How Can I Motivate My Post-College Child in Recovery?

Many parents in America witness their adult children struggling with achieving independence while recovering from addiction. Some name this phenomenon “failure to launch,” which describes a widespread social problem among families with post-college children. It can also be heartbreaking if parents find that their young adult children are using drugs and alcohol.

While young adults still need guidance and suggestions, they might not want parents to step in and take control of the situation. If your family is going through a “failure to launch” situation, your role as a parent is mainly to motivate him or her on the challenging path of recovery. More importantly, this season of life (for both of you) also requires the reshaping of your relationship. If there has been codependency, that is probably the most difficult part. 

What Is Codependency? Do I Have It?

It is time to examine your parenting style and ask if you have enabled your child in any way when he or she was depending on drugs and alcohol, a form of codependency as defined by recovery experts. As much as you want your child to dispel denialism, you also need to do this work of self-examination with honesty. Many parents have unconsciously become codependent with their teen children on the issue of substance addiction, and it is a very common problem. Whether or not you realize it, you may have been creating opportunities for your child to use drugs and alcohol without consequences. 

When families seek out help for intervention and education concerning their addicted children, they often point to the behaviors of the addicted person. Few parents realize that they have been equally responsible in accommodating these needs that became an addiction. Even if/when they realize the problem, parents might not be able to find any other options to swerve the course of addiction. 

Codependency is not a moral failing. It may be due to life experiences, past trauma, or other learned behaviors, but its effects can be negative for the entire family. As a parent, you need to soberly identify not just the codependent patterns of your relationship with your child, but also the reasons behind these behaviors. Then you can come up with new coping strategies. 

How Should I Set Healthy Boundaries With My Adult Child?

Families experiencing both failure to launch and substance addiction are often living in systems of entitlement, isolation, and unhealthy dynamics. Young adults are faced with anxiety and emotional turmoil which trigger them into using drugs and alcohol while losing interest and commitment to education, career, personal health, and social activities. These systems of entitlement, isolation, and unhealthy family dynamics are deeper root causes of the symptoms of addiction and other behavioral problems.

One essential step towards rebuilding healthy boundaries in family relationships is to help your child take responsibility. This includes having them play their part in household matters, get an education, look for a job, pay rent, and care for others in the home. As a parent, you should drop all your previous coddling habits. If mental health issues seem to be holding your child back from fulfilling these obligations, you should consider finding a therapist.

If your adult child displays a high level of resistance to school or work, then there are likely underlying causes at play. You can work with an interventionist or a therapist to help diagnose these causes and enter your child into a therapeutic program. You should refrain from using a confrontational mode of communication. Rather, bring in the experts to talk with your child. You should work out your frustration and anger without bringing them into the relationship with your child. Otherwise, it will only lead to counterproductive consequences.

If your adult child’s symptoms of addiction and isolation have been persistent for an extended period of time (e.g., over a year or so), the chance of getting them out of this mode without intervention is slight. You should seriously consider working with an interventionist who provides parent coaching. Refrain from appeasing a young adult with severe failure to launch and addiction symptoms. Doing so can only create more codependency while delaying the healing process.

Is It Too Late to Intervene?

It is never too late to start an intervention. Missing early intervention will set you back but it is better late than never. Recovery can happen to people across all age groups, although it will be a long journey. Post-college young adulthood is a special season with both new freedoms and pressures from life. Society expects post-college young people to transition into the workforce. They need to make many important decisions and push themselves to plan ahead. The pressure of this adds a lot of stress and anxiety to the situation if your child is also struggling with substance addiction. Your role as a parent is mainly to empower them. 

Before you do that, however, it is important to get to know them. Spend more time and try to make non-confrontational conversations. If your child expresses even a little willingness to start getting help, whether it’s attending a 12-Step group meeting or having a therapy session, that can be a good sign that you need to engage and deepen the conversation. Nevertheless, you need to care for them unconditionally first and wait for the “change talk” to happen. 

You can work with an interventionist on how to effectively talk with your child. Ideally, you can help them connect the dots and gently explain how their substance addiction might be related to their debilitating situation. Use open-ended questions and give them options. Motivate them by reminding them of their gifts in life. Your engaged presence will make a difference.

Do you find it challenging to support a post-college child who is recovering from substance addiction? Have you heard of "failure to launch" syndrome? South Florida Intervention offers parent coaching to ensure the best care your child can get during this transition of young adulthood. Our professionally-trained interventionists have helped many teens and young adults in not only recovering from addiction, but also in rebuilding their family relationships. We know the importance of motivation for long-term recovery. We have also encouraged and coached parents onboard towards this goal. It is our commitment to connect you with trusted health professionals who have plenty of experience in this area. Apart from recovery coaching and parent coaching, we also offer detailed case management. Furthermore, we provide sober escort service for people who are in the early sobriety stage of their recovery. We are here to help, and you can trust our expertise. Call us at (202) 390-2273.