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Troubled Relationships with Adult Children

Anyone who has raised children knows that a lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into raising them - most of it your blood and sweat - you split the tears. When you have children, everything else takes a back burner in your life. Their safety, health and comfort are your main focus in life. You always put yourself last. And, then, there's the guilt - guilt if you have to leave them to go to work; guilt if you are a single or divorced parent and would like to forget your responsibilities for an evening and go out on a rare date; guilt maybe because you divorced their Father - or Mother, and are trying to overcompensate for their absence. Believe me, I know - I've been there. You wish and hope and pray a lot that they will grow up to be independent and well-adjusted. You hope that you have instilled in them values to live by.

Unfortunately, the reality of life is that things don't always work out picture-perfect. It's a sad fact that we have no way of knowing how our children will turn out when they reach adulthood. I have heard many different stories - some people have said that when children have a rough childhood, they turn out to be wayward; some have said if they grow up in a non-dysfunctional household, they have a better chance of becoming caring, responsible adults. I think it's a combination of many different factors: genetics, environment, experiences, and sometimes just bad luck. I've known adult children who had wonderful, caring parents, and wanted for nothing, yet they grew up spoiled brats who have a false sense of entitlement which is deeply rooted, and therefore, they will always expect that the world owes them a living. Conversely, I have known adult children of deeply troubled households who have turned out to be fine human beings. As I said, it is a combination of variables in the equation.

Oprah Winfrey sometimes refers to a molestation experience she suffered in her childhood, by a relative, no less. It made her stronger - she beat the odds. In another child, the effects might have been very different. The child might have even 'snapped', had a nervous breakdown, and never been the same. We just will never know why bad things happen to innocents and good people - and why some can persevere through the storm and others start going down the wrong path.

I, like many others, have had some rocky territory to cross; my childhood was practically non-existent. I think I went from 7 years of age straight to adulthood, just like that. When you grow up with an alcoholic parent, you take care of the parent - instead of them taking care of you. That usually leaves a child emotionally-starved. I guess I could have gone either way - I could have become an alcoholic myself. From what I understand, if, say, an alcoholic has three children - usually two out of the three will eventually become alcoholics. Those are some tough odds.

As well, once these tough-love type children grow up and become adults, even if we feel they are in need of psychotherapy, there is nothing we can do about it once they reach eighteen, and are emancipated. That is why it is imperative that parents take heed if they are called down to the child's school while they are still young because of a discipline problem. Take it seriously. I have seen too many children who have learned how to manipulate their parents in order to get what they want. It is an unnerving thing to see. In small children it may seem "cute", but trust me, in adult children, it is nauseating, and worst still, a behavior that will play out with them over and over again throughout their adult lives.

I met a retired school psychologist (female) through a close friend of mine - we got into a discussion about the fact that she said it was a very draining career because she would constantly be frustrated at the fact that when parents were called down to the school because of problems with the student - they did not take the matter seriously enough - and steps they had promised to take with the child usually fell by the wayside, and there was never any follow-up by the parents, therefore, she claimed, nothing ever changed and the child/student's behavior stayed the same or got progessively worse. She was there to help - she could lead the 'horse' so to speak, to water, but could not make it/them - drink. That is why she retired early. She said that is why a lot of adult children are the way they are today - with behavioral problems that were never addressed as children. It is so sad that these (adult) children could have been helped had the parents took a firmer stand.

I have always admired Janet Leigh, the actress, who has said in various interviews that as soon as her marriage to Tony Curtiss broke up, she got her two girls directly into psychotherapy. She credits that with the well-adjusted way in which her two daughters, Jamie Lee and Kelly Lee, turned out. She instinctively knew that was the best thing she could do for her daughters, and she was so right. Today she has a wonderful, loving relationship with both daughters. She is truly blessed.

You certainly can't ask for more than that.

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Content copyright © 2013 by Kathie LoMonaco. All rights reserved.
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