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5 Words to Avoid When Addressing an Struggling Adult Child

Adult Child

This pertains to the detrimental effects that exerting pressure on an struggling adult child who is facing challenges can have on both their personal welfare and your bond with them. This present discourse examines the inverse aspect of communication. Particularly, that which mature adolescents prefer not to hear.

Jerry, who requested that I coach him on how to communicate more effectively with his 32-year-old adult son Will, is an example. To provide context, Will had been rejected from three institutions and was struggling to maintain employment of any kind. Additionally, Will was convinced that his excessive marijuana use was the only thing that could alleviate his anxiety. Jerry was justifiably apprehensive regarding Will’s capacity to succeed independently and attain self-reliance.

Jerry considered himself a “representative of reality” and found it puzzling that Will found his five-word query “What is your game plan?” to be so repugnant.

When it’s a struggling adult child, parents may inadvertently pose similar pressuring inquiries to them, which may have a comparable adverse effect despite not containing the exact five words. These consist of:

  • “So, when are you going to get a job?”
  • “Why haven’t you applied for a higher-level job?”
  • How long do you plan to avoid facing the real world?
  • “When are you going to get a job in your field?”
  • “Look at [peer’s or sibling’s name], they are doing so well. So, what about you?”
  • “Why did you choose that career path?”
In my coaching encounters with anxious parents, it has been observed that they frequently pose these pressuring inquiries out of fear, affection, anxiety, or a clumsily expressed desire to gain a deeper understanding of the lives of their struggling adult children. Now, let us examine the adverse consequences associated with these kinds of pressuring inquiries in greater detail.

7 Negative Consequences of Pressuring Your Struggling Adult Child

1. Increased Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety may increase as a result of pressure on the adult sibling who is struggling. It can be exceedingly difficult for them to manage the additional obstacles they are confronted with due to the overpowering pressure to meet particular standards or perform at a specific level. The son of a parent whom I coach expressed to her, “You seem to be striving to convince me that I must develop my independence. However, it is worth noting that your constant mention of my futile use of life’s resources truly terrifies me.

2. Strained Relationship

Frequent parental pressure, as elaborated in my book 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child, can impair the relationship between the struggling adult child and the parent who is exerting the pressure. This causes struggling adult children to feel unaccepted or misunderstood, which in turn causes resentment and estrangement in the relationship. It is my contention, for self-evident reasons, that comprehending our children may be even more vital than attempting to shower them with affection.

3. Negative Mental Health Effects

Persistent achievement pressure may contribute to depressive symptoms or low self-esteem, among other adverse mental health consequences. A number of adult offspring have confided in me that failure to meet expectations causes them to experience feelings of inadequacy and failure.

4. Reduced Motivation and Performance

Consider how unproductive you feel when you are forcibly directed to complete a task. Please consider how you genuinely feel when being instructed; furthermore, understand that excessive parental pressure can result in decreased motivation and performance among struggling adult children. Fear of failing or disappointing others can obstruct the thought process of an adult child, impeding their capacity to concentrate and persevere in their pursuits.

5. Impact on Decision-Making

Adult offspring may be adversely affected in their decision-making when subjected to excessive parental pressure. I have heard numerous dissatisfied struggling adult children lament that they chose particular careers, training programs, colleges, or even employment in an effort to appease their parents. In essence, adult children who experience pressure may be inclined to make decisions in opposition to their personal values and interests, in light of external expectations. This can result in feelings of discontentment and a sense of detachment from their authentic selves.

6. Impaired Self-Esteem

Constant parental pressure has the potential to undermine an adult child’s self-esteem, leading to uncertainties regarding their capabilities and value. The expression “You should…” by their parents to struggling adult children elicits in them the emotion of another word beginning with “sh.” This is the word “shame.” This may significantly impact their confidence and self-perception in the long run.

7. Resentment and Rebellion

In certain instances, pressure can induce resentment and even rebellion. Numerous adult offspring have resisted this pressure through self-destructive actions, in my experience. These symptoms encompass a pattern of sleeping in late, substance use that becomes problematic, and the development of a denial and deceptive lifestyle, all of which are detrimental or even counterproductive.

Following an examination of ineffective strategies, we shall now delve into methods for maintaining a supportive voice that encourages your struggling adult child to feel validated rather than constrained.

Helpful Ways For Parents To Express Support

Advocacy and support should be employed in the approach towards adult offspring who are encountering difficulties, as opposed to exerting pressure. By providing them with encouragement, open communication, and understanding, it may be possible to assist them in overcoming obstacles and striving for positive change. Seeking the counsel of mental health professionals, if deemed necessary, can furnish supplementary resources and support.

Regarding the circumstances of a struggling adult child, one must communicate with sensitivity and compassion. Rather than approaching them with directive or condescending inquiries like “What is your game plan?” proceed with the conversation with a collaborative and supportive mindset. The following are some suggestions:

Express Empathy

Commence by demonstrating compassion and comprehension. For instance, “Lori, I am cognizant of the formidable obstacles that you are confronting. I am deeply concerned for your well-being, notwithstanding the potential for our approaches to diverge in certain aspects.

Create a Safe Space

Ensure that dialogues occur in an environment that is both secure and free from judgment. One could suggest, “Kevin, how about we take a stroll together? I am eager to gain insight into your viewpoint and determine how I can communicate in a manner that is constructive rather than critical or derogatory.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

In lieu of inquiring about their “game plan” explicitly, employ open-ended inquiries that prompt them to divulge their thoughts and emotions. For instance:

– “How have you been feeling about your current situation?”

– “What is going well and not so well given the challenges you’re facing right now?”

Active Listening

Active attentiveness is difficult to practice for anxious parents. In addition to simply hearing the words of your adult child, active listening entails making an effort to comprehend their sentiments and underlying concerns.

Demonstrate actively listening and comprehension by contemplating what you have heard. You might additionally state, “There is a part of me that wants to give you advice but I’d rather you get the things that are bothering you off your chest.”

Avoid Judgments

A considerable number of parents encounter difficulty in avoiding passing judgment or offering unsolicited advice. Please bear in mind that the objective is to comprehend the viewpoint of your struggling adult child and provide them with support, not to impose your own preconceived notions regarding their proper course of action.

It is essential, despite the fact that it is difficult for all of us to do so as parents, that if we do reveal our values, it does not appear as though we are imposing them. One might articulate, “Notwithstanding our divergent perspectives on certain matters, I highly regard the candid manner in which you are communicating with me.” I am endeavoring to maintain the awareness that although we may confront obstacles in some similar ways, we do so in other ways as well.

Offer Support

Communicate to your adult offspring that you are available to provide any assistance they may require. This support may consist of practical assistance (within reason), emotional support, or facilitating their access to resources.

Set Realistic Goals

Construct collaboratively attainable and practical short-term objectives. It is possible to alleviate the sense of being overwhelmed by a situation by decomposing formidable obstacles into more manageable components.
Read More: Stop Negative Self-Talk: 10 Strategies to Quiet Your Inner Voice

Final Thoughts

Bear in mind that each struggling adult child is unique, and your approach to them may differ depending on the circumstances at hand and the nature of your relationship with them. Facilitating collaboration and open communication is crucial. To conclude, I would like to emphasize that in my more than thirty-three years of experience as a psychologist, I have never received a complaint from an struggling adult child regarding their parents’ excessive display of empathy.