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How to Get an Adult Child to Be More Independent

by Dorothy J. Sander

Today's young adults are called the "boomerang generation" because once they move out of their parents' house, often they'll come back. If you have a son or daughter who is struggling to become independent, you are not alone. According to a recent survey conducted by ForbesWoman and the National Endowment for Financial Education, 59 percent of parents provide financial support to their children who are no longer in school. Experts continue to speculate on all the reasons behind this trend, but chief among them are the difficult economy and the high unemployment rate. It's difficult to be independent if you can't find lucrative employment. Another question being asked is,"Are their parents too lenient?" Regardless of the reasons, there are steps parents can take to encourage their adult child's independence.

Respect your adult children and insist on their respect. If your children do not respect your home, your belongings or your time, then take action to change this dynamic. Begin by showing respect for their privacy. Next, make your boundaries and limitations clear to them by stating them out loud, even if you think they should already know how you feel. They may need to be reminded until they know you mean it.

Listen when they talk about their life and concerns, but only offer your opinion if asked. If you find it difficult to stay silent, ask them first if they would like to hear your thoughts before speaking. If they do not, bite your tongue. You may be surprised how often they will say "yes" when you ask to give your opinion and how often they will express appreciation for your input once you stop insisting on giving it. "Sometimes by giving advice, I inadvertently expressed a lack of faith in the other person’s ability to figure it out on their own," says Rebecca Rogers Maher, author of "Why I Stopped Giving Advice." Your adult children need to know you have confidence in them.

Let adult children do their own shopping. It will build confidence.

Do not do anything for them that they can do for themselves. This includes laundry, dishes, cooking, paying bills, looking for a job, finding an apartment, or buying their shampoo and deodorant. Parents get in a habit of taking care of their kids, and the children are in the habit of being taken care of. Let them practice adulthood in the little ways, and it will give them more confidence to handle to the bigger responsibilities.

Have a family meeting if your adult children are living with you. Create a plan and post a schedule to handle household responsibilities, such as cooking and cleaning of shared areas. Include in this shared living arrangement a charge for room and board based on a percentage of their income using a sliding scale. Start as small as necessary to accommodate their income, but don't make it so easy for them that they are not motivated to find more lucrative employment. Make them aware that when they have a change in income, the terms will be renegotiated.

Support them in setting achievable goals by giving them examples from your own life. Tell them what goal you set and the steps you took to achieve it. Let them take the next step in applying it to their own life. In this way you are showing your support of their independence and confidence in their abilities. Some young adults feel overwhelmed, and helping them focus on a small goal that they can achieve can be empowering.

Forge a friendship that will last a lifetime.

Use your extended parenting years as an opportunity to be a better parent. Many parents wish they had done things differently when raising their children. Boomerang kids give you an opportunity to make up for some of the mistakes you may have made. If you were too lenient, take steps to build boundaries in the relationship. If you didn't have time for fun or conversation, make time to build a real connection. It's a golden opportunity to build an adult to adult relationship with your son or daughter.

Tip

  • Providing pay for chores that are beyond the scope of normal household upkeep is an excellent way to help your adult child and yourself.

Warning

  • Substance abuse, depression, anger issues or any behavior that is causing you or your family undue stress should be handled with professional support. Don't hesitate to seek the support of a therapist or substance abuse professional. If your adult child will not seek help, go yourself.

About the Author

Dorothy Sander has been writing for the over 50 market since 2001. Author of two books and hundreds of articles, she writes on topics such as elder care, aging, empty nest, health and wellness, personal development, loss and more. She holds a B.A. in Economics and a M.Div.

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