How I've Learned What to Say to My Adult Daughter With Anxiety and Depression


My 22-year-old daughter is truly wonderful. She is bright and beautiful and kind and considerate — all of those qualities I prayed for in a daughter. I am a lucky mom. She has recently moved out to a nearby city, and she is succeeding in a job she trained for in college. Perfect, right?

Well, not really.

Since she was 17 or so, my daughter has experienced extreme periods of self-doubt and anguish, partnered with contrasting episodes of extreme determination and competitiveness. It is a continuous roller coaster — well, two roller coasters if you can imagine it, running side by side. When one climbs the other dips, sometimes simultaneously. That’s what it’s like for her, what her life is like. And because I am her mother and I love her, my life is like that too.

I really believe that a mother’s first instinct is to help her child. And along with that we try to take away their pain. And we will do or say anything to try and help our children reach a conclusion or a solution, a compromise or even reconciliation. We want them to feel better. As babies they receive a cuddle and a spoonful of medicine. As adults they get advice and soothing words. And maybe we offer a distraction.

But this is the last thing my adult child with anxiety and depression wants or needs. She doesn’t want me to tell her everything is going to be OK or that she is better and bigger than her problem. At least in the case of my daughter, she doesn’t want me to try and evaluate the situation, or to feed her compliments, or to try and distract her from the pain.

For a long time I didn’t know this. And I failed miserably.

Until the day she started sending me blogs about what to say when she turns to me. And what not to say. And I have these handy lists saved in my phone to refer to when I text with her. And when I forget or falter, she lets me know. And I go back to the prompts. And it works. She doesn’t want or need me to solve her problems. She just wants to know I am here. And I am listening. And I care about her. This time. And the next time and the next time.

My point is, listen to your child. They can tell you how to be. And that’s helpful because, even though we always think we know better, we don’t.

Listen. And believe. And care. And stay on track.

It’s OK. I am sorry you are going through this. I am hear. I care.

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Thinkstock photo by nautiluz56

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