According to recent census data, more than half of people aged 18 to 24 years old live with their parents. Roughly 13% of adults ages 25 to 35 do as well. While many of these 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 and unmotivated to live life on their own terms. These children, without intention, can become emotionally and financially draining on their parents.
After all, if somebody else is taking care of all of your needs, what incentive do you have to start doing it yourself?
Here are three warning signs your adult child is too dependent on you:
YOU Are Responsible For THEM
If you find yourself shouldering your adult child’s responsibilities, and they’re perfectly happy to let you do it, you may have a problem. If your child is non-productive (plays videos games, lays on the couch watching TV, sleeps all day, etc.) while you take on a second job to pay off their debt or pay their car insurance, or give them money to go out with friends, it may be time to have a talk.
They’re Constantly Borrowing Money From You
It’s perfectly fine to help out your adult child financially 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 (or simply don’t want to get one) and if they’ve constantly promised to pay it back but never do, this is a red flag.
You Often Feel Disrespected
Figuring out early adulthood and struggling to find your place in the world can be challenging. Even though this natural life transition is supposed to be difficult, it can create emotional disturbances that look like moodiness. But there is a clear line between a bad mood and disrespect.
Is your child kind and respectful when they want or need help from you, and then become disrespectful or passive aggressive if you say “no” to their requests? While it’s easy to give them the benefit of the doubt and pass off this behavior to bad moods, this is a warning sign that your child had become dependent on you.
Remember when your child was five years old and was super nice and sweet when you gave them extra treats, but threw a meltdown at you when you refused. Remember how dependent your 5 year old was on you? Do you see where I’m going…?
4 Ways To Stop Enabling Them
It’s vital that you encourage your child to be independent. It’s equally important that you remain upbeat and avoid sounding adversarial when talking with them. Remaining calm, yet firm will go along way in setting healthy boundaries in the relationship.
Let them know you are there to support them, not solve their problems for them. If they have difficulty coming up with solutions to their problems, brainstorm with them by asking them questions. Let them do the hard labor while you supervise and guide – without judgment or criticism.
Agree on a Time Limit
Sit down with your child and discuss an exit plan. Yes, they may live with you, but only for an agreed amount of time. Collaborate together on a plan of action. Discuss expectations, identify potential obstacles to achieving the goal, and explore solutions together.
Have Them Contribute
Having no financial responsibilities while living with you will not help your adult child prepare for the real world. Cooking, shopping, cleaning, doing laundry for them also will not prepare them for the real world. It only sets them up to fail.
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. Write up a “contract” and both of you sign it. Hang it on the fridge or keep it somewhere close by for when the inevitable, “We never agreed to that” argument occurs.
Don’t Frivolously Give Them 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 that should be paid back. Again, set a time limit and expectations for when the money will be paid back. If necessary, collaborate on a plan of action for how it will be paid back.
Navigating a heartfelt and frank discussion with your adult child about boundaries, responsibilities, and respect can be difficult. Be sure to use active communication skills (What I’m hearing you say is…), acknowledge and validate their feelings (I hear that you’re frustrated), and be respectful and firm (I’m sorry. I know this is hard, but this is what I believe is best for both of us).
If you’ve found that despite your best efforts to have a conversation about expectations you still aren’t feeling happy with the results, it may be worth your time to speak with a therapist who can help you navigate and explore your personal boundaries and assist in communication skills to improve your relationship with not only your adult child, but everyone else in your life.
James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists take control and move From Surviving to Thriving.