parents to the end

Parenting Adult Children for Your Peace of Mind and Their Accountability

Friday Food for Thought: Great Expectations Part V

Posted on December 19, 2014 | No Comments

by Linda Herman, LMHC

With just one more Friday left in 2014 after today, my series featuring the Twelve Truths for Parents of Adult Children continues.  In many families, the expectations for holiday get-togethers far exceed the reality of what actually occurs. Whatever your situation, you may find some merit in considering the “truths” from my book, Parents to the End: How Baby Boomers Can Parent for Peace of Mind, Foster Responsibility in their Adult Children and Keep Their Hard-Earned Money.

Starting four weeks ago, I have featured two “truths” per week. Thus far, the following eight have been discussed:

  1. Love does not conquer all. 
  2. Doing more and more for others will not bring love and respect.
  3. Loving and liking your adult child are not the same thing.
  4. It is neither possible nor prudent to treat all your children equally at all times.
  5. Guilt-making does not improve relationships.
  6. Adult children need to feel “heard” before they will listen.
  7. Sometimes the loving thing to do is to let your child experience unpleasant consequences.
  8. You cannot choose your child’s partner.

Here are the next two:

  1.  Only you can decide how long to “hang in there.”

As parents we never want to give up on our children. We think that to do so is a sign of abandonment. For parents who are struggling with how long to hang in there with a challenging young adult, their situation produces anguish. On the one hand, some well-meaning family members and professionals advocate a “tough love” approach: “Let him hit bottom; it may be good for him.” At the same time, others tell them to just keep loving that child. What is a parent to do?


The answer is one that only the parents can give. They, not the professionals or extended family, have to live with the results of their decision. Parents who have reached their limit, have usually exhausted emotional, physical and financial resources before deciding to halt their efforts. I tell them that at that point in time, their grown child is just unable or unwilling to take their assistance. It is okay to shift their efforts from healing a child to healing themselves.


  1.  Disagreement may be a sign of emotional growth.

Parents of teens who have been previously compliant become upset when that young person begins challenging them.  In some families, this happens quite early (preteens or early teens); in others it happens later. Since I am always looking for the healthy things that are going in a family, I keep that in mind when trying to understand a situation. When the disagreement is relatively mild, it can be more easily absorbed by the parents. But when it is moderate to “full force”, it is harder to understand and take.

As young people work at “the dance of differentiation”, as I call it in Parents to the End, they will increasingly have views contrary to those of their parents.  Be careful not to look at this as a bad thing.  It can be a sign of their growth. Consider your child’s developmental stage and temperament when such actions occur.

So, when you gather at the holiday dining table, and the political disagreements begin, remember that your child may be doing some healthy and normal work in his development. As always, there is a line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Don’t tolerate actions that are rude or abusive.

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