TODAY   |  December 04, 2012

How to deal when your adult kids face setbacks

The rebellious teen years are often thought to be the worst of parenting, but for mom Susan Engel, watching from the sidelines as her son endured setbacks proved more excruciating. She talks about how she dealt with her son’s pain.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> being a parent does not end, of course, when your children leave the nest. when susan engle's sons struggled on their own she found the esappearance personally excruciating and wrote it for a column in the newyorktimes.com. and also the author of "your child's path" and your column really touched aner

>> yeah, it did, really surprised by that.

>> let's start with the basics. three grown sons and you said in the piece when you were a mom you thought when they were grown up, wow, you don't have to worry anymore. off to college, and it will all be fine.

>> i remember hearing a friend telling me her youngest son had just gotten into college, long before i was that old and she said that's it, i launched them and that's going to me some day.

>> au conwill be traire. one of your sons will that you write about went through a very difficult time. can you tell us about that.

>> my son will is 25, and last year was just a brutal year for him. he had a series of really terrible things, or they were terrible for him, calamitous things. he had a very serious injury to a finger which permanently damaged it, and all the work he does involves his hands. he had a very awful ending to a relationship, very brutal for him, and he sort of got summarily fired from a job he was actually really good at with no explanation so when you're watching your kids grab on to life and jump into it and you watch them get knocked down like that, it's really hard.

>> and you write about it quite eloquently. you said i didn't know how to handle my own nearly unbearable feeling of pain. i wanted to be by his side constantly and wanted to go out and hurt those who hurt him, arrange new work for him, bring beautiful women to my home where he had come to live and yet i wanted to get as far away as possible just to avoid the pain his pain was causing me.

>> yes.

>> you know, you got a lot of reaction to this and some of it was wait a minute, mom, maybe there's an issue with you. are you too attached and too invest federal that's possible with your adult child?

>> yes. i was flooded with response, and i would say that the majority of the responses were really appreciative and grateful and sort of like, oh, my god, this is what i've been going through, too, but some people said things like you call yourself a psychologist. you should back off or you should have backed off years ago, or you're are a helicopter monomom.

>> the reactions ran the gamut. you got all kinds of different things, some from the children perspective and some from the adult perspective. one woman wrote i love my kids but they will be truly grown up when they first thinks about how their tales of woe will stress me out and make me feel powerless and sad. did you feel in one way that your article was speaking for moms out there like saying, hey, we really feel this?

>> you know, i wasn't really speaking for anybody but my investment it was a very personal piece, and i was just sharing the surprise i had experienced when my kids grew up and i realized i was launched into a whole new phase that i hadn't really been prepared for. and i -- i think it's inevitable. i don't think it's a bad thing to go through that pain. i think it's part of being a mom.

>> well, i know you've got some good advice from your other son who said what when you told him?

>> back off.

>> he said back off.

>> don't fix my problem. don't tell me it's not as bad as you thought just listen.

>> i'm remind of that old saying that having kids is like having your heart outside your body.

>> absolutely. you know, there's the poet william butler yates said the price of love is grief, and i think that describes being a mom perfectly. susan engel , a thought-provehicling piece, thanks for being here.