How do you stay steady when your adult kids are not?
You run into someone you haven't seen in a while and they say "How are your kids?" You could say "Fine! Everything's fine!" And then hope they don't ask more and go on your way.
You don't want to share your bewilderment at the angry, hateful words that came spewing out of their mouth at the family get-together last weekend.
Or your concern about the empty scotch bottles the cleaners found in their room, AFTER they had completed treatment and had been sober for almost a year.
Or the simmering, unexplained anger aimed at a sibling.
Or how you feel shut out from their lives - no longer included, exiled into oblivion.
Instead of saying any of those things, you could say what is also true - "They are finding their way. It's hard work to grow up."
It is hard, messy work to grow up.
How do you stay steady and solid as a parent while the young people you love do the emotional equivalent of skinning their knees or breaking a bone, or walking a little too close to the edge of the path?
You could pretend you don't see what is happening.
You could become directive and tell them exactly what you feel they should do.
Or you could lean into this very important skill...
Instead of deflecting, minimizing or blaming, face what you see and hear and believe with courage, integrity and kindness.
This is what "facing" looks like:
"I love you very much and your health matters to me. You are drinking again and that concerns me for lots of reasons. I know this is hard, uncomfortable work. How can I support you?"
"It is important to me that our home be a place of safety for everyone in our family, including you. I know you were angry last night, but your outburst didn't feel safe to me. Let's talk about this. I love you and I know this stuff isn't easy."
"I am aware you are throwing up after dinner. I know this means something complicated is going on and I am here and want to support you in the best way I can. I love you very much and you matter to me. Can we talk about this?"
"I sense some deep anger swelling up between you and your sibling. I know intense feelings can sometimes mean there are complicated things under the surface; things that are hard to talk about. I am here and if you prefer to speak to someone outside of our family, I will support you. You are not too much for me, ever. I love you."
"I sense your anxiety is cranking up, especially as the new school year approaches. I know from experience that anxiety is super uncomfortable. Let's talk, when you are ready, about how we can approach this together. I love you and am here for you as you find your way."
"I am feeling lonely, I miss you a lot. I am also a little scared because I am unsure of what is happening between us. When you are ready, can we talk? You matter to me so much."
Why does "facing" matter when communicating with adult kids?
"I see you,"
"You aren't too much."
"Growing up is messy work, it is normal to hit bumps throughout our lives."
"I don't have all the answers, and I am willing to walk next to you as we find them."
"I care enough about you to do the hard work of speaking my truth with kindness and concern, even when it's not comfortable."
We all need to hear that kind of deep, committed love when we are stumbling; especially adult kids who are finding their way.
As always, behaviors aligned with values support optimal health.