Thirteen Characteristics Of Adult Children
(As written by Janet Geringer Woititz, Ed.D.)
The purpose of this page is to provide a "self check-up" or
"checklist" of potential emotional issues to see if there are any
areas in your life that you may want to improve. If you understand the statement that
"We don't know what we
don't know", this page can help you realize
areas within you that you may not have been aware of, so that you may then
decide to work on and improve. While there are many other lists like this that
are beneficial, I've found this list is good because the book written around
these characteristics is good at helping you to learn how to overcome any of
these shortcomings. This can help you towards a goal of improving your emotional
well-being, which can help you have a
more positive life.
Have compassion on yourself and all others
when reading this, for you might feel less than happy when reading the
following. Remember, it's not your fault. You were taught these by people that
also often had the same issues.One can choose to "unlearn" any trait that they
want in their life. Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to change and adapt due to
experience. It continues through adulthood.
Unless you grew up in a perfectly emotionally healthy family, you may have one or more
of these characteristics
The following is a list is taken from
(amazon). Some people:
1. Guess at what normal behavior is.
2. Have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end.
3. Lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.
4. Judge themselves without mercy.
5. Have difficulty having fun.
6. Take themselves very seriously.
7. Have difficulty with intimate relationships.
8. Overreact to changes over which they have no control.
9. Constantly seek approval and affirmation.
10. Usually feel that they are different from other people.
11. Are super responsible or super irresponsible.
12. Are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is
13. Are impulsive. They tend to lock themselves into a course of action
without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible
consequences. This impulsivity leads to confusion, self-loathing, and loss of
control over their environment. In addition, they spend an excessive amount of
energy cleaning up the mess.
- If you read this list, and find yourself thinking, "What's wrong with
that characteristic, it sounds fine to me?", then you can find a clear
answer to the problems with that characteristic by reading her book.
- Janet's New York Times Bestseller book, Adult Children of Alcoholics is available
One of the great attributes of the
book is that for each characteristic, you could read, "How you got
it", and then go to another chapter on "How to fix it." The
book provided great solutions!
- Many years ago, when I first read this list, I thought the following: 1) I
could identify with some (or many) of those characteristics. 2) I didn't like
any of those
characteristics, and I really didn't want to be a person who had those
characteristics throughout my life.
- I took action. I would go a couple times a week to a 12
Step program meeting that followed her book in the meeting. We would a) say hello, b) read one of the 13 "how we got
it" in a round robin reading. c) take a short break, d) read the solution
round robin, e) discuss what we chose to, keeping the focus on our own issue.
You could get friends together and do the same. When you do that, you find how
many people have what you thought was only your problem, but they offered
different views and solutions. Hint Hint :)
- If you read this list, and you can see some of these characteristics in you,
then I invite you to consider this: Is this something you want to live
with, or would you like to learn how to live a better life? Spending time on
improving emotional strength and knowledge is very similar to staying physically fit through exercise.
- I believe that in most or all cases, parents do try to do the best that they can,
but their parenting job highly depends on the emotional education that they were
given from their parents or caregivers or learned on their own.
- Remember that even if you are a great parent, it could be harder to teach
your children these characteristics if you work many hours. Education takes
time and effort, but it can really pay off in the long run.
Children of Alcoholics (adultchildren.org) has evolved, and I have not
gone to them in many years. I don't know that they would still use her book
for a meeting, and I can not speak for how their meetings would fit for
you. The great news is that they are free, and group sharing with Love in mind
can be very powerful as well as very nurturing and supportive.
- Janet points out that adult children can be children of alcoholics or children from
many other types of dysfunctional situations.
Examples include growing up with people who had other compulsive behaviors (such
as gambling, drug abuse, emotional abuse, workaholic, overeating), experienced chronic illness,
profound religious attitudes, were adopted, lived in foster care, lived with
divorced parents, or had taken on the role as an adult parent to their younger
sisters or brothers because the parents were not at home. Children need to be
children, and children need to be nurtured. This gives them a better ability
to "settle into adulthood responsibilities" and maybe know how to
have fun while they do it :)
See also Laundry
List from AdultChildren.org
After reading this list, you may identify with some of these
characteristics, and you may at first find it a bit overwhelming. It's important
to realize you are not the only one. I invite you to consider going to a few Adult
Children of Alcoholics (adultchildren.org) meetings, and you are likely to feel comfort in
knowing you're not the only one, and you be with people who want to grow past
As always, remember to listen to your heart.
Thank YOU for reading this!
By David M
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This page updated 02/02/23 09:29 AM