A Parent's Effect on a Child’s Love of Responsible Adulthood

Recently I read an article: A Mother’s Effect on Her Daughter’s Self-Esteem at healthyplace.com. It opens with the following line, “Mother’s need to be deeply aware of what they convey to their daughters through the attitudes they model about their own relationship to their bodies.” I re-read that line several times, thinking about its implications beyond mothers and daughters, and beyond bodies- to entire lives. 

An equally compelling, and accurate statement would be, “Parents need to be deeply aware of what they convey to their children through the attitudes they model about their own relationship to their adult lives, responsibilities, careers, self-care practices, spirituality, marriages, and so on…”

There is a lot of talk about why emerging adults fail, why college drop out rates are as high as 46%, and why young adults can have problems in the multigenerational workplace. In my work with emerging adults, I see an increasing trend. Emerging adults are disillusioned with adult life before they begin, especially when their parents appear unhappy.

Jack, a straight A student since elementary school, came home from college after the first year wanting to quit. He said he saw no point in higher education. He called the whole exercise a fraud.

He said, “My parents told me that if I went to college I could get the job I wanted and be happy, but they’re obviously not happy. They don’t like their careers. They’re overworked and exhausted. They drink too much, never get enough sleep, and complain headaches and backaches all the time. What they offered me was a lie.”

It has been suggested in a number of research studies and scholarly resources that teacing kids gratitude promotes psychological health and resilience. But how can we teach our kids gratitude if they see we don’t possess it for our own lives?

The flight attendant reminds you, “Please place your mask on first before assisting other passengers.” If you want to help your kids grow into healthy adults, start with yourself. 

Think about what messages you convey to your kids about your life. Focus on telling them what you love about your work, your marriage, and your life. 

Create a healthy life for yourself. Build in plenty of time for rest, self-care, and spiritual practice.

Tell your kids what you’re good at.

Resist the urge to complain to your children.

Take care of your body. Exercise. Eat well.

Focus on what you are grateful for.

Communicate with your child mindfully.


Dr. Deuter is a psychiatrist who specializes in the care of emerging adults.

Posted on July 14, 2014 .