck in managing their adult children. For strategies that young adults can use to lower anxiety, check out my newest book, Mindfulness for Teen Worry: Quick and Easy Strategies to Let Go of Anxiety, Worry, and Stress
For more information, please visit drjeffonllne.com