How to Deal With a Child That Is 20 & Won't Leave Home or Get a Job

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Your young adult child is taking up room in your house and contributing little -- it’s time for her to get a job and eventually move out. You’re not alone. Research done in 2012 by Zhenchao Qian, Ohio State University sociology professor, showed that during 2007 to 2009, the percentage of young adults under 25 who are still living with their parents has increased to 43 percent from 32 percent since 1980. Still, if you find that your child is not taking the steps she needs to transition into adulthood, it’s important to take action as a parent -- especially if it is interfering with your own life.

Be Honest With Yourself

Ask yourself if you are playing a role in your child’s lack of responsibility. If you have been giving him money or doing his laundry, you may be enabling him. This encourages him to continue depending on you, which can cause low self-esteem, according to Linda Perlman Gordon and Susan Morris Shaffer’s book, “Mom, Can I Move Back in With You?” As a parent, it is natural to want to help your child. However, it’s important to balance support for him and allow him the chance to take on responsibilities to transition into an adult. Realize that your child has to make some decisions of his own. You can still try to influence his decisions, but realize that he is an adult and he needs you to treat him like one.

Have a Talk

It may not be a comfortable discussion to have for either party, but it’s important to be clear about what you expect of your child. Be polite but direct; stern but not angry; loving but not too soft when bringing up your child’s lack of a job or lack of desire to move out. “Don’t communicate pity, sorrow, guilt or regret,” advises Erik Kolbell, psychotherapist and author of “Lifescripts for Family and Friends: What to Say in 101 of Life’s Most Troubling and Uncomfortable Situations.” Reassure her that this is a natural part of transitioning into adulthood and that you have her best interest in mind. If she has not moved, don’t be afraid to mention if her lack of a job, taking up space in your home or other behaviors is causing you inconvenience.

Set Up Rules and Responsibilities

If you and your child have decided that it is not the right time for him move out, set some clear rules. Depending on his financial situation, come up with a set amount of rent to charge him. If he is still searching for a job, come up with ways that he can contribute, such as household chores. Make sure to discuss how long he plans on living with you. Set a time for him to move out. Kolbell suggests a month, although this depends on your child’s situation. “Adjusting and compromising are essential to avoid resentment and bad feelings,” says Gordon and Shaffer. In the meantime, see it as a time to connect with your child during his adult life and see him grow into an adult.

Offer Help

Let your child know that you are there to support her during this life transition. If she expresses fear about being on her own or taking on more responsibility, reassure her that you will be there to help. If she has financial problems, offer to help her look for a decent job or look for cheap apartments. Give her advice on creating a budget that she can stick to. Remember that it’s important to set boundaries so that you are not enabling by doing everything for her. It’s important to give her the chance to be more independent.