15 Things to Avoid Saying to an Adult Child Struggling in Life

As parents, we naturally want to offer advice and support to our adult children who are facing difficulties in life. However, it's important to choose our words carefully and avoid saying things that may be unhelpful or hurtful. In this article, we will explore fifteen phrases that you should never say to your adult child who is struggling, and why they can strain your relationship. By understanding the root causes of their struggles and being mindful of our language, we can provide the support and empathy they need during challenging times.

15 Things to Avoid Saying to an Adult Child Struggling in Life

Understanding the Struggles of an Adult Child

Before we delve into the phrases to avoid, let's first understand some common situations that may cause difficulties for adult children. By recognizing these struggles, we can approach our adult child with greater understanding and empathy. Here are a few common challenges they may face:

Financial Difficulties

Financial strain is one of the most common stressors for adults. Whether it's due to unemployment, underemployment, student loans, or the high cost of living, financial stress can lead to anxiety, depression, and a feeling of being stuck or unable to progress in life.

Romantic Breakups

The end of a significant relationship can be emotionally devastating for anyone, including adult children. It can lead to feelings of loneliness, a loss of identity, and questioning of future plans. The emotional toll of a breakup can impact other areas of life, such as work and social interactions.

Workplace Pressures

The workplace can be a significant source of stress for adult children. Demanding jobs, conflicts with colleagues or superiors, job insecurity, and a lack of fulfillment can take a toll on their mental health. The pressure to succeed and climb the career ladder can be overwhelming, leading to burnout and other mental health issues.

Physical or Mental Illness

Dealing with a physical or mental illness can be incredibly challenging for anyone, including adult children. It can affect every aspect of their life, from daily routines to long-term plans. Mental health challenges, specifically, can profoundly impair individuals, impacting their capacity to operate, sustain relationships, and fulfill societal norms.

Peer Pressure

Even as adults, individuals can still face peer pressure. This pressure may manifest in various ways, such as conforming to social norms, maintaining a certain lifestyle, or making choices that align with their peer group. Such experiences can result in emotions of insufficiency, diminished self-worth, and heightened anxiety.

Life Transitions

Navigating adulthood involves a plethora of changes, such as relocating to a different city, embarking on parenthood, or transitioning careers. While these transitions can be exciting, they can also be a source of stress and uncertainty. The pressure to make the "right" decisions can be daunting and can lead to self-doubt and anxiety.

By understanding these common struggles, we can approach our adult child's difficulties with compassion and support. It's important to remember that these challenges are a normal part of life and that our support can make a significant difference in how they navigate through them.

Why Certain Phrases Can Damage Your Relationship

The words we use with our adult children, especially when they are struggling, carry immense weight. The following phrases can inadvertently harm the delicate parent-child relationship. Recognizing the potential influence of these words is essential for nurturing a robust, encouraging relationship.

Eroding Trust and Openness

Using phrases that minimize or dismiss their feelings can make your child feel that their emotions and experiences are not valid or important in your eyes. This can lead to a breakdown in trust and openness, as they may no longer feel safe or comfortable sharing their struggles with you.

Creating Emotional Distance

Expressions that draw comparisons, diminish or minimize their encounters can erect emotional barriers. Your child may feel misunderstood and alone in their struggles, leading to a sense of isolation even when you are physically present in their lives.

Fostering Resentment

Constant criticism, even if well-intentioned, can breed resentment. Should your child perceive constant judgment or comparison to others, it could foster negative sentiments toward you. This resentment poses a substantial hurdle to sustaining a wholesome relationship.

Hindering Self-Esteem and Growth

Negative or dismissive language can impact your child's self-esteem and personal growth. Constantly telling them that they are overreacting, lazy, or not trying hard enough can make them internalize these criticisms, hindering their ability to cope with their struggles and grow from their experiences.

Preventing Effective Problem-Solving

When a child perceives their concerns as not being regarded seriously, they might become hesitant to seek your counsel or assistance later on. Critical language denies them access to a valuable asset—your wisdom and insight—that could greatly aid them in navigating their difficulties.

Damaging Long-Term Relationship Dynamics

Consistently employing these expressions can fundamentally reshape the dynamics of your bond with your child. They might perceive the relationship as a stressor rather than a source of support, leading to enduring effects on their interactions with you and other family members.

Phrases to Avoid Saying to an Adult Child

Now that we understand why these phrases can be damaging, let's explore fifteen specific phrases that you should avoid saying to your adult child who is struggling. By steering clear of these phrases, you can foster a healthier and more supportive relationship.

1.       "When I was your age…"

2.       "You just need to work harder."

3.       "You should be more like your sibling/friend."

4.       "You're just being lazy."

5.       "You should have listened to me."

6.       "Just cheer up."

7.       "It's not that big of a deal."

8.       "You'll get over it."

9.       "I don't know why you're making this so hard."

10.   "Everyone goes through this."

11.   "You're just overreacting."

12.   "You have so much to be grateful for."

13.   "This is just a phase."

14.   "Stop feeling sorry for yourself."

15.   "Why can't you be more positive?"

How to Provide Support Instead

Instead of using these damaging phrases, here are some alternative ways to support your adult child who is struggling:

  • Listen without judgment: Let them express their feelings and concerns without interrupting or dismissing them.
  • Validate their experiences: Acknowledge that their struggles are real and that their feelings are valid.
  • Offer empathy and understanding: Show that you understand and care about what they're going through.
  • Provide practical support: Offer assistance in finding resources, such as financial advice or mental health professionals.
  • Encourage self-care: Remind them to prioritize their well-being and engage in activities that bring them joy and relaxation.
  • Be patient: Recognize that healing and growth take time, and avoid pressuring them to "get over" their struggles.
  • Be a sounding board: Allow them to talk through their problems and help them explore potential solutions.
  • Seek professional help if needed: If their struggles persist or worsen, encourage them to seek professional guidance.

By adopting these supportive approaches, you can strengthen your relationship with your adult child and provide the assistance they need during difficult times.

Final Thoughts

Maintaining a healthy and supportive relationship with your adult child requires careful consideration of the words we use. By avoiding damaging phrases and offering support and empathy instead, we can foster a stronger bond with our adult children. Keep in mind that your words possess the ability to elevate and motivate, thus exercise thoughtful consideration when selecting them.

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