According to the latest census data, more than half of people aged 18 to 24 live with their parents, and roughly 13% of adults ages 24 to 35 do as well. While many of these young people are hard-working individuals, trying to save money to pay off school loans, buy a house, or start a business, some are simply children who remain dependent on their parents, unmotivated to live life on their own. These children, though they may not mean to, can become emotionally and financially draining on their parents. Parents, through their actions, inadvertently are enabling the child and perpetuate and unhealthy cycle.
So what is enabling? It’s, quite simply, allowing a child to stay or take advantage of a situation. Parents are literally enabling – making it possible for – the behavior to continue.
Here are three (3) warning signs you may have children who are too dependent on you, and three (3) ways you can stop enabling them.
1. You are Responsible for Them
If you find yourself shouldering your adult child’s responsibilities, and he or she is perfectly happy to let you do it, you may have a problem. If your child is non-productive while you take on a second job to pay off his or her debt or pay his car insurance, it may be time to have a talk.
2. Your Child is Constantly Borrowing Money from You
It’s perfectly fine to financially help out your adult child every once in a while. But if your son or daughter is constantly borrowing money from you because they can’t seem to hold down a job, and if they constantly promise to pay it back but never do, this is a red flag.
3. You are Often Disrespected
Young people who are struggling to find their place in the world and start their own life are often moody.. But there is a fine line between a bad mood and blatant disrespect in your direction.
Does your son or daughter seem respectful and even loving when they want or need help from you, and then become disrespectful or passive-aggressive should you say “no” to their requests? Though you may want to give them the benefit of the doubt and pass off this behavior to those bad moods, this is a warning sign that your child is taking advantage of you and you may be enabling him/her.
It’s important that you encourage your child to be independent. It’s equally important that you remain upbeat and avoid being adversarial when talking with them. Calmness, yet firmness, will go a long way in setting healthy boundaries in the relationship.
1. Agree on a time limit
Sit down with your child and discuss an exit plan. Yes, they may stay but only for an agreed upon amount of time. Stick to this plan – if the child realizes you don’t intend to enforce it he/she will not make the necessary steps to exit.
2. Have them contribute
Having no financial responsibilities while living with you will not help your adult child prepare for the real world. Ask your son or daughter to contribute to the monthly expenses. If they are currently unemployed, ask them to do chores like gardening, grocery shopping, or cleaning. People don’t take things as seriously if they don’t have “skin in the game,” so to speak. This helps them take ownership of their lives.
3. Don’t indiscriminately give money
Borrowing money to get on their feet and make a car payment is one thing. But you cannot continue to give your adult child money forever. You may lend money with the understanding it should be paid back. Again, you’ll have to enforce this. If you don’t, there is no incentive for change.
Sometimes, having a heartfelt discussion with your son or daughter can be difficult. At times like these, it’s often helpful to have a family therapist, a neutral third party, guide the discussion and make sure everyone is heard.
If you or a loved one is interested in getting some launching help, please contact me today for your free, 15-minute consultation. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.