Crucial Conversations QA

Changing Behavior in Adult Children

Dear Joseph,

My daughter just turned 40 and has gained more weight than ever. Conversations about her weight gain over the years have mostly been negative, though she did actually lose weight with the help of a trainer about eight years ago. She says her schedule doesn’t allow time, but I disagree. I need help on how best to approach her again without offending and/or causing her to stress and eat even more. Thank you.

Signed,
Worried Mom

Dear Worried Mom,

My advice to you will be simple but hard. These three words will not give you control, but they are your own path to healthy influence: Let it go.

Her weight is not your job. We can debate about whether it was prior to age 18. But we’re long past that. She has been an adult for 22 years. You refer to “conversations about her weight gain over the years” which leaves the impression that you have been on a run about this for a while. And the fact that the conversations have been “negative” means she is telling you clearly that she doesn’t want your help. If you are, in fact, having a debate with her about whether or not she has the time to go to the gym, you are way past any healthy boundary.

Let it go. Her weight is her responsibility, not yours.

I can sympathize with the plight of a parent who sees an adult child doing something that you know will cause harm. I have felt it many times myself, and sometimes with things far more threatening than obesity. But it is crucial to both your own emotional health and your relationship with your daughter that you learn to distinguish what you care about from what you are responsible for.

Learn to calm yourself when you panic about her choices. Learn to detach yourself from your need to fix her problems. Learn to think of her choices the same way you would someone you see ordering more in a restaurant than you think they should. Because that is who she is today.

I know what I am suggesting will take enormous work from you. But it is, in my view, your only path to peace.

Warmly,
Joseph