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What Parents Can Do to Support Their Adult Children Struggling With Mental Health

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We all wish to keep our children safe; however, we can’t control everything in their lives, and as they grow older and chase their independence, they often fall victim to stress, depression, and anxieties. As young adults struggle to cope, they often fall victim to poor life choices and mental illness. Millions of parents struggle every day to deal with their adult children who are ailing from mental illness, substance abuse, behavioral issues. It gets harder to have a say in your child’s life when they are over 18. 

We talked to mental health experts with experience dealing with cases involving adults, and here is their professional advice on how you can help your adult children;

Give Them Space

Don’t overly stress them or contribute to their problems. Don’t stage an intervention of sorts or make it seem as if you’re ganging up on them. Ensure they feel loved and supported and that you’re not angry with them or disappointed. Express your concern in a loving way.

Dr. Brittany Ferri, Ph.D. in Integrative Mental Health, Medical Advisor Medical Solutions BCN 

Parenting adult children who have made poor life choices or who suffer from mental illnesses can be difficult. Below are some tips on how to handle this situation:

Be Kind

It is easy to lose sight of the fact that your child is going through a difficult time in their life and become angry or harsh when dealing with them. The best way to deal with them, however, is to be as kind as possible. This can be difficult because they can be frustrating, but being harsh will not get you any closer to helping them.

Understand Their Problem

It is easier to empathize with them and understand their actions when you are educated on their issue. Read as many resources as you can on their situation to be able to truly understand and empathize with them. 

Encourage Treatment

When you understand their situation and are kind to them, it makes it easy for them to open up to you, even if it’s just a little. Regardless, you can encourage them to treat themselves and get better. You should be careful when doing this to not push them too much and end up shutting them out.

Don’t Judge Them

Most importantly, don’t judge them. You can blame them for getting themselves into this situation, but who is to blame doesn’t matter in the end. You should focus on helping them get better rather than judge them. 

Get Therapy For Yourself

Or any other form of care that is best for your mental health as well. Do not forget to take care of yourself while caring for your child. Your health is equally as important. Also, therapy makes it easier for you to deal with your situation. And who knows, you could also learn a thing or two.

Cynthia Halow, Founder Personality Max

It can be hard for parents to help their adult children, especially when it comes to situations such as poor mental health. The ‘child’ in question may be unwilling to accept help or a medical diagnosis, making it even harder to offer support.

Unfortunately, mental illness is most often something that affects the whole family as well as the individual struggling. It can be frustrating and frightening for parents to watch their children endure pain, whether it be physically or mentally.

However, here are a few tips that I believe can help parents of adult children:

Recognize that you are a parent, not a mental health professional.

Whilst it may feel like your duty to attempt to treat your child, this isn’t always possible and can make the situation worse. Encouraging your child to seek professional support is your best option as they have a chance to work with medical staff who can help them explore the root of their problem and work on effective ways of treating the mental health issue at hand.

Listen To What They Are Saying

Listen intently to what your child is telling you. As a parent, it can feel easy to look at your child and forget that they are an adult. Whilst there was a part of their lives you had responsibility for, now is the time to forget about these power struggles and work together to overcome problems they are facing.

Boris Mackey, Recovery & Mental Health Advocate Rehab 4 Addiction

Adulting is demanding and draining. Parents of adult kids can go through a lot while tackling them through this. Parents need to understand that this phase is rough for their kids as well. Mental health awareness is significant.

Here are how parents can support children when they are struggling with mental health.

Empathy

Their challenges already must be tapping on their nerves. Do not add to the pain and show compassion. Empathy can do wonders. They are at a phase where they want to take control of their life, and it can go wrong at times. Your experience should not be conveyed to them in a bossy manner. Go easy on them and lead by example.

Engage Them

The best way is to show them alternatives. Tell them what life has for them. Help explore the talent that can be therapeutic for them. Traveling, painting, dance, ballet, cooking, and gardening, involve them with whatever you do. All you need to do is shed light on a to-do list, and they can choose what they want to do. They are bottled up and stressed with their challenges. Show them the bright side.

Avoid Negativity

Harshness and fights won’t take your relationship anywhere. They are at a delicate phase, and arguments are the last thing on the planet they want to welcome. Sugar-coated solutions will last longer. Treat them with love, and the effects will last longer. Try to become friends rather than mentors.

Support

If nothing can relieve their stress, take them to therapy. Adult kids need someone to get their back, and parents are the first ones they lean on. At times, they don’t allow parents to invade their privacy. Therapists can make them talk and ventilate the suffocated minds.

Amelia Alvin is a Practicing Psychiatrist at Mango Clinic: Health & Wellness Clinic

Attend Support Groups

When an adult child is struggling with mental health or addiction, I always recommend that the parent try attending support groups to better understand what their adult child is going through. I also typically recommend that the parents listen to their adult child and try to refrain from giving advice. Trust that the professionals who your child is seeing will provide the proper guidance.

Ask The Child What You Can Do To Help

If the parent would like to help the adult child, I recommend asking the child what you can do to help. Try not to make assumptions about the adult child’s needs. Making assumptions and giving advice can push the adult child away. 

When it comes to addiction, there is a support group for family members called Al-anon. I always recommend family members check out a meeting. This can be a great way to better understand what your child is going through, and it can be helpful to interact with other parents who are familiar with your situation. 

Individual Therapy For Family Members

I also often recommend individual therapy for family members as it can help them process their emotional struggles resulting from the self-destructive behavior they are witnessing in their child.

Stacey Kordis is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) who works as a primary therapist at All In Solutions Counseling Center