To Worry or Not

Q: I’ve often heard the importance of showing a united front in relation to parenting. It sounds nice in theory. But there are times when parents’ opinions differ greatly, and it is easier said than done. My husband and I have more or less managed to not show strong differences throughout the years.

However, we are now faced with a more serious situation, where our differing opinions may be harmful.

We have a 32-year-old daughter who suffers from medical conditions — and due to this, some emotional distress. At one point, she was told that she had OCD and mood swings. She spends a good part of the day doing art work — oil painting and sometimes working with charcoal. Her artistic talent allows her to get work, sporadically. She lives in an inexpensive living situation, with similar girls, and we usually help her pay part (or all) of her rent. She desires to live a more productive life, but has concerns about finding the right job and that stops her from taking the leap.

My husband’s approach towards her is more that of tough love. He thinks we should just cut off supporting her financially, and somehow, she will rise to the occasion, and get a 9-5 job, somewhere. I believe this approach just exacerbates the situation. When my husband mentions this idea to my daughter, her general state of anxiety increases her distress. He feels that I coddle her too much. She seems to be somewhat afraid of my husband’s tough approach, and usually avoids dealing with him, coming to me for support — financial and otherwise.

Am I wrong in not taking my husband’s approach of tough love?

A: It is extremely difficult to assist an adult child who has suffered both physically and psychologically. Society has certain expectations commensurate with each life developmental stage. This is especially true within our society.

So, as a 32-year-old single woman without a definite job, and psychological limitations, she struggles with maintaining a sense of basic self-esteem, on a daily basis.

To obtain (and maintain) employment, one needs to have a sense of self-esteem and responsibility. Your daughter is afraid of failing. Putting her in a circumstance where her psychological defenses may easily crumble is not a wise suggestion. Tough love is not for those who severely lack coping mechanisms in their daily functioning.

You do not mention what your daughter has done to help herself until now. Actual suggestions to help adult children are very helpful. I’m not clear if you have already attempted these avenues.

Is your daughter actually open to ideas that you and your husband give her? Motivation is necessary in finding a job. If she starts a job but then buckles under pressure, this venture becomes another failure.

If your husband feels that the financial help that you give her is a free lunch, so to speak, perhaps you can have certain conditions connected to these financial allotments. Though all children need to feel unconditional love (at any age), giving responsibilities with financial allotments is not necessarily a contradiction.

Visiting an ailing grandmother a certain number of times a month, babysitting siblings’ children, or helping with family business (on a non-stressful level) can be a conscious trade-off in terms of financial supplements. It can be couched in terms of being paid for work that you don’t have enough time to do yourself (which is probably accurate). This is clearly not a long-term option, but a way to deal with the issue of having a more united front with your husband, so he won’t feel that she is being spoiled.

Clearly, each situation is different and requires different tactics; however, I hope I was able to address your question satisfactorily.

Hatzlachah rabbah, in this most delicate situation.

Hamodia invites readers with questions or dilemmas on family matters to seek advice from the well-known family therapist and author of “50 Pathways to Parenting Wisdom,” Mrs. Shira Frank. To assure anonymity, there is no need to sign your letter, although doing so will enable us to communicate with you privately if necessary. Please do your best to present the situation honestly, including all relevant details such as the age of the parties involved.

Fax your question to 718-853-9103; send it to; or mail it to Mrs. Shira Frank c/o Hamodia, 207 Foster Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11230. We regret that, due to space constraints, we will not be able to print all letters.