Welcome everyone! I hope this post finds you all well! This week we are getting something special, two articles! I’m posting today’s a little earlier than usual and then I will have the second article up on Friday.

Cindy O’Donnell is the author of this week’s article and she really brings some light to a timely topic. As of recent years this has become more of a phenomenon. More than likely, you know of someone (or are this person yourself) who has a 20 something, still living at home. Cindy does a great job of explaining how parents can best handle their situation while maintaining a healthy relationship with their child. Here is what Cindy has to say:

Client: My kid doesn’t do anything around the house. They have no job, they are out all the time and I am left footing the bill for everything. Why are they not more responsible and when will they start to chip in and help?
Me: How old is your child?
Client: 26

This may sound like a start to a good joke but the reality is that this is a question I get quite often.

If you find yourself asking this question or one like it you are not alone. There is an answer to this question. What I often find is that once we start talking about the answer parents begin to squirm a little in their chairs. I think one of the reasons for this is because it’s not so much about the kids not being responsible as it is about the parent who struggles with having healthy boundaries, learning to say no and teaching these boundaries to their children.

What are Boundaries? Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend define boundaries as such:
Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins. Knowing what you own and what you are responsible for gives you freedom.

The reality is that whether you have kids that are 6 years old or 26 years old parents need to learn what their boundaries are as parents and then practice them. When dealing with adult kids (18yrs and up) here are a few simple thoughts.

1. Have clear rules and expectations
Most people appreciate knowing what the rules are and/or what is expected of them. Parents sometimes make the mistake of thinking that their adult kids know the rules but when they lines are crossed, parents are disappointed and upset. They find themselves asking, “why don’t they clean up after themselves, why are they taking advantage of me financially, when I was 26yrs I was totally independent.”
Believe it or not people need to know clear expectations, you need to tell them verbally or in writing.

2. Be consistent and firm
When implementing rules, expectations and guidelines you need to be consistent and firm. If you give a deadline for you kid to move out you need to remain firm. If rent is expected on the first of the month they need to pay it.
If you were someone’s landlord wouldn’t you want your money and have them follow the rules of their lease?

3. Have support
Don’t try and do this alone. Get support. Find someone to back you up and also someone who will make you accountable. If you are married support each other; back each other up.

Sometimes in an effort to love our children we enable their inability to become independent. The whole point of raising our children is so that they can become fully functioning independent people. Right? I’m guessing most of you agree with this and yet when we agree with this here’s what this may mean.

  • They pay rent if they live at home.
  • They help you around the house and have responsibilities to the home...they clean their rooms and do their laundry.
  • They are responsible for their own cell phone bills and insurance as well as gas and spending money.
  • If they need to return home for three months and that is what you both agreed to, you should expect that in three months time they will be moving out and will have made plans in advance.
  • They are able to make decisions on their own and often you won’t even know they are doing this because it will become so very natural.
The list goes on but I think you get the picture. This stage of parenting can be difficult…it’s letting go completely, not just a little but completely.

We need to remember that these once small little creatures that made us laugh and cry and worry and brought us to anger as well as joy were never ours anyway. They were never completely yours…they were and always will be God’s children. As parents we are but caretakers, so we don’t just let them go into the universe and hope for the best, but we let them go into the hands of God, because part A of our job as a parent is done. It is the blessing and the curse of doing your job well: when you succeed in growing your children to be independent.

One of the greatest gifts you can give as they launch into adulthood is that of supportive independence. If things go according to nature you will spend more time with your children as adults then you will as children. So having an adult child that you are close to is one of the greatest joys in life. Enabling them to live, as a fully functioning individual should give us joy just like when they began to take their first steps. Only this time it won’t be into our arms but into the arms of God’s world.

"Once the realization that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky."
– Rainer Maria Rilke

By: Cindy O’Donnell, LCSW