Parenting Your Adult Children, Part II: Solutions

Two men in living room talkingAs I discussed in last month’s article, more and more parents seem to be actively parenting their adult children these days. How do you parent an adult who needs some support while also taking good care of yourself?

A first question might be, “Does the adult child really need my help?” Too often I observe parents jumping in and “fixing” things for their kids instead of supporting them in figuring out their own decisions, messy as they might be. If a young adult is genuinely working hard to establish herself and can’t find a good job, it may be reasonable to allow her to live at home with certain guidelines until she can become more solvent.

My suggestion would be to give a timeframe (which can always be revisited!) as well as setting expectations for participation in the household. Often I see parents still doing their kids’ laundry and allowing them to keep all the money they earn for manicures or entertainment instead of contributing to household bills.

How will they learn to be responsible for themselves if we don’t teach them to budget? Obviously if they only make $100/week, they will only contribute a small amount; but this helps them learn to appreciate the value of their own—and your—money and time. Sitting down to discuss these issues will help.

For instance, you can explain to your adult child that though a curfew may seem ridiculous, you are doing this to alleviate your own anxiety. Together you can hash out an agreement that will honor both of your needs. Remember: if you are exhausted, stressed, or broke, you won’t be much help to them!

What if the situation is more complicated, and an adult child has dependents, an ex who is still prominent in his or her life, is unemployed, etc.? Again, you can help this person as long as you are honoring your own needs in taking care of them. A favorite yoga teacher, Judith Lasater, once suggested asking yourself this question before you do anything, small or great: “Does what I’m about to do include taking care of myself?”

So before you agree to babysit full-time or cash in your IRA to pay your adult child’s attorney’s fees, take some time and be assured through discussion and contemplation that your child is doing everything to his highest ability. If, for instance, he or she is experiencing depression (a common problem), it is reasonable for you to help pay for counseling but also insist that your child follow through with treatment, or you are both likely to get stuck in this mire for years.

I have seen older adults develop severe depression themselves from trying to “rescue” their adult children for years on end. Obviously this is a very short discussion of a complex issue.

I suggest you ask yourself two things:

  1. Will I be able to take care of myself psychologically, physically, and spiritually if I provide support at this time?
  2. Does my decision to help represent the best possible way to help my child not only in the moment, but in his or her future as a responsible adult?

You can always revise decisions. But it is much easier to err on the side of enforcing and maintaining boundaries in the beginning and relax those boundaries if things are going well than it is to try and impose them later. Good luck!

© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Lillian Rozin, MFA, LCSW, RYT, therapist in Media, Pennsylvania

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • shannon

    shannon

    December 12th, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    I don’t get this whole phenomenon because once I was old enough to move out, I did, and my parents haven’t supported me since then. I am not much older than these adult children who have moved back home and are still living with their parents and depending on them for everything but I know that this would not be what I would want for me or for my parents either. There will always be situations that cannot be helped and avoided and I know that if I ever needed them then my parents would be there for me; but at this stage in my life I kind of feel like now it’s my turn to give back to them, not continue to take.

  • Jon

    Jon

    December 13th, 2013 at 3:36 AM

    So what do you do if you DON”T think that he is doing everything that he can? Turn him away?

  • Angela

    Angela

    August 2nd, 2018 at 12:05 PM

    Precisely.

  • Paulette

    Paulette

    December 14th, 2013 at 6:11 AM

    @Jon I think that there comes a time when you just have to let them go. They are never going to know their true strength until we allow them to fail a little. I think that it’s one thing for them to know that we are there when they need us but to always be there even before they have a chance to discover who they really are by themselves is a huge mistake that many parents have made, and that includes me.

  • Dennis

    Dennis

    December 15th, 2013 at 3:27 PM

    What concerns me the most are that the parents I see still helping out their adult kids are those who have put their own lives on hold while they tend to them. Please, these are adults here, or they should be, and they shoul be expected to act like adults. You keep doing this that and the other for them and they are never going to learn to do it for themselves.
    I understand if there is something big going on, like they experienced the death of a friend or spouse or they have just graduated, but if it goes beyond that and they just haven’t learned to cook or clean for themselves… well, I guess you can imagine what my opinion on that is.

  • Chelsey

    Chelsey

    December 17th, 2013 at 3:45 AM

    I know that things happen but I kind of think that when you try to do right the first time around then maybe you won’t have to be parenting them so much as they get older.
    Nothing ever stops you from being a parent but it is a whole other ball game to still have to be providing forth em in so many ways once they technically get old enough to be able to do it on their own.

  • constance

    constance

    December 18th, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    Everyone needs some help out with life every now and then we shouldn’t think that they don’t deserve that help simply because of their age. They could have something very serious going on beneath the surface that most of us don’t know about or don’t understand so I would at least ask that anyone please consider this point before making a snap judgement.
    I don’t want my adult children to still feel reliant on me either, but that’s not to say that if they needed me I wouldn’t step in and try to help because I know myself well enough to know that I certainly would. I think that my parents would have done it for me and I don’t think that it would always be a bad thing to do for my kids either.

  • Lynne

    Lynne

    November 16th, 2017 at 6:11 AM

    Oh Constance, your kind words are exactly what I needed to read today. Bless you.

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