Sunday, June 28, 2009

Helping adult children help themselves: is it too late? For Anon.

Awhile back, Anonymous commented on my Helping Children Help Themselves post. Anon. had some questions I wanted to prepare myself to answer, but I am only now getting around to answering them. Hopefully Anon. will read this, and hopefully it will help. Sorry it took me so long to respond! Let it be known I am not a certified therapist or counselor, I don't have adult children, and I'm just an opinionated person who took lots of classes and got a BS in a marriage and family related major. Please, if anyone reading this is more qualified or wiser than I am, contribute your thoughts in the comments.

So, what do you do to make up for the past?

Well, it's easy as a parent to look into a mirror and see a distorted perspective like we're at a carnival fun house. Have we made mistakes? Sure. Are they as big or as bad as we think they are? Maybe, but it's also possible that we're horriblizing our role in the problem.

A wise leader said, "The first thing you should understand is that you can’t go back and begin where you once were. But all is not lost. You can begin where you are. Choose to begin your [change] now."

You can't go back and fix the mistakes in the past, but you can acknowledge them and then learn from them and do what you can not to repeat them. It is never too late to improve yourself as a parent by learning to set and keep boundaries.

My daughter is now 19 and and lacks the motivation to even take advantage of opportunities that are given to her.

I'd try and figure out the root reason your daughter is lacking in motivation. Is it because she's too comfortable living off of someone else's (usually your) hard work? Is there a factor of drug or alcohol abuse? Peer pressure? Low self-esteem? Learning disorders? There are lots of possibilities, so it's up to you to try and figure out the underlying problem. You must come to a realization that your 19 year old daughter is ultimately responsible for how she responds to your changes and efforts.

She will probably test your resolve to change, push your buttons, lay the guilt on thick. It's up to you to keep in mind that you love her, and because you love her you will maintain the new boundaries. Always respond with love in your heart rather than anger. A great, great book(s) to read is Leadership and Self-deception and/or Bonds that Make us Free. Bonds is much longer, but it is geared more to a family situation where as leadership is an easy read set more for corporate. They both say a lot of the same stuff.

I am not rich and struggled to obtain a school loan for her (which I agreed to help her pay off) The school is in another state (where her boyfriend lives). I receive updates from her all the time about how school is going only to find out that she hasn't even been attending classes and has now been dropped from the program.

Honestly, I don't know much about loans and/or the terms of your loan. If you're a co-signer on her loan, I would imagine that regardless of her decisions you'll have to continue paying or your credit will be shot. If you were not a co-signer on her loan, and the agreement to help out was only verbal, I would definitely have a talk to her about your terms for helping out. The loan is for school. If she is not in school, she does not receive help. I would also make sure she understands how it will effect her credit rating and why that is important to worry about. Also, help does not mean you'll just pay it all. In my opinion, she needs to be responsible for at least half.

She is not working and stays at home all day with the dogs doing nothing. I don't get it. Is cutting her off financially the only option left.

Think of it as a weening process. You wouldn't want your baby to breastfeed forever now would you? The thought of it is absurd; it is just as absurd to think that you should financially support a capable adult the rest of his/her life.

It's up to you to decide if cold turkey or gradual weaning will be best for your situation. I would set terms and conditions for your financial help, should you decide a gradual approach. "If you get a job, get back in school, and contribute to your situation, then I will help with X amount each month." Never, never, never let them have full access to your bank account. Help her understand the dangers of credit card debt. Also have a plan that she is fully aware of (and stick to it) for when you will no longer contribute to her financial situation. She probably won't find a job overnight, but she can find one in a couple of months, even if it is fast food, retail, etc.

I try to guide her in positive directions but she refuses to help herself. If I have unintentionally instilled this in her, is there anything I can do to reverse the damage done. Any thoughts here?

All you can do is guide and direct to good paths. As to reversing the damage done, I'd say stop rescuing her. It's kind of the sink or swim theory. It is within her power to do both. Keep coaching, loving, guiding, and teaching (these do not equal nagging) about how to be a responsible adult. But she has the opportunity to choose to help herself or to choose to sink. It's possible she will sink, but that is her choice. It's a painful one to watch. It may be pretty rocky in the beginning and then level out. With age and maturity she might get it and start to do something productive and responsible. She honestly may not. Her ultimate success is not your responsibility. Your responsibility is to help guide and direct her to better paths, continually love her, and support her good decisions.

1 comment:

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