Marriage Counseling: When Adult Children Make Bad Choices

/, parenting/Marriage Counseling: When Adult Children Make Bad Choices


Having kids away at college or newly living on their own can be a hard adjustment for parents to make. You do your best to raise them, instill good values and work ethic and they turn out to be who they are because of or in spite of that. Sometimes that first taste of independence and freedom gets out of hand they make some poor choices. They might be in need of some parental guidance, but you have to tread lightly. You are just trusting that they’ll do well and hoping you’ve done enough to prepare them to be on their own.  How can you handle it when your adult children make bad choices? Will you and your partner agree on how to manage the situation? Here are some tips for dealing with a situation where you might feel your input is necessary.

  • You and your partner should be in complete agreement about this issue regarding your adult children. Sure, they’re still kids, and they still need guidance but they may not think so. You may be rejected, but make sure your child knows you love them and only want to help. Even if you disapprove of their behavior, make sure your kids know that you’re going to be there for them and that you keep the lines of communication open.
  • Ask each other if you should be getting involved. If you’ve already decided you’re not going to get involved in your adult children’s problems, stay out of it. If it’s a problem where you can advise and help them, and you’ve decided that’s what you should do , talk to your partner first. You and your partner may not agree depending on the circumstances. Dad might not think the issue is as bad as Mom does or you might not agree on the seriousness of the problem. Remember your relationship is more important than any differences you might have, even if it’s about the kids.
  • Remind each other that your child isn’t always going to do what you would like and determine to support your partner in working through their disapproval.
  • Don’t get in between your partner and your child in a disagreement. You can never choose your child over your partner. Don’t put yourself in that position. This is where it’s so important for you and your partner to prepare for this before it happens when emotions are calm and you can reason it out. When you’re in the heat of the moment, you might say something you’ll regret later in anger and we never want to do that.
  • Talk with each other and decide if you’re going to enable/protect your older children or let them suffer the consequences of their choices. Sometimes tough love is needed and you have to allow the kid to deal with his / her own issues. You never want your child to feel abandoned, but certain situations you might feel that you should not intervene. Think about what the impact will be on your child and on your relationship in the future.
  • Experience is a great teacher and yet sometimes the lessons are very hard. It’s natural for you to want to protect your child, you’ve been doing it all their life. Support each other. When you and your partner make that stand, do it together.

When you do sit down with your grown children to talk about their life choices, make sure not to treat them like a child. This is a great teachable moment for you and your partner to show solidarity, to show the importance of being a responsible adult, and to show love and support.

Don’t give unwanted advice and don’t be afraid to tell them that you disapprove. No matter how old your child is they still want your love and support. You still have a great deal of influence on them. There is a lot of impact from both parents sitting down with an adult child and being real about their life choices.

Don’t be manipulated, or allow your kids to play one parent against the other. Show a united front and let your grown kids know that you and your partner talk about everything and will not be played. The best way to get out of trouble is to own your responsibility and face your consequences for your choices, to try to make better choices next time. Keeping these connections strong is so important between parent and child as well as between parents. Don’t set yourself or your child up in a situation where there is a winner or loser. Everyone loses when that happens.

Above all, as their parents, make sure they know you love them and each other. Be certain that they know that both parents are rooting for them, and have their best interest at heart. Keep your connections strong in the family and you can help each other get through tough times together.

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