Tag Archives: Adult

Parenting Adult Children Today

Was it stressful sometimes having to change dirty diapers almost every two hours? It even worsened when your beloved child became a teenager; he or she used to be rebellious and gave you sleepless nights. Time flew by and now your “child” has grown into an adult. What happens when you realize he or she is making a serious mistake? Will you scold him/her like the teenager you used to have? I am certain this will ruin your cordial relationship with him/her.

Everybody wishes to have his/her adult child as their best friend, but this will not come easy, unless you recognize their status as adults and also learn to treat them with the same level of respect you will give to other adults. This will definitely strengthen the bond between you two. Now your child is ready to settle down but his/her choice of spouse makes you want to force some sense into their heads, so how do you handle such a situation? You may try to talk with your child about your concerns but please try to maintain a respectful tone to avoid seeing your own blood rebel against you! If talking it out with them will not help then you will have to accept the bitter reality, and just accept and respect the spouse.

Visiting your children at their homes will definitely put smiles on their faces, “your presence is more important than your presents”… but you will also have to inform them of your visit. This will definitely create a good environment between you and your child`s family. Making surprise visits may seem fun but also keep in mind that your child is now an adult and his/her privacy should be respected. If they are still living under your roof you may have to involve them in running the household. This does not mean that you should make them pay rent… letting them buy some groceries, utilities and sometimes pay the water bills will not break a bone.

Gone are the days when you used to have the final say! They are no longer small kids, therefore when having family discussions you will have to listen to what they have to say and respect their ideas. If you do not agree with any of their advices you will have to respectfully talk to them and try to nicely talk them into buying your ideas. Undertaking important issues concerning the family without informing them will definitely drive them away from you!

It reaches a point when your adult child will ask you for a loan. Remember you are their best friend! and they definitely count on you. So how do you go about it? If you are not in a position to help out just be honest about it… they are adults and they will understand. If you can swing it then be transparent about it and inform your other children. This will prevent sibling rivalry. Then set a repayment schedule. By granting them loans you are turning them into very independent people. Parenting adult children is much easier than handling teenagers. Despite their adult status, they will still be your babies, and you should lend a helping hand when needed.

How Can Adult Children Differentiate Guilt From Shame?

Based upon my seven-year recovery efforts in three twelve step programs, I have discovered that there are terms whose definitions are so closely related, that most would think that there was no difference between them. But there are and those differences, while subtle, can aid a person’s understanding of the effects of his dysfunctional upbringing. Here I refer to the terms “guilt” and “shame.”

When Harper Lee published the prequel to her Pulitzer Prize winning novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” in 2015, she entitled it “Go Set a Watchman.” That term, “watchman,” refers to everyone’s personal monitor, or conscience, which watches and assesses his misdeeds, whether they be lies, cheats, or injustices, and generates emotional, neurological, and physiological responses that are less than pleasant and settling, such fitful night sleeps, until the infraction is owned, confessed, and appropriate amends are made. In other words, the person feels “guilty.” And therein is the definition of the first of the two terms. Guilt is what a person feels for his misdeeds or infractions, provided his “watchman” is in working order. Experience has indicated that not all are.

Because alcoholism is a disease, it causes a malfunction of it, as toxins intercept the neuro-receptor links that otherwise alert a person of his actions and generate feelings of guilt. Add the unquestioned repetition of detrimental behavior on his own offspring he himself most likely experienced as a child, denial, ignorance, and the lack of remorseful, regretful, or empathical feelings that would ordinarily prompt him to correct his actions, and it ensures the perpetuation of intra-generational child abuse.

Although this parent’s conscience can be considered broken and beyond working order, that of his children, who helplessly field the chaos of their upbringings, also become faulty because of them.

When my own child abuse left me amiss to understand what I initially considered justifiable punishment for infractions I could never determine, it created a hairpin trigger in my brain, bypassing the reason for it (because there was none) and generating the guilt. I learned that I was guilty even when I was not.

“I grew up with guilt and blame, amidst harsh criticism and constant fear,” an Al-Anon Program member shared in its “Courage to Change “text (Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 1992, p. 120). “Even now, after years of recovery, when past mistakes come to mind, I tend to react with guilt, exaggerating the significance of my errors and thinking very badly of myself.”

Because of my own propensity toward this emotion, I accepted responsibility for the actions of others when I was in school or at work. If it was discovered that an error had been made, I flushed red, misbelieving that I had somehow caused it, when, in fact, I had not, and sometimes falsely led people into thinking that I had because of my very (faulty) reactions.

Reduced to the same powerless, voiceless child, even as an adult who had once been cultivated as a victim, and forced to accept the blame and burden my father could not, I was unable to defend myself against such apparent injustices.

“Before recovery, most adult children assume they are wrong whatever the situation might be,” according to the “Adult Children of Alcoholics “textbook (World Service Organization, 2006, p. 15). “If a mistake is make on the job, the adult child takes responsibility for it. If someone feels upset, we think we might have done something to cause the feelings in another… Because of our shaming childhoods, adult children doubt and blame themselves in a knee-jerk reaction that is predictable and consistent, yet rarely observed until recovery is encountered.”

It continues by emphasizing the absurdity of this dynamic (ibid, p. 115). “Many adult children doubt themselves, criticize themselves, and feel inadequate without much prompting. Who, (for example), could have his house burglarized and feel at fault for the burglary? An adult child! Who could feel guilty for asking someone blocking a driveway to move? An adult child!”

Contrasted with guilt, which is an unease or regret for a wrongful or neglectful act against another, shame is what an adult child feels for what he is-or at least believes that he is. His childhood is once again the culprit for this faulty reasoning.

“Being shamed by our parents or a relative represents the loss of being able to feel whole as a person,” the “Adult Children of Alcoholics” textbook advises (ibid, p. 200). “Shame tramples a child’s natural love and trust and replaces it with malignant self-doubt. With shame, we lose our ability to trust ourselves or others. We feel inherently faulty as a child. As adults, we can have a mistaken sense that something is wrong with us without knowing why… This represents a loss of feeling valued as a person by our family.”

Shame is thus the feeling-and mistaken belief-that a person is inherently flawed–that he is inferior, less-than, inadequate, defective, and not equal to others.

Demoralized by their upbringing and subjected to parental projections consisting of their own negative and inadequate feelings during some two decades of their upbringings, adult children soon adopt this misbelief.

But Al-Anon’s “Courage to Change” recognizes this as a distortion with an affirmation, which states, “Today I will love myself enough to recognize shame is an error in judgment” (op. cit., p. 57).

For an adult child, his ability to recognize his errors in judgement about both his pervasive feelings of guilt and shame, and the difference between the two, can immeasurably aid his recovery.

Sources:

“Adult Children of Alcoholics.” Torrance, California: World Service Organization, 2006.

“Courage to Change.” Virginia Beach, Virginia: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 1992.

Adult Children Come Home to Heal

Should you let an adult child come home again? Parents send their nearly grown children out to conquer the world and sometimes they bounce right back home. A parent’s goal is to teach their child to survive the best and the worst that life has to offer. Most young people are able to maintain a level of existence, sobriety and relationships that sustain them until they really know who they are and what they want to do with their lives.

However, sometimes life throws them a curve and they falter. Circumstances can hurt them, even bring them to their knees. A devastating break-up with a lover, flunking their first semester, an unexpected death of a best friend, or getting fired from his or her first real job can knock your child out of the game and take months to a year to recover.

Did you keep their childhood bedroom just the same? Perhaps this is the time to open the shades and prepare for a wounded visitor. Make it clear that the invitation is temporary but open your door widely and let them come home again. As irritating as they are to you and your spouse, remember that your little habits will irritate them, too. As they begin to recover their sea legs, they will want the freedom of their own place ASAP. If you want to encourages them to leave quickly after a few weeks recovery, begin to talk endlessly about developing a strong work ethic and new disciplined habits in place of blaming others for their situation or procrastination. Hopefully, they will soon be out seeking new adventures.

Help them improve their diet and sleep patterns. Try including fish oil and B vitamins daily to help them recharge their nerves and bodies. Less coffee and colas and more vegetables will help them with their mood. If your child seems to be getting worse or rarely leaves the house, antidepressants may be indicated. Get medical help immediately if your child seems despondent or suicidal.

Being mom or dad again may even heal your empty nest pain. Give them a safe haven for a little while away from the pressures of living fast and competitively. Soon, they will try to fly again, this time a little wiser, a little stronger and a bit more ready. Oh, and don’t redecorate that room just yet. They may be back.

What Do Expectations Mean to Adult Children?

While expectations, which can be equated to needed, hoped for, anticipated, or even pre-believed outcomes, are integral to everyone’s lives, those of adult children may hinge upon their very development as people.

Closer to unquestioned truths, these expectations begin in infancy and entail the basic caring, nurturing, and loving needs of sustenance, clothing, and protection. Viewing their parents as never betraying or harming, God-equivalent representatives, they are forced to place their lives and trust in them, since they are totally dependent upon them at this stage. Yet those who are in the hands of alcoholic, para-alcoholic, or dysfunctional caregivers, who themselves never resolved their upbringings, quickly learn the fallacy of their expectations.

“Turning to an alcoholic for affection and support can be like going to the hardware store for bread,” advises Al-Anon’s “Courage to Change” text (Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 1992, p. 2). “Perhaps we expect a good parent to nurture and support our feelings or a loving spouse to comfort and hold us when we are afraid or a caring child to want to pitch in when we are ill or overwhelmed. While these loved ones may not meet our expectations, it is our expectations (themselves), not our loved ones, that have let us down.”

Recently created by God, however, a young child expects the same unconditional love, seeing his parents in the equivalent light. If there is neglect, abandonment, or even worse, abuse, he is only likely to justify it as appropriate “discipline” for his own wrongs, flaws, or general unloveability and not because of my lack on their part-in other words, it is he and not them.

Because these expectations are more akin to fundamental needs at an early age, he may erroneously believe that it is somehow his responsibility to reach, influence, right, or repair his parents, shifting the burden from perpetrator to victim. And doing so may be the equivalent of penetrating a steel wall of denial with a plastic knife. Resultantly, any expectations of them prove futile, since alcoholism is a disease not influenced by means such as reason or logic.

Forced to function in a fight-or-flight survival mode, especially in the midst of an unpredictable, chaotic, and dangerous home environment, the person seeks internal safety by creating the cocooned inner child, but fails to develop into a secure, fully functioning adult. Left with the hole in his soul and very low self-esteem, he may expect little from himself, but a great deal from others later in life, especially since he views them through a distorted lens that deludes him into believing that they are somehow so much more than he in terms of value, stature, and importance.

But his illusion may soon be shattered in a fallen world. And while he may perceive them as superior, they are in their own imperfect, impermanent states.

Some of an adult child’s unmet expectations may result from the never-considered, but anticipated mind-reading ability of others. He cannot automatically expect them to know what his needs or wants are without verbalizing or demonstrating them, and it is unrealistic to expect any single person to meet all of them. As human beings with their own distractions, distortions, and deficiencies, they cannot be expected to focus on the needs of a single other.

“Before coming to Al-Anon, I spent most of my life having expectations of, and making unrealistic demands on, everyone around me,” according to a testimonial in “Hope for Today” (Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 2002, p. 180). “Anyone who didn’t follow through on those demands invited my wrath. However, of all those I placed under my jurisdiction, the person I was hardest on was myself.”

Perfectionism, one of the very adult child behavioral characteristics, is an attempt to fill the childhood-bored hole in the soul and compensate for the lack of parental attention, validation, praise, and love. A single error, such as the misspell of a word, for instance, may cause the person to rekindle his deeply ingrained belief of inferiority and inadequacy and blind him to his assuredly numerous strengths and positive qualities. There may be even a deeper reason, however.

“Perfectionism and forms of perfectionism exist in all types of alcoholic and dysfunctional homes,” according to the “Adult Children of Alcoholics” textbook (World Service Organization, 2006, p. 36). “There is a difference between parents challenging their children to reach higher and to improve, and the damaging perfectionism in which the bar keeps being raised beyond reason. (It) is a response to a shame-based and controlling home. The child mistakenly believes that she can avoid being shamed if she is perfect in her thinking and acting.”

Because home environments are considered early representations of what will occur in the world at large, adult children carry their traits and beliefs into it.

“I grew up with problem-drinking,” “Hope for Today” continues (op. cit., p. 22). “I carried the notion into adulthood that I must be perfect and that I was responsible for everyone. Of course, I never achieved this goal, which left me feeling less-than, not smart enough, not attractive enough, simply not good enough. To cope with my failure to achieve perfection, I focused on the character defects of those around me. My need to be perfect fed into my preoccupation with others.”

While professors, colleagues, and even acquaintances may view rule-adhering actions and achievements in a positive light, the person delivering them may be more of the human-doing versus human-being type and rigidly unreachable. His expectations that others will automatically like or even admire him may be unrealistic, predetermining his failure and enabling him to transfer blame from him to them because of it. Instead of perceiving how others should feel about him, he must amend his own attitudes toward them.

Despite the inherent help of twelve-step venues, they may carry their expectations into them.

“If I become impatient with myself, I can examine my expectations,” “Courage to Change” concludes (op. cit., p. 19). “Perhaps I expect recovery to happen overnight. I will take time today to acknowledge my efforts and to trust the process of the Al-Anon program.”

Expectations-or the playing in a person’s mind of outcomes that will not necessarily occur-can be investments in disappointments, frustration, and anger if they do not, and the strategy shifts the burden and blame from the faulty thinking process to the failure of others to meet the preconceived results. The higher the expectations, the greater will be the disappointment. Echoing what may be the subconscious attempt to influence or fix displaced parental representatives later in life, the methodology is just as unrealistic and ill-conceived. Yet the more whole a person becomes, the less likely will be his need to employ it.

Article Sources:

“Adult Children of Alcoholics.” Torrance, California: Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization, 2006.

“Courage to Change.” Virginia Beach, Virginia: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 1992.

“Hope for Today.” Virginia Beach, Virginia: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 2002.