Providing a Catholic framework on the truth and meaning of sexuality, love, and family

Help for Healing

Parent Tips: For Those with Adult Children

by Rose Sweet

Family Honor recently received the question below from the parents of an adult daughter who they were concerned about. We turned to one of our National Advisory Board members, Rose Sweet, and asked her for assistance. Her response follows.

“How would you encourage a woman, who refuses to trust men, because one man hurt her and left her alone to raise her child?”

Rather than encourage, first I would affirm.

When someone is still in great pain they can’t hear anything about the future. They need to first know that you understand they are really hurt and scared. Even if you think it has been enough time and they need to get over it!

I always use the falling-off-the bike analogy. If what the person did didn’t work, then they do not want to get back on that darn thing. They need someone to teach them (or remind/reinforce) the skills first. Encouragement will be useless unless they believe they have the skills to ride again. It requires a LOT of patience, with some much more than others.

Far too many people do not have healthy relationship skills.  They haven’t been taught to see red flags or to say “No” or to end bad relationships.  To process grief. To analyze and assess what they did wrong. Too often, after being hurt, the tendency is to simply blame the other person.  I did that for years, and never realized something was wrong with ME that I kept picking men who did not know how to love or commit.

Questions for Mom and Dad to ask:
“What are your greatest desires?”
“How do you think you can realize them?”
“What do you think is standing in the way?”
“What can you do differently, if you could, to change things?”
“What are your greatest fears?”
“What are your greatest skills and strengths?”

Then, perhaps, let’s make a 3 month, 6 month, and 1 year plan.

“Take a good hard look at what happened …”

Let’s use the bike thing analogy again; after the crash the parents fixed the crooked bike, sprayed on the Bactine, bandaged up the cuts, and sewed the ripped pants. All good. But getting back on that bike requires the belief that I KNOW what I am doing and I CAN do it….that I can TRUST myself even if I can’t trust the bike/the road/etc.  She [the adult daughter] has to take a good hard look at what happened and learn from it. Counseling, relationship books. A healing retreat. etc. All of the above! Relationship skills.

“It seems she will not even try to meet anyone.”

Probably because her life is sufficiently comfortable “as is”.   It also may be that the pain she experienced from the abandonment is far less than the pain of loneliness. We tend to want to match people up…we feel uncomfortable when they remain single. Marriage is good but it can’t be forced.  People can be happy, healthy, and holy as singles. And often those years are when God can be doing great work in the soul.

As parents we don’t want our kids to be unhappy. But we have to remember we are no longer responsible for their happiness. All we can do is listen, lead them to the truth, love them regardless, and let go of our excessive fears, worries, and feelings of over-responsibility. We should be praying and working for their holiness. Where is God in her life?  He can be the source of great comfort, clarity, and strength at this time….and always.

It may also be that some parents who have helped to pick up the pieces are done with helping and anxious that she find someone else to take care of her. Rather than look for another person, it’s probably time to help her develop skills to live on her own.  Financial or other counseling can help.

“Trying to talk to her gets her parents nowhere.”

Then time for talk is over.  Time for a different action. I always say “Nothing changes if nothing changes.”  These situations often include much more that is going on than just finding a good husband. Does she still live at home with the parents? Are they afraid to set boundaries of when she needs to move out?  Is she working at a job where she can support herself and her child?  Has she settled into self-pity or despair?

“One thing she has said is ‘who’s going to want to date someone who has a nine-year old daughter?’”

Helping to raise the child is a completely separate issue, despite the fact that her parents have helped raise that child with her. Lots of men will date a woman with a (or even more than one) child. Her fears are normal but not insurmountable. Her question is probably masking greater fears and insecurities…maybe some that should have been addressed many years earlier.

Is she overly shy? Overweight?  What else is going on deep inside?  The “good” thing about painful relationships is that they can force us to take a look at and deal with interior problems we have carried for far too long. They can be the catalyst for great change and freedom.
To Summarize …  

Get the focus off finding a new man and put it on going deep inside her own mind and heart and build up what is good, fix what is in need of repair, and build a life of independence, self-confidence, holiness, and joy with friends.  THEN she will attract—if she still desires—a man who is on the same healthy level.

Rose Sweet is a Catholic author and speaker who directs people who are seeking happiness in marriage, family, and friendships to “Put your RELIGION into your RELATIONSHIPS.” With heart and humor, she serves up powerful truths of the Catholic faith in bite-sized morsels. To help strengthen and heal all types of relationships, Rose points to Christ and expertly draws on the mysteries of the Interior Life, Theology of the Body, the timeless teaching of the four temperaments, laws of relationship building, dating, courtship, mercy in marriage, divorce recovery, annulment, remarriage, and parenting.