Nadine On…Failure to Thrive with the Adult Child

Kudos to the parents of adult children who are blessed with bright and successful people on the move. Your own personal success and joys are brought to life again vicariously through theirs. You are counted among the lucky ones. Yes. I said it, lucky. Because no matter how Dr. Spock your parenting skills are, each child is uniquely different and uniquely exposed to different sets of circumstances and the odds are Not forever in your favor. So count yourself lucky. 
And woe to the parent with an adult child in their twenties, thirties and (shudders for all I’m worth) forties who still lives with them. This is a child who, for unforeseen/ inexplainable reasons, has Failed to Thrive. 

More times than not these are the kids who can’t get/keep a job or who constantly bounce from employer to employer. They may be in and out of correctional facilities sprinkled with fun visits to the 10th floor of John Petersmith Hospital. (Pardon my local reference…the psyche unit of your local hospital.)

It’s not about whether or not they were good parents. Providing a good home, clothes and food, soccer practice or even church. This goes much deeper into what we call in the trailer park “Co-dependency Relationship Malfunction.” And it sucks. On both sides. 

It’s a vicious wheel. 

If you have seen the movie Failure to Launch you have been entertained with a humorous version of failing to thrive. If not, it’s about a young thirty-ish man who still lives with his parents. The parents want their space and their house back. The man-child wants home cooked meals, his own space, cable TV and his laundry done by his Momma. While he is a delightful person to be around, the parents still crave autonomy. Setting him up with a girl backfires in their faces when the man-child finds out. But it ends right and the father finally gets his “nekked” room. Something Jose’ has always dreamt about. 

Failing to thrive most times revolves around financial. I label them the Money Pit Children. Because no matter how much money you throw at them they still return for more. And loaning them money is a joke because that doesn’t ever get paid back. If they have guilt about it, at least you know they have a conscious. But you are still left with a hole in your wallet and an even bigger hole in your heart. 

So, you ask…what to do? How can I teach an adult child who refuses to participate in the human race with the rest of us? 

The answer is complicated. But it begins with an awareness. If I teach you nothing else, I hope to teach you awareness. Of yourself, your own personal history of successes and failures and how You learned to thrive on Your own. My guess is, you sank or swam. You didn’t have someone doling out dollars and time and effort to make sure you were ok. Oh, you may have had support in other ways. People checking in from time to time. But I am pretty sure you didn’t have someone constantly up your butt to prod you along in life. 

That’s how you do it. 

Judicious support. Aka Tough Love. Remember that term? 

And sometimes you just throw little pieces chocolate from the corner of the room. 

Tough-lovingly yours, 

Nadine Bodine

Your VERY Best friend in the whole wide world