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3 Helpful Questions for Parents of Struggling Adult Children

Knowing what to ask yourself may help in finding answers.

My career as a psychologist officially began in university counseling centers including my internship at the University of Pennsylvania. In that capacity, I counseled many undergraduate and graduate students who felt stuck and overwhelmed.

While having his or her share of positive qualities, perhaps your adult child has difficulty being successful in college, holding employment, or even getting out of bed (or going to bed at a reasonable hour in the first place).

In my private practice as a parent coach and psychologist, I have worked with many children, teens, young adults, and adults. This has allowed for me to observe helpful and unhelpful patterns of parents of adult children who struggle. When I coach parents of struggling adult children, I have found that there are several key questions for parents to consider. Three of these questions are below.

Reflecting on the following three questions may help give you some added clarity about your adult child's struggles.

1. How may you enable your adult child's struggles?

Many of the parents I coach to help their adult children get unstuck have a hard time truly seeing when they give their young adult a fish versus teaching them to fish. Are you giving him or her financial support? If so do you feel he or she values it? Is your support being utilized in a productive manner? Do you feel okay or not okay with any financial support you are providing?

2. Do you feel guilty about your adult child's struggles?

Our socially accepted (and understandably desired) model for successfully raising children is for them to become independent adults. As a parent of a struggling adult child you may be intensely questioning what factors are behind his or her challenges. Are there mental health genetics from your side of the family that play a role? Was (or is) your parenting style and corresponding expectations facilitative or impeding on your child's emotional and personality development and coping skills in life?

3. What would you like to change in how you communicate and behave with your adult child?

What are you saying to your adult child that is empowering and supportive? Is your own anxiety about your adult child's future weighing on you and negatively impacting how you communicate in the present? What is something you'd like to express to your adult child but you are unable to do so?

The above questions are just a beginning structure to more closely assess what is working and not working in your relationship with your adult child. The more you can step away from being mired in day to day anxieties and power struggles, and the more you can reflect on the big picture, the further you will move along in being optimally supportive to not only your adult child, but also to yourself.

For more about Dr. Jeff, please visit

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