Your Adult Child Seems Lost. How Can You Help?

You are painfully aware that your parenting was not perfect. You may have failed to pay attention when your son or daughter needed it most. Before you can deal with the upset, you need to get a handle on what might be fueling the behavior. You know intuitively there are distortions that fuel negative emotions, but can’t quite put your finger on specifics. To get some idea of what may may be going on in your adult child’s mind, and for a few possible tips, click here.

As you soul search, you recognize that despite your blunders, you offered a loving, protective, supportive, safe environment for sharing as you encouraged self-reflection and, for the most part, provided the attention your child(ren) needed to make it through adolescence and early adulthood. You may be at a loss as to what went wrong . . .

Perhaps your offspring accomplished important goals, earned credentials necessary to become self-supportive in a healthy, positive career or occupation. Your child, now grown, doesn’t need to sell illegal drugs or his/her body on the street to make ends meet. And yet, something is more than ‘a bit off.’  Why does that self-sufficient individual continue to send mixed messages regarding his/her life?

You scratch your head in utter confusion because you are on an emotional roller coaster. One day you receive a text, phone call or email from your adult child stating how wonderful everything is, how enlightened s/he has become, and how much sense everything makes all of a sudden. S/he may even state, “I forgive you for all the errors you made in my upbringing. I now know you did your best,” but then, three days later, you receive another communication accusing you of dysfunctional parenting techniques 15 or 20 years ago which were/are “the reasons for” poor decision making/ unhappiness/ dissatisfaction today (on the part of the adult child).  What is going on?

Is this a true borderline personality disorder (BPD) [click here for details about that] or something that can be easily handled by a heartfelt email?

Consider BPD if the following email approach, (with words that reflect YOUR situation), doesn’t encourage more consistent positive, open, heartfelt communication and/or help the adult child seek help from a well trained mental health professional:

Dear (daughter or son),

So far, you have already accomplished a great deal in life.  You are:

  • living your dream (in the mountains, with monkeys in trees, cats in the wild, on a lake, an exotic island etc)
  • a professional in your own right; respected by colleagues (if true)
  • self supportive; able to pay your own rent, lease a car etc. (if this applies)
  • healthy  (if this applies) or
  • on the road to recovery (etc . . .)

You have:

  • parents (and/or siblings, grandparents etc – whatever applies) who love & respect you (hopefully this is true, if not, perhaps hold off on the email for now and self-reflect regarding your true goals for this relationship)
  • a full time career that you enjoy (if this applies)
  • an open mind that embraces . . . (list whatever applies, or just leave it out)
  • the potential to be a (wonderful electrician, mechanic, powerful healer, carpenter, surgeon etc . . . whatever applies)

Life has taught me:

  • Adulthood is a process – not a destination.
  • Happiness is not a station we arrive at; it is a manner of traveling.
  • We live & learn. Personal choice: perpetuate or let go of toxic patterns
  • We grow    (a) when centered and      (b) only if we are able to hear the inner wisdom that guides us.
  • Degree of wisdom is demonstrated by choices we make.
  • Maturity is not age related.  It is spirit related.

Your last email to / correspondence with (whatever applies) me/us reflected:

  • spitting of venom; tremendous pain
  • words that were harsh on yourself and on your parents (or siblings, aunts, uncles, etc.  whatever applies)
  • a wonderful awakening: you clearly identified WHY you have made certain choices. Now, you need to decide how you are going to use the information.

Healthy, happy people:

  • embrace centered people who love them unconditionally
  • do not alienate people who truly love and respect them
  • surround themselves with other healthy, centered people with whom they are patient, and share as well as demonstrate mutual respect
  • spend time with people by whom they feel valued and respected
  • draw boundaries to keep toxic energy sucking/ venom-spitting people OUT while inviting those who create safe spaces for honest ‘non-victim sharing’ IN
  • don’t see themselves as victims; they ‘rise above’ once they discover answers to “why did/ why do I . . .?”
  • spread spiritually peaceful positive energy to ALL they encounter 
  • don’t unite with people by splitting or speaking ill of others
  • do not invite, join or live the villain/ victim/ savior scenario
  • self-reflect fairly; avoid harsh judgment; recognize there is a lesson in all we experience (and apply the lessons to present and future life)
  • are generous of spirit – forgiving others and themselves while keeping toxic, destructive, dysfunctional words & behavior OUT of one’s energy field

Bottom lines:

  • Once aware of WHY we made/make certain choices, we can use that awareness to defend errors OR use the awareness as inspiration to get over and dissolve toxicity to make healthy, productive, joyful choices in the future. 
  • Decisions and choices are always up to the individual.
  • Healthy adults keep the gems and toss the burdensome stones.
  • Life is a gift to be appreciated and enjoyed with positive energy. 
  • You deserve to be peaceful, centered and happy. So far, you have found happiness in spurts. (state this only if this is true)
  • I’m confident that as you continue to embrace a healing path, your correspondence will reflect more consistent joy and less venom.

It seems you confuse “reaching out and attacking your (list what applies . . . parents, brother, aunt . . . )” with “reaching out and creating a safe space for sharing.” This deserves your attention so that you can have healthy communication with friends, a spouse and your children in years to come. I hope you find your joy.

I trust you will see all the answers once ready, as you continue your healing process at your own pace.

You are loved and blessed with so much to be proud of.  I am very proud of you for the person you are deep inside. (Again, only if true; if it is not true, reevaluate your personal goals for this relationship)

I love you,
(Your relationship position: Uncle Joe, Mom, Grandma, Dad etc. You get the idea)

About the Author: Dr. Iankowitz is an ANCC board certified advanced practice nurse, Director of Holistic and Integrative Healing LLC, a certified Reiki practitioner, editor and author of several articles and books, and founder of Universe’Secretary.

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