Are You Owning Your Adult Child's Problems?

May 04, 2020

Do your kids have problems? Whose problems are they, really?

A lot of parents tell me all about how their adult children have this problem or that problem. Sometimes you'll find a parent who will come to you and say something like, “My 23 year old son has a failing out of school problem, he's got a drug problem and he has a can't get a job problem.'

I'll ask, 'Well, where is your son now?'

Sometimes the answer is, “Oh, well, he's on the couch right now. He wouldn't come with us today because he doesn't think he has any problems.” Other times, the answer is something like, 'Oh, well, he's skiing in Vail, Colorado right now.'

I have to tell these parents something that surprises them. Every. Single. Time.

I say, “Oh I see. Well, I can only help people with problems. I don't think I can help your son. It doesn't sound like he's got any problems.”

The parent gets flustered. “What do you mean? I just told you about all of these problems. Of course he's got problems. Aren't you listening to me?”

You see, this parent doesn't understand that the problems that he thinks are his son's problems are actually his own problems. His son is skiing in a beautiful mountain resort. His son is watching some hilarious show on the couch at home chilling out. Does that sound like someone with a problem? Meanwhile, his dad is pulling his hair out, stressing out all day, keeping himself up at night worried about these problems. Who do these problems really belong to?

I told this man, “I can't help your son, but I can help you. You've got all these problems. You're the one who worries about all of these things, you're the one who identified these problems, and I'm sorry to tell you, you're the one who is enabling these problems. You're giving your son this amazing and fun and carefree life and it's costing you a lot of heartache.'

Are your adult child's problems really their problems? Or are they your problems?