Imagine if you had children and nurtured them, but they grew up to be adults and treated you badly on a consistent basis. What if your adult children used, abused, and dumped on you? Are they calling and telling you all their problems? Depending on you financially long after they should be independent? Still beating you up about their (long over) childhood? Now is the time to set some new, healthier boundaries and expectations.
You would end a friendship or love relationship with another adult who consistently treated you badly. We can have blind spots with our adult children where we allow mistreatment and emotional abuse we wouldn't accept from anyone else. Some adult children necessitate you taking back your own personal power, and stepping away from enabling their bad or weak behavior.You don't want to be codependent with your adult child's emotional immaturity.
What if your adult child blames you for all their unhappiness? Certainly I believe in apologizing for any mistakes you made, but enough is enough at some point. Some adult children get "stuck" in the blame or victim role and can't move along. Maybe they are well into adult years now, and have had more years on their own then you did raising them. You may have to set some limits about how far and long the blaming goes on. They might be enjoying the secondary gains of not moving on, rather than beginning to do the hard work of taking responsibility for building their own positive, productive life now.
Parents can be manipulated by their adult children, as they get their guilt buttons pushed. It is important to set your own limits about what you are and are not willing to do. You may be willing to help with finances for a limited amount of time. You may not want them to move in with you and become a child again in an open-ended way. It may be better to help them with a specific cost, such as educational expenses, or help with their own rent for a specific amount of time that has an ending. You may be happy to speak by phone or spend time together, but have aprepared exit strategy if a pleasant interaction turns abusive or toxic. You may not be willing to stay with them if it is upsetting each time. Shorter visits may be preferable.
You may have to give your adult child some space if they are misusing you. Call less often. Meet up at a neutral location, such as a restaurant for a meal. Prepare a broken record response if they begin to verbally attack you, such as, "I understand that you are unhappy with how your life is going, but this isn't going to help." You may be willing to help your adult child in a time-limited fashion, if they are taking demonstrable steps to help themselves. You may want to reframe by asking them what they think they can do to create a positive change in their life. You could also redirect the conversation to something else. You could not be immediately available at all times. Give less: time, attention, financial support.
Explain that it puts you in an awkward position if they repeatedly call you to bash their partner. It may be healthier to redirect them to talk directly to their partner, and not triangulate you in the middle, or see a therapist. This is changing your own dance steps. You are not a dumping ground or a doormat. Realize that to be someone else's doormat, you do have to lie down (be passive and allow it).
You have certain rights as a person, too. When you had children, you didn't give up your need for personal dignity or respect. You have a right to move closer emotionally to people who treat you well and are supportive. Put more distance between yourself and people, including your adult children, who mistreat you. You have a right to peace, and not being anybody's emotional punching bag. Some adult children have elevated and unrealistic expectations about you always being at their service. You are a part of the problem if you enable their bad or weak behavior. Your own health will suffer if you don't set boundaries.
Having children can be an incredible blessing. As your children become adults themselves, it is essential to shift gears in the parent-child relationship. You love them, but you also have firm and clear limits about what you will and won't do, and what behaviors you cannot accept or encourage. Being respectful of others and requiringrespect back from others is something that only you can do.
It's a healthy response to develop the backbone to not be an enabler. This is reworking your part of the parent-child dance, doing your best to help your adult son or daughter stop blaming, and start addressing the issues in their own life. This takes strength, but it's really the most loving and helpful thing you can do for your adult child: loving them, but stepping away from the drama, setting firm limits, and not feeding the problem. Maybe you're still parenting, but shifting to an appropriate stance for your adult child's situation, and encouraging their strength, health, and emotional growth.