Therapy for both parents and adult child can be useful. It often is. It may be a first step to help us understand ourselves, our adult children’s problems, and the family system or culture that contributed to the problems we face.
If you’re a parent who is unhappy about your adult child’s choices in life, you need a safe place. This is especially so when your mental or physical health and overall well-being is already being affected. In many cases, therapy becomes an only way to get support to cope with the feelings of shame and embarrassment inherent in the situation.
Shocked, stunned, and scared! That’s how a mother and father reacted when they knew of their 35-year-old son’s addiction to drugs. When I asked them, what they did, they said they immediately rushed in to “rescue.” They brought him back home, provided for him and his family, and reverted back to treating him like a child.
Well-meaning as it was for them, the parents’ over-involvement with their addicted adult son came close to sabotaging his rehabilitation. Only after a week back home, his son got arrested by the police for using and selling shabu in the neighborhood. The son is now in jail, awaiting a program of drug rehabilitation.
I can’t imagine the deep emotional pain these parents are going through. While they had their best intentions for their son’s good, they’re just really “enabling” his addiction. Taking control over their son’s out-of-control life took away the responsibility to solve problems that rightfully belongs to him. Instead, they put that responsibility, on them.
The truth is, our adult children have the right to live their own lives. Whether to save or squander it, it’s up to them. As Simone de Beauvoir tells us, “we must recognize their liberty, even in failure.” We are not the source of that right. It’s one we can not take away from them.
No matter what happens to our adult children, we parents need to take care of ourselves. We may always offer help to them that’s wise and appropriate. But in most cases, our self-care and “doing nothing” seems best. It may be all we need to do.
As we take care of ourselves as parents, when and if our adult children become ready to receive real help, we’re capable of giving the right kind.