Lucky is the parent whose children live nearby and want to keep a close relationship. If your child is coming over several times each week and spending hours hanging out, though, it is time to establish some ground rules. You, along with most people in your generation, were probably excited and anxious to gain independence and stretch your wings. Things have changed, though, and many young adults today feel anxious and unprepared to face the world, says Dr. Ross Campbell, co-author of "How to Really Love Your Adult Child." Gently, but firmly help your child launch.
Assess the Problem
Analyze the reasons your child is coming over frequently. Maybe your child is bored or lonely, or perhaps he is struggling financially and he is looking for a free meal. Your adult child might be feeling untethered because of a recent break-up, job loss or move. Think about what he is getting out of his visits to you.
Ask yourself what part you might play in your child's dependency. It is easy to fall into the trap of doing everything for your child -- long after she is old enough to spread her wings. Although you feel better helping your child, you're doing her a disservice in the long run, says psychologist Jeffrey Bernstein, in a 2012 Psychology Today article. When you do too much for your child, you send the message that she is not capable of handling things on her own, thus enabling dependence.
Watch for signs of depression, drug abuse or other serious problems that warrant professional help. Depression is the most common obstacle that prevents young adults from becoming independent and successful, according to Campbell. Unidentified learning disabilities or behavioral disorders can also hinder personal relationships and job success.
Schedule weekly dinners or get-togethers. Let your child know that you're not always available at other times during the week and the scheduled event is the best time to come over. Give your child a food assignment for family dinners. Adult children should actively contribute in any gathering.
Help your child develop realistic expectations for life. Many young adults have come from relatively comfortable circumstances and often expect the same luxuries as they leave home. Remind your child of your own humble beginnings. Talk about your first apartment you lived in, or about that old stinky green couch you bought at a thrift store, when you were her age. This lets her know that a simple life isn't a bad thing, and that in time, her digs will become as nice as yours are now.
Encourage your child to make other friends or find activities. Clubs, churches and fitness organizations can provide the support your child needs if she is lonely. In addition, while you're at it, set the example of living an active, fulfilling life. Sign up for a yoga class or take up gardening. Invite your child to join you for some of these activities.
Talk with your child tactfully about his finances if you think money problems might be at the root of his frequent visits. Help your child get job training or further schooling if a job change is in order. Financial troubles are a major reason kids come back to the nest, but before you give money to your child, be clear on how much money you'll give, and whether the money is a gift or a loan, says Bernstein..
Have a kind, but direct, conversation with your child. Tell him that you appreciate having a close relationship, but you can't visit all the time. Set some specific limits, such as once or twice per week, to visit with your child.
- The New York Times: When They're Grown, the Real Pain Begnis
- The New York Times: Rules for When the Chicks Return to the Nest
- Psychology Today: Dealing With Demanding, Dependent Children
- How to Really Love Your Adult Child; Ross Campbell, et al.; 2011
- If your child has recently experienced a loss, such as a divorce, the frequent visits are probably a temporary occurrence as she works through the loss. In some cases, though, your child might need professional counseling.
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