Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Parenting an "adult" child

Question: When is your child not your child?
Answer: Never

A beautiful woman I know just turned 30. Her life never seems to launch. She is involved in a dead-end relationship. She has used drugs and is probably still using. She loses jobs and is repeatedly homeless. Her family feels like they can't help her because she is an "adult."

If you are a parent and one of your children is in trouble, it is heart wrenching regardless of the child's age. You want to help, but may question whether you have any control to change the child's course. You might resign yourself to watching your child slowly deteriorate. You might cut off all ties because it hurts too much to witness the self-destruction. You might fear for yourself or possessions because of your child's behavior.

It struck me how Britney Spears' life played out before our eyes with a fall from grace, drug use, bad relationships. And how her father finally stepped in and said, "Enough."

Parents...if you can do anything, do it now. Go to the courts. Request restraining orders. Request custody or power of attorney. Show your child how serious the situation is and how much you care. This doesn't mean giving them money when they come around. It means offering support for them to leave an unhealthy relationship, to stop using drugs or alcohol, to get healthy and have a good life.

At the very least...send your child emails of encouragement. Send letters. Continue to reinforce the beauty inside of them by putting your heart on the line. Maybe it won't make a difference in their personal journey. But it might in yours as you keep your heart open, soft and ready to receive them.

As a song I recently listened to said, "Everything easy has its cost." It's easier to write people off who don't act as you expect. But you suffer as much as they do from a closed heart.

I wish you strength and patience as you parent an adult child who is lost. It's never too late to be the parent you always wanted to be. If they refuse you, be patient with them. You never know what impact you're making until much later.