Older Mind Matters

Older parents of adult children: the potential of non violent resistance

I am enthused by an article I read recently in the Journal of Family Therapy. Golan et al’s article (JoFT, 2018, 40: 4-24) is about Non Violent Resistance (NVR) training for parents of young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Regrettably I must confess that I was ignorant of NVR as it developed in relation to children and adolescents, and I have only recently come to recognise its potential relevance to my own areas of interest. The authors describe how the parents of young adults with ASD are trapped in recurrent patterns where the child’s dependence needs escalate – the young adult functions at a “sub-optimal” level and parents might be viewed as “over-protective”. They describe four cases and analyse parental reports pre and post intervention.

My enthusiasm is because I have tentatively adapted principles taken from my reading about NVR in working with parents of adult children who make intensive demands on them. I initially conceptualised the parents as in a situation that might be conceptualised as “parent abuse”, but that fails to acknowledge the circularity of their situation. These parents might be regarded as “over-protective” (and who doesn't want to protect and keep safe their child, whatever their age?) They regard their adult children as vulnerable, and try to keep them safe by taking over responsibility for areas of their adult child’s life in such a way that maybe (from the perspective of others?) "fosters" or "reinforces" dependence and could be seen as enmeshing them in a vicious circle.

The paper describes key features of the authors’ intervention and resonates with key features in the families I’ve worked with, involving: de-escalation training; creating networks for both parents and adult child; planned gradual reduction of support to the adult child; the couple working as a team, and prioritising the couple relationship and perhaps relationships with other adult children.

I heartily recommend the paper, along with reflection on the wider applications of NVR principles.

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