ASK ABDI: HOW DO I HELP MY ADULT CHILD GROW UP?
QUESTION: My child is 22 years old and struggles with anxiety and depression. She smokes marijuana throughout the day, and I know that it is harming her, but she does not see that. She is on antidepressants daily, which helps, but she still has very little motivation and is still childlike and irresponsible in many ways. Some days she has trouble getting out of bed, and she requires financial support from my husband and I.
She is a very creative soul that loves painting and art, but has trouble focusing on daily tasks and responsibilities. What can we do to help her become an adult? I feel like we can’t tell her what to do because people need to come to that realization on their own. When we talk to her about her lifestyle, she dismisses it thinking she knows better.
ANSWER: It is common for many people to turn to drug use to suppress or ease their anxiety and depression. Unfortunate, but true. Yes, she is your child, but at 22, she is also an adult. As you are finding out, you are helpless in manipulating her behavior. You can certainly encourage her to work with her psychiatrist and see if different medications are more effective in helping ease her anxiety.
The main issue to remember, when dealing with someone with addictive behavior, is one’s helplessness in having an effect on their behavior. You have to examine your own role by allowing her to be financially dependent on you. As hard as it is to watch a loved one suffer, we need to be aware of the ways that we might be enabling them in their destructive behavior. In my decades of experience, I can assure you that financial support in the face of such behavior will only lead to a deepening of it. You and your husband have to take an honest inventory of yourselves and your resolve in allowing her to grow up. There is much compassion in tough love.