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Using Conversations That Teach Resilience: Adult Children

Resilience is the ability to cope with challenges, process negative feelings, bounce back from bad experiences, and move forward in the face of adversity. Resilience helps us cope when life just isn’t going our way. It gives us the ability to calm and care for ourselves from within without becoming dependent on substances or outside influences to cope.

While most adult children are pretty independent, you can still help them believe more strongly in their abilities by practicing resilience yourself and having open, respectful conversations with them. You still have an influence on your adult children, and having resiliency enhancing conversations will help them face challenges with confidence throughout life.

Encourage them to reflect on their own experience

Encourage adult children to reflect on their own experience before giving them feedback. This helps them to consider what they did well, what kind of effort they put into the task, and what they learned.


Parent: How’s the job hunt going?
Adult child: Okay, I guess. I have an interview next week.
Parent: That’s great, what for?
Adult child: A cashier job. At a drug store. I don’t really want to be a cashier but I need a job. This is the third interview I’ve had for cashier jobs - I never heard back from the others.
Parent: If you don’t want to be a cashier, why do you keep applying for cashier jobs?
Adult child: To be honest, I’m kind of interested in working in a drug store. You get to help people out and maybe learn a little about the pharmaceutical industry and stuff.
Parent: Sounds like you may have found something you can connect with.
Adult child: Maybe. It’s just I’m curious about some of the stuff I see in the news about these prescription drugs that people need, on the one hand, but can lead to some really messed up problems, on the other.
Parent: Wow, that’s a really complex issue, eh? I think it’s wonderful that you care so much about what happens to people.

Share what you’ve learned about your experience

Reinforce positive modelling, not only through your own behaviour, but by asking young adults what they observed someone else doing well. Practice healthy self-reflection by sharing with them what you liked about your own behaviour and what you might improve with practice or effort.


Parent: So, when did you say your interview at the drug store was again?
Adult child: Tomorrow. I sure hope it goes better than the last few interviews.
Parent: I remember once when I had interviews almost every day for weeks. I tried to make a list of the kind of questions they asked, what I answered quite well and what I needed to do better on. Took me a while, but it eventually helped.
Adult child: Yeah, I’m also going to talk to my friend Jennifer today about working there. She’s been there for almost a year.
Parent: Does she like working there?
Adult child: Yeah, she really likes it. They’ve already given her a raise!
Parent: Sounds like she should be able to give you some pointers.

Suggest what they can do, not what they didn’t do

Failure is an important aspect of learning, and mastering any difficult task takes repeated practice. When giving feedback on areas of improvement, tell young adults what they can do in order to succeed at the task rather than focus on what they did not do. Practice measuring success in terms of self-improvement rather than by triumphs over others.


Parent: So, any news on the job front?
Adult child: Well, the drug store interview did not go very well. I was way too nervous. BUT I heard that a drug store downtown is hiring right now so maybe I can try there.
Parent: That’s great news! Maybe the first interview was just practice for an even better opportunity. So what can you do to make interview go better?
Adult child: Well, I met my Jennifer who was going to help me prepare but we ended up just hanging out more than anything.
Parent: Hmmm, so maybe invite Jennifer here to specifically help you go over your answers.
Adult child: Yeah, that way we could be a little more focused, and now I have experience with what they ask and want to know from me. I think I’ll do better next time.
Parent: And if you need someone else to practice with…
Adult child: You’ll volunteer. Yes, I know. Thanks.

Suggest healthy ways to calm themselves when stressed

All of us can learn to tune into our bodies. It’s important to learn to recognize the physical signs of stress and realize they are actually healthy parts of preparing the body for action. Talking about how you have learned to take slow deep breaths and feel the difference between tension and relaxation, and how you have practiced doing feared tasks in your imagination will encourage your adult child to develop healthy coping skills. These tactics will help your adult children develop healthy go-to habits for skillfully managing negative emotions, social anxiety, and other sources of stress.


Adult child: I’m nervous about my interview this afternoon.
Parent: That’s your body telling you to get prepared for action. It’s good to be aware of how your body talks to you.
Adult child: But what if “getting prepared for action” makes me all shaky and I stumble over my words again when trying to answer their questions?
Parent: Well, you could try calming yourself by taking slow, deep breaths. Let’s try it together right now. Can you feel the tension leaving your body? Okay, now imagine yourself sitting at the interview, telling them about how you want to work in a drug store because you want to help people take more control of their own lives including those who are sick or in pain. Imagine telling them about all the ways you have proven yourself as a caring, responsible, hardworking person who would be a good fit in a drug store environment. A lot of successful people do this, you know - they visualize themselves doing well at something to help them de-stress and focus. Trust yourself: you are well-prepared. You’ve practiced, you’ve imagined the situation, you know how to be calm… you’ll do great!

Remember that even as your children enter adulthood, they need you and can still learn healthy coping skills, resilience and self-reliance. This will protect them from the risks of substance use. Believe in your ability to positively impact your adult children, and help them to learn a resilient mindset so they can cope with life’s challenges in healthy ways.

For More Information

For more information about how to talk to your adult children about substance use and overdose, see the following parenting articles:

Last Reviewed: December 2016