Let’s make sure we are all on the same page here. There is no such thing as a perfect family. Quit seeking it and stop envying others you think have it all together. Every family has a dilemma. Your family struggles and so does mine. I learned a long time ago that “struggle” is a relative word. There’s no desire here to exchange my troubles for someone else’s. I don’t know the depth of another’s struggle based on an outward appearance.
I ran across some research led by Karen Fingerman. The study’s sample consisted of 663 middle-aged parents who had 1,384 grown children. Their findings illuminated some interesting facts about the number of families who struggle with the kids and their problems. In families with one child, 43 percent identified problems with their child. In families with two children, over 66 percent identified at least one child with a problem. In families with three children, 83 percent had at least one child with problems. Fingerman’s research demonstrated the majority of our families struggle with problems.
But, I think there’s a greater concern than the existence of an issue in the household, and it relates to how individuals within the family unit cope with the problem. In families with multiple children, even if one child had challenges and the siblings were flourishing, parents were still negatively impacted. The adult child’s problems were contagious. Parents were only as happy as their least happy child. To expose the elephant in the room, that’s not healthy. No situation or child should have that amount of influence on the emotional health of the parent.
There is no shame in having a less than perfect family or child. There is shame in allowing the child, problem or situation to control or wreck your emotional health. You are more than your child, and you are more than this problem. The issue isn’t the problem exists; the more important aspect becomes how you will flourish and live robustly through the difficulty.
You are not alone; others are struggling with life just as you are right now. But, with that said, you need to take the first step to a healthier you. Remember your identity; it is far bigger than your situation. Here’s what I would suggest:
- Seek professional advice whether through a medical doctor or mental health professional.
- Share your whole story with a friend. Don’t gloss over details or mask the rawness of the story. Telling frames perspective.
- Have a few beers. Okay, I’m joking here – probably a bad joke. I wanted to see how far you read. Someone you know might make this suggestion for real. Don’t do it. Self-medication doesn’t solve anything whether, with alcohol or other substances, it just makes it worse.
- Do something fun. What do you enjoy? What about eating dinner out, stopping by the mall, going to a movie, playing a round of golf, playing some cards or taking a day trip to a local attraction. You need to schedule a time to unplug regularly.
- Finally, confide in a few people to pray specifically for you and your family. Ask them to pray for God to give you wisdom, discernment and for you to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading through this circumstance. Share updates and check in with them regularly.
Remember, it’s not about the fact that you’re facing a difficult challenge. The goal here is to be faithful in living well through this season.
Interested in reading more about this topic? Here are two resources worth checking out:
Young, Joel L., and Christine A. Adamec. When Your Adult Child Breaks Your Heart: Coping with Mental Illness, Substance Abuse, and Other Issues. Guilford, CT: Lyons, an Imprint of Globe Pequot, 2013.
Greer, Ronald J. Now That They Are Grown: Successfully Parenting Your Adult Children. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 2012.