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Oldest kid failed out of college!

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  • #46
    This is a very deep question on a number of levels. I hope you seek wise counsel in people around you and find a way to move forward.

    The James Dobson approach (from his famous book: ‘Love must be tough’) sometimes doesn’t work. I think it can be hazardous to live your life by mantras.

    The tough love, not enabling, codependence, rigid boundaries stuff may work better in the addictions area where you know with a greater deal of certainty the outcome. If you give a heroin addict $50 there’s a 99% chance they will spend it on a heroin hit. If you continue to support your daughter what is the chance she becomes a lazy bum ?

    I think it’s important not to underestimate what a powerful emotion shame can be. It is a source of societal control and people can go to great lengths to avoid it. Many people have died or put their lives at risk to avoid it.

    There are some questions that have no correct answer without a lot of context that goes back to the beginning of your relationship. Things like:
    - how do I make my partner come back to me
    - how do I make my child return my phone calls
    - how do I get my child to go in the right direction

    No one can say because it is so contextual and dependent on each of you and your relationship.

    The ‘love must be tough’ mantra can be misused with disastrous results. Like the mantra ‘if your spouse wants to leave, let them go, and if they’re yours they’ll come back’. It is amazing that people take this advice and don’t fight for their marriage if they have kids. Who knows why their spouse left ?

    Who knows why your kid did what she did. Like a spouse who returns after a month away without telling you. One approach is to
    lay down the law and that is perfectly within your rights. But how many spouses come back and unreservedly apologise and emphatically tell you they now realise they were totally wrong to do what they did ?

    All we can say is that at the time of their returning there is a point where the relationship is at risk. Things could go either way. How you navigate this is very individual and can make a difference. Some dyads can carry on without anything being said and there’s an implicit ‘we’re right again’. Arguably a discussion would need to occur at some stage about what and why it happened for trust to be fully returned. But not always.

    What would your daughters perspective be ?
    I worked at a drug treatment centre once where they would do family therapy. The kids would often say of their parents :
    - they were never there for me
    - they always sent me off somewhere or to have therapy to get fixed up.
    - all I ever wanted was to make them happy
    - they were never happy with what I did

    Often the dynamic goes back a long way, all the way back. No one sees themselves as overbearing or controlling. It’s hard to see ones own contribution to a dynamic.

    Often the parents would say:
    - we don’t know if we can keep supporting you like this
    - we’re really scared for you

    Often there is stonewalling, drama and people being sent away.
    My heart goes out to you. There is probably hurt on both sides. I hope you can repair the relationship.

    Sometimes a Counsellor or family therapist can help, but good ones can be hard to find.


    • mkintx
      mkintx commented
      Editing a comment
      Very thoughtful reply. Your last sentence really makes me wonder: why is it that good ones are so hard to find? I know several people who tried therapy but didn't get much out of it, and I have had that experience with several therapists as well. I know part of it is connecting with someone, but it seems to be too important of a field to have so many half-assed practitioners.

  • #47
    Yes, these types of situations are each very unique, and what works for one kid hitting a rough patch won't work for another in a similar situation. But you have to know yourself and your partner in your roles as parents to strategize to help a struggling child. Supporting them can be either empowering or enabling depending on the circumstances.

    I send my best wishes to all of the struggling parents out there. It ain't easy, and I know that far too well because I have been there. Thankfully, I am now on the other side of the struggles and can look back with a sigh of relief.