Show Notes

Today Ellen and Denise interviewed Judith Smith, the author of a new book called:  Difficult: Mothering Challenging Adult Children through Conflict and Change.

Judith is a leader in gerontological research focusing on women’s experiences as they age. She is a senior clinical social worker, therapist, and professor at Fordham University. She lives in New York City.

Difficult focuses on adult children and takes the unique perspective of the mother.  I struggled reading this book and felt such compassion for these mothers and the sacrifices they made.

Judith wrote the book because she discovered that there was very little written about parenting adult children and in particular for these mothers who were saddled with very difficult situations.

Judith is writing about a particular set of mothers.  Mothers truly who have difficult adult children.

She talks about her hope that using the words, "difficult adult child" will help others understand and be supportive.  She says that 80 percent  of all children are being raised in a single family home and the person carrying most of the weight is the mother.  That is changing, but not by much.

Societal problems are also contributing to this issue. A broken mental health system.  Not enough psychiatric beds, we do not have sufficient substance abuse care that is affordable and accessible. The homeless problem is connected to the mental health.

Also fascinating is what she learned during this research about elder abuse.  The most likely perpetrator is the adult child who is mentally ill or has a substance abuse problem and is living at home.

She offers some great advice on how to help mothers struggling with difficult adult children and the small steps mothers can use to help themselves and be heard.

There are no magical answers but she pushed herself to think about this and offers some tools both on the episode and in the book.

Judith urges listeners to stay in touch by emailing her at and check out her website at

Here final hope is that this book will help these mothers not feel alone.

Some links:
Book:  Torn in Two
Prochaska and DiClemte's Stages of Change

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