It is difficult to help adult children who make poor choices. They have big adult bodies but seem to respond in immature childish ways.Their poor choices makes it hard to quell our parental urges to fix it. But as caretakers, we need to step back from our immediate response and let them take responsibility for their choices and express faith in them to change their situation.
How you can help:
- Ask curiosity questions about the situation. “How do you feel about that? What are you going to do about that?” “What would you do differently next time?”
- Show empathy, relate to their experience and the emotion it evoked. You need to balance becoming a participant in their world and an observer of their world. You are a loving helper, not a magician.
- Validate, validate, validate—non-judgmental compassion is essential. Work on your active listening skills.
- Reinforce belief in their abilities. “You can do hard things.” “I have faith in you.”
- Be open to the ways you inadvertently reinforce their poor choices. Remind yourself it is normal to feel helpless. It is ok to admit this without shame.
- Realize the difference between complaining that relieves tension and complaining that reinforces it.
- An aloofness or indifferent attitude is far more harmful than admitting to an inability to do more.
- Tag team—use a friend or a another relative to step in when you are worn out.
- Take care of your self. Remember to laugh and play!
1. They are doing the best they can in the moment.
2. They can change and improve their future.
3. They are adults; they do possess the ability to solve their problems. Trust them.
Camille Curtis Fosterfirstname.lastname@example.org
NOTE: If your family member has a substance abuse problem check out your local alnon.
If they have mental health issues find your therapist or support group.
Additional References: Don’t Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor
Additional posts on listening: http://www.utahmentalhealthservices.com/emotional-reflection-exercises/