If you are actually supporting your adult children who are over 50 years old and perceive that support to be co-dependence, I encourage you to do a few things:

  • Consider what you are getting out of this support – what is your motivation and are their other more positive ways you could get those needs met?
  • Reflect on any ways that your own childhood may be influencing these behaviors and work with a trusted friend, family member, faith leader or therapist to identify those issues and address them.
  • Apologize to your kids for treating them like they are incapable if indeed there are no mental or physical deficits that justify this continued financial support.
  • Consider using Al-Anon or other support groups to examine your tendency toward co-dependence. A sponsor can be a big help and you might find that your co-dependence is not only in relation to your children.
  • Ask for support from loved ones and other trusted people in your life to make a plan to reduce and finally eliminate this support if you don’t believe it is the right thing for you and your children. Make a plan with dollar amounts diminishing over a planned period of time until the support ends if that is your goal.
  • Be kind to yourself in this process. You started this arrangement out of love for your kids and you likely didn’t recognize the ways this dependence might not actually be supportive to them. None of us are perfect parents and almost all of us are always trying to do our best.

This is challenging when you have an ex-spouse situation wherein the ex provides unlimited funds without any expectations and you, as the other parent, are trying to instill some sort of financial responsibility

You are absolutely right about that but you can make a difference if you can make a financial arrangement with your child that is both firm and friendly. Set up your agreement and keep it. You are powerless over your ex-spouse but you can model a relationship with your adult child that is empowering and respectful. Refrain from lecturing or commenting about your child’s other parents in any negative ways. Your willingness to treat your adult child like he or she is capable and competent can be impactful in the long run even if it doesn’t look like it right now.

There is a lot of conflict with my daughter and husband/father and they triangulate through me on all these issues.  I think we should see a family counselor together

Well, you could see a counselor together but you might try talking with your daughter and her husband and let them know that you want to support them both and will encourage your daughter to go back to her husband when she has issues with him. Express your confidence in their ability to work things out and their wisdom to know when to seek a counselor to help. I think that relationship between your daughter and her husband should take priority. If her father wants to meet with a counselor to help him improve his relationship with his daughter, you can certainly suggest that idea. If you and your husband and daughter want to see a counselor, that might help. But it is entirely your job to step out of that triangulation. You can tell your daughter and husband that you will listen to their concerns but you don’t want to be the go-between in any way and trust them to work it out, even if you don’t like how they do it! You can’t really be triangulated with your participation, so send them loving energy and step back and get support for yourself while you watch them struggle and hope they can find their way out of these conflicts. Accepting your own powerlessness with adult children is, from my point of view, one of our biggest challenges.