20514.widea“When Your Adult Child Breaks You Heart”  is a wonderfully practical, well-organized and straight forward book intended to help parents of adult children with severe problems and who are causing major problems for themselves, their parents and others.

The authors Joel L. Young and Christine Adamec have written extensively on similar topics and know their subject well. This book was published in 2014.

The authors set the tone by explaining that most parents are not to blame for their child’s difficulties and they are determined to help parents stop blaming themselves. The authors believe that mental illness and substance abuse are the core of most problematic behaviour.

They reassure parents by saying that if you can’t think what terrible thing you did to doom your adult child, than you probably didn’t do any terrible thing at all. They provide exercises for  parents to help them realize the limitations of their influence over their child.

They recognize that parents of these children are psychologically traumatized by their previous encounters with the police or courts, and when sensing new problems, their anxiety can turn into panic and depression.

They try to mitigate concerns such as :

  • if I try hard enough I can help my child;
  • I must sacrifice to support my child;
  • no-one amongst our family or friends has ever acted so badly; and
  • if my child loved me he or she would not act this way.

They delve into the many issues that parents of troubled adult children must face.  They include:

  • how to live with an adult child in the same house;
  • dealing with children who abuse their own children;
  • young adults convicted of crimes;
  • mental illness and substance abuse;
  • suicidal adult children;
  • parents looking after their own physical ad emotional health;
  • the impact difficult adult children have on relationships with spouses or partners and other children;
  • helping adult children with personal problem solving; and
  • estranging yourself from adult children.

The book provides ways that parents can help their adult children and outlines situations when they need to back off.   The authors say the book is not about easy answers but about facing the tough realities of an adult child’s behaviour and managing them as best parents can without sacrificing themselves.  They recognize that parents can only help their troubled adult child so much; that ultimately, the child must be ready to make the necessary changes.

They also give good advice about, among other things, how to handle unhelpful comments by family and friends, how to phrase requests to adult children, how to work effectively with a child’s health professionals, and how to respond to a child who becomes violent.

The book also provides background research and case studies to substantiate the advice.   Each chapter starts with a quote from a parent of a troubled adult child and ends with a summary of the key points.

Although the book is directed at an American audience and refers to American statistics and sources of help, the book remains an excellent resource for all parents of troubled adult children.

Have you any experience with a troubled adult child and how did you handle it?  I would love to hear from you .  Please leave a response in the Reply Box below.  

Book Reviews, Theories and Research
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Join the conversation! 9 Comments

  1. Patricia, sounds like a good book.


  2. My adult son has mental health issues as does the women who ‘mate’ with him. In their wake are babies my grandchildren left to be abused, neglected and or aborted. I have lost all access to the first grandchild and raised the second one while the 3, 4 and 5 grandbabies were aborted and now there is another one….my heart is broken beyond repair.


    • I am so sorry to hear this Betty. It must be so difficult for you to watch your son act without thinking of the consequences. I hope your son’s mental health issues get resolved and I hope you can find joy in some area of your life.


      • Thanks and yes very hard to watch my son destroy himself and his children. I had to cross the enough bridge and set limits with him as he threaten to burn our home down with his daughter living here. So no contact in 16 years however I do know his is alive as he has not blocked me on his facebook page. Meanwhile I have raised his second daughter who is now 22 and in college.


  3. I read this book and found some answers or I guess relief I was feeling helpless because I don’t know anyone going through my pain. My son is homeless and I have tried to help him but because he is 20 and we live in California it’s very difficult. Since he refuses to get help for his drug abuse and I really think he has a mental illness. He says hes fine and nothing is wrong with him thats what he tells the Doctor.Thank you for the information in the book.


  4. over the years and all of them amount to one form of emotional damage control or another. The thing is, these books often fail to address that so often as parents there is no reprieve. Another big thing that’s different is it has a huge focus on taking care of yourself, instead of just spending more time focusing on what’s going on for the adult child, which offers a true guide through the woods of despair resulting from addiction and mental illness.


    • It’s sounds like you have had a rough ride. When things are difficult it certainly is important to focus on your child.s problems, and you need to take care of yourself. You cannot help your child unless you make sure your own needs are being met. Good luck.



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