Visions Journal, 2019, 15 (1), p. 4
A few years ago, Visions devoted a family-themed issue to “Couples.” It was an incredibly popular issue because it focused on an often-overlooked area where mental health and substance use intersect with family life. I have no doubt this issue on “Supporting Adult Children” will be similarly popular. I even had a waitlist of potential contributors. The contributors I could squeeze in, you’ll see, are pretty diverse: you will meet single parents, step-parents, rural and urban parents, mothers and fathers, parents of young adults and others approaching middle age, those who welcomed help and those who refused. And you’ll hear from families living through a range of challenges from psychosis and anxiety to addiction and anorexia.
Even when mental ill-health and substance use are not at play, parenting is hard. And it’s not over when your child reaches some magical legal age that defines adulthood. What really struck me when I read all the submissions is how invariably the stories started—and, of course, really must start—when the adult child is, well, not an adult. I know first-hand that the vast majority of adults with mental health and substance use problems don’t develop these conditions as adults and, yet, the cumulative impact of reading these trajectories and transitions is still pretty stunning. You will see how the stories take shape over years and how things like information-sharing, boundaries, help-seeking and communication change—sometimes in healthy ways, sometimes in frustrating ways, sometimes in both ways at the same time. And if anyone has any doubts about the power of early intervention (or the power of family support, for that matter), this issue will put those doubts to rest.
Families worry. That’s another theme that hit me. They love, care and show concern. They try to fight and plan for what might help, they advocate and coordinate. They trust and hope, but they also fret and fear, too. They hold on. They try to alleviate suffering. They learn to accept and to let go (a bit). They make mistakes. But above all, they hope for good things. As Rebecca from Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network puts it so simply, parents want their children to have a “good life.” Yet parents of adult children are also exhausted: emotionally, physically and financially. They carry a large burden of support and need support from service systems and society, in turn. And, every now and then, they need our most sincere thanks.
About the author
Sarah is Visions Editor and Director of Mental Health Promotion at the Canadian Mental Health Association’s BC Division