Unemployed adult children living at home isn't uncommon. In 2012, 45 percent of 18- to 31-year-old adults in the United States who lived with their parents didn't have a job, according to the Pew Research Center. If your adult son or daughter won’t get a job, it’s time to make some changes. Despite your intentions, part of the problem might be you. Evaluate your role and why you might be enabling your child, create boundaries and formulate a plan.
Evaluate Your Role
Look at the situation to determine if you're encouraging your child to remain jobless. Are you providing a rent-free room, money, food, clothing and extras such as cell phones or a car? If so, he probably isn’t motivated to leave. When people are well taken care of, they're unlikely to change their ways, writes Jim Fay, co-founder of The Love and Logic Institute and co-author of "Parenting With Love and Logic," on his website loveandlogic.com.
Determine Your Emotional Buttons
Your emotions might lead you to enable your child. Emotions that move you into the mode of caretaker are called "emotional buttons," explain licensed master social workers Kim Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner in their article, “Failure to Launch, Part 2: How Adult Children Work the Parent System,” on the website Empowering Parents. Emotional buttons include fear, hope, anger, sympathy, exhaustion and guilt. For example, if you fear your child will go out and sell or use drugs if you don't give her money, you'll give her the money. If you're exhausted over your child asking again and again for something, you might finally give up and just give it to her. Abraham and Studaker-Cordner recommend strengthening your emotional buttons by deciding what you can and can't live with as far as limits and boundaries for your child. For example, if you fear her living on the streets, maybe you don't give her money for extras but you do allow her to live at home.
The first step in providing motivation if your adult child lives at home is creating boundaries. Decide with your spouse what you will and won’t provide. You might provide a room and food, but not extra money. Encourage your child to take advantage of local resources such as church programs that donate food or clothing to those in need or thrift stores to meet his needs. As long as he’s living at home, outline areas where you expect him to contribute such as housework, groceries and bills.
Formulate a Plan
Come up with a plan for how long your child can expect your help. You might pick a length of time she can live at home or offer her the opportunity to stay while paying a low rent. If you would rather she move out or she doesn’t want to stay, you can offer to finance a storage unit for a few months to help with the transition. You might tell her as long as she’s actively looking for a job, you'll give her help. It’s important to set time limits to whatever you decide. Setting a guide and time limit provides her with motivation, asserts licensed mental health counselor Debbie Pincus in the article “Adult Children Living at Home? 9 Rules to Help You Maintain Sanity,” published on Trans4mind.com.
Seek Professional Counseling
If you and your spouse don’t agree on the best way to handle the situation, your child will most likely play the two of you against each other, warns psychologist Kenneth Condrell in “When an Adult Child Won’t Grow Up,” published on the Achieve Solutions website. Condrell suggests contacting a family therapist in this situation and also if you feel overwhelmed by your child. A therapist can offer professional help on working through both of these situations.
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- Empowering Parents: Failure to Launch, Part 2 -- How Adult Children Work the Parent System
- Empowering Parents: Failure to Launch, Part 3 -- Six Steps to Help Your Adult Child Move Out
- Love and Logic: When It's Time for Them to Get a Life
- Trans4mind.com: Adult Children Living at Home? 9 Rules to Help You Maintain Sanity
- Achieve Solutions: When an Adult Child Won't Grow Up
- Pew Research: A Rising Share of Young Adults Live in Their Parents' Home
Tamara Runzel has been writing parenting, family and relationship articles since 2008. Runzel started in television news, followed by education before deciding to be a stay at home mom. She is now a mom of three and home schools her two oldest children. Runzel holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from University of the Pacific.
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