Thoughts for Parents of Adult Children
Karl A. Menninger, MD said, “Love cures people – both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.”
1. Love Deeply
It isn’t possible to be too loving and accepting of others. Everyone needs to know they’re loved deeply and acknowledged where they are. This isn’t the same as agreeing with the choices someone is making and it certainly isn’t giving in to unhealthy demands or enabling destructive behaviors. Love that leads to growth, love that builds is constructive love. All great religious leaders, great teachers, and great parents understand that you don’t wait for people to be worthy of your love, attention, and action. The growth toward a better tomorrow begins with loving someone enough to meet them where they are and lifting them in the state they are in. To do this you must try and detach the person from your common enemy – the problem. Love the person and defeat the problem.
2. Embrace Optimism
Take hope. Claim your power to help restore a loved one to their full potential. Do not look at someone’s resistance as final and do not believe that the growth process can be denied forever. After all, we can and do change constantly and both growth and regression are socially contagious. In other words, who you surround yourself with and how you see the world will move you forward or hold you back. The first tool of constructive love is hope. Without hope growth is almost impossible. Hope is believing in spite of present conditions, and then watching while situations change for the better. Goethe wrote: “Treat a man as he appears to be, and you make him worse. But treat a man as if he were what he potentially could be, and you will make him what he should be.” Our brain is flexible and adaptable. It can generate new neurons, make new neurological pathways and connections, and grasp new data to help us change our behavior, and our entire way of being in the world. Take heart. Be hopeful. Inherent in human nature is the capacity for change and choice.
3. Stay Close
When you are cultivating growth the more regularly you are in contact with that person the more effective you can be. You want to be with or talk to that person on a regular basis because then you will have more opportunities for influence and relationship. The quantity and quality of contact builds the restorative relationship that leads to growth. With your constructive love, help, honesty, and support growth is possible. And you will have to be persistent because hurting people often push others away or demand affirmation for their unhealthy choices as a condition of relationship. As you reach out, celebrate when things go well, but do not become overly discouraged when they don’t. The next conversation, the next family gathering, the next connection gives you another opportunity to make a positive impact in their lives. Also remember that the power of a united family or community to achieve a common goal cannot be overestimated so help encourage a constructive support system around them.