You’ve tried every subtle tool in your annoyance arsenal to gently dislodge your adult children living at home. You’ve vacuumed at the crack of dawn, hosted Mary Kay gatherings, mismatched their socks and even resorted to stocking only instant coffee. Nothing seems to work. You don’t want to hurt their feelings, but you want them to get on with their life so you can get back to yours.
While the percentage of adult children living at home more than doubled over the past 3 decades — from 11% in 1980 to 23.6% in 2012 — cutting the cord financially can be an emotional nightmare.
CFP professional Eleanor Blayney and family counselor Gary Chapman, co-author of “How to Really Love Your Adult Child,” offer perplexed parents these 10 tips to gently but firmly persuade their baby birds to wing it.
1. Houston, we have a problem: And it won’t go away by itself. Step 1: Acknowledge it.
2. Form a parent pact: Parents often assume different disciplinary postures; one may be more hard-line, the other more lenient. Erase those roles to begin the conversation. “You’ve got to have a united approach and fully support each other because even a 30-year-old knows the value of playing one parent off against the other,” Blayney says.
3. Ditch the guilt: If you truly want what’s best for your child, buck up. “Simply to allow a young adult child to live at home, party every night, sleep until noon and have no plans is detrimental to the adult child,” says Chapman. “At that point, we’re not loving them; we’re enabling them to live an irresponsible lifestyle.”
4. Family meeting: “The key is to sit down with the adult child and talk about where you’re going,” explains Chapman. “This is where you say, ‘We love you, we really want to help you, we know this is not good and we know you don’t want to live here forever.'”
5. Include the money talk: “Explain that while we’re taking care of you now, we can’t be diverting our retirement resources indefinitely,” says Blayney. “We don’t think you want to be taking care of us in 20 years.”
6. Devise a 2-part plan: The 1st part of the plan addresses movement toward an educational or vocational goal (e.g., graduation or getting a job) that will make independence possible. The 2nd involves the child’s household responsibilities until he moves out. “All of us fare better emotionally if we feel like we’re moving in a positive direction rather than just wallowing,” says Chapman.
7. Set reasonable deadlines: They help keep your plan on track.
8. Real World 101: Prepare your child for independence by requiring him to pay reasonable rent if employed, or share in household chores like laundry if unemployed. “That $100 rent is going to be $800 when you move out,” Chapman observes.
9. Don’t criticize their choices: This time should be all about support.
10. The perfect ending: To celebrate his relocation, give him a spare key. It’s a nice gesture that shows he’s always welcome to come and go … just not to stay again!