Is there any way I can help him without tough love

In reading all the previous advice, the common thread seems to be tough love. Push him out and let him fend for himself. It appears that a lot of these stories end with the son being homeless/ jail/etc.
My son was a productive member of society. He has his issues, but even in the pit of his depression, he remembers birthdays, communions, all the important stuff that a caring adult should remember. He was hit with recurrent panic attacks that have left him stunned, and unarmed to handle life outside his sanctuary. Is there anything besides this tough love that can really help him. He wants to get better, he takes his medication, he sees his psychiatrist. But he is afraid to leave the house. He has long term plans, but the months are going by. Is there any way I can help him without the tough love. As a mother of 4, I have found more often than not, that stuff can backfire right in your face. Help


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Staff member
Welcome. I think there are some stories of our adult kids who are not manipulating us and who are making every attempt to heal and grow who are not thrown out to fend for themselves.

Is your son living with you? How old is he? Is he respectful?

I don't think there is only one way to handle our kids who won't or cannot launch, however, here, many of our kids have been enabled by us and are highly manipulative and disrespectful as well as downright nasty. We end up being the scapegoat for their choices and behaviors. If that is not the case for you, then you are in a different situation entirely.

If you are willing to offer your son a safe place to stay while he learns how to cope with his panic attacks and you feel okay about that, then there is nothing wrong with that choice. However, if you are feeling resentment, anger, depleted and exhausted, you may want to find other options. In the meantime, in my opinion, it is always a good idea for us parents to find support so we can take care of ourselves. The organization NAMI offers very good courses for parents who are confronted with adult kids who are facing mental challenges. You may want to contact them, they have chapters in most major cites and can be accessed on line. They will give you support and advice and guidance as to how to deal with the situation you find yourself in.

It's tough having a child who goes off the rails for whatever reason. Get yourself in supportive environments. Keep posting. Take care of YOU.


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We talk about tough love with our difficult children who use drugs, commit crimes and treat us like cow poo. Your son sounds like he has agoraphobia. That is a very different situation. All I can suggest is what he is doing - getting help from a professional. I am sorry I am of no help but just wanted to clarify...I hope he gets the help he needs. Is it possible maybe he needs a different doctor?


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Hi BH.

I personally don't think that tough love is any way to go with a child who takes his medications, follows his doctor's advice and shows such loving concern about his family.

Our kids tend to be the ones who either don't take or abuse their medications and manipulate us into doing things that they are fully capable of doing themselves.

That doesn't sound like your son at all. If he is participating in a long-term plan to get over his fears, I think that is a wonderful thing. I wish the best for him and for you.


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One of the challenges of a site like this board is that you only hear the bad stories - or at least the ones that start bad.

There are lots of other families out there where they have an adult child who has not yet launched - and is still at home for a variety of reasons. Some situations I know of include:
- a 25yo still at home, boyfriend has moved in; working on family farm, saving up for their own house nearby.
- a 19yo still at home, working full time but not able to really care for himself otherwise, has the support of home; this kid is medications and therapy compliant, and there is hope for improvement
- a 22yo who moved home to have support while going back to school, because of a tendency to anxiety and depression - didn't want to live alone or in a dorm, no support either way
- a 45yo with serious mental illness, tries (within limits of disorder) to be medications compliant, but needs hospitalization 2-3 times a year, unstable work history, was living with parents and has now been taken in by a sibling.

I don't think I'd toss any of those out on their backside. The last one... well, I'd probably have been fighting for better social system supports before age 45, but I understand the family's rationale.

Substance abuse. Illegal activities. Behaviour that negatively affects others in the home can come into this category as well. These are more often the trigger for "tough love", partly because nothing else has worked either.


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Tough . Love is for adult kids who use drugs, are involved in criminal activity or are dangerous to us or themselves and they refuse help. I don't think your son will be helped by tough love. He is doing all he can to help himself which is doing his best. He can't help his illness any more than if he had cancer. I can't see where tough love would do any good. It could be cruel.

in a daze

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Hi BH. How old is your son? I assume he lives with you? Can he leave the house to see the p doctor, or does the doctor come to see him? Does he have a therapist? What is his occupation?

My son is on his sixth psychiatrist, and we think we might (I say might, as we have been going through this for 12 years and I am kind of cynical by this / point) finally be on the right track.

NAMI can be a good resource, and a therapist of your own can be helpful to you also for guidance in how to deal with your son and emotional support for yourself.

If you like, private message me as we live in Chicago and we have experience with private and university psychiatrists.


Roll With It
Each and every situation is unique. There is NO solution right for every situation, including tough love. What do your instincts tell you that he needs? I am a FIRM believer in a mother's instincts above all unless there is so much enmeshing that separation is the only healthy thing. And that is rare, and usually has addiction and criminal behavior involved.

No matter what anyone says, you are one of few experts in the subject of your son. The doctors are experts in a field of study, not in a specific patient. Your son, of course, is one expert in the field of what is best for him, but you are another. If your instincts, as one who has loved and cared for him every second of every day of his life, tell you that tough love is the wrong answer, then it is. It just IS the wrong answer.

It sounds like he needs help, therapy, medications, and support. Those don't have to be delivered via tough love. They can be delivered at home, or in his home, etc...

Please don't let anyone push you and your son into doing something that you feel deep down is wrong and will hurt him or not help him. The biggest mistakes I have made with my kids happened when I listened to some expert - a doctor, a teacher, a therapist, whomever - when my gut said it was wrong. I have a bunch of teachers and doctors who don't like me much, but I don't care. The good ones were able to accept that we were doing things my way and admit later that I was right. The rest? Well, they saw my kid for ten to fifty min every month or three. They are not part of our lives and their opinions don't matter to anyone who does matter to me.

You can tell us your story, ask for advice, insight and support. We will give you our opinions, and we will EXPECT you to take only what works for you and to absolutely NOT use any advice that does not make sense or work for your family. We have suggested many things in many situations, not just tough love, and we welcome you.


Well-Known Member
No, tough love is not requirement of the board. Some people have found it a best way in their situation, or least bad way anyway, but your situation is your situation. Ideas we throw out of course reflect our experiences and some may be more fitting to your situation and some not so much. No one expects there to be one way fitting for all.

My troubled kid is out from home, but not because we would had kicked him out but because him pursuing his goals. If he would need it, we would allow him to come back (and he does stay here some time during summer etc.) His core issues are about mental health though he does have had behavioural problems from early on and in one point was deeply in trouble because of an addiction. He isn't even nice to live with; at best he is disruptive and when he is having difficult time he is downright obnoxious to live with. Still, last fall when he was in crisis, and spend a month at home while sick leave, we talked with him about if he would like to take more time off and live at home and regroup while we would finance that. He didn't want that, because it would had seriously hindered him from pursuing his goals. We also now finance him some services we find important, though he mostly makes his living himself.

He is dangerous only to our sanity and (nowadays very seldomly) to our property. Often not so respectful, but loving. So we have not needed to kick him out for our safety (when he was more of a danger, and he never physically attacked us even then but did more damage to property, like slashed our car tires regularly, burnt one of our out buildings (well, that was likely partly accident) he was still a minor.) He is more or less compliant with treatment and is becoming better at negotiating with providers.

There are lots of people here with different experiences, and while it may feel that everyone does 'the tough love' if you read topics about substance abuse (and even then that is not actually true) it is different when we are talking about our neurologically different kids or those with mental health issues. Logic usually goes that most substance abusers are capable of making sound decisions, they just rather choose the substances. When problems stem from neurological difference or mental health issue, being capable to do better at least at that time and place is not so easy to assume.
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