It can be a challenge to keep the peace when your recent college graduate wants to borrow some cash to get her first place or your 30-year-old wants to move into the basement because he's "in-between jobs." Before you get too frustrated, be grateful that your kids feel comfortable enough to seek your help. Maintaining a sense of gratitude, as well as a sense of humor, is an important part of keeping the peace when setting boundaries with adult children.
1. Present a United Front
Work with your spouse on presenting a united front when setting boundaries with adult children. You'll be asking for trouble if you say things such as, "I would have loaned you the money, but you know how tight your father is" or "Your mother says no, but I'll keep working on her." When your child asks for help, take time to discuss it as as a couple before responding. Then, talk to your child about your answer together.
2. Distinguish Helping From Enabling
Sometimes there's a fine line between helping and hurting. Before providing any assistance, ensure that your actions are not enabling your child. If you're constantly loaning your 20-year-old money to pay his bills because he's using his paycheck to increase his video game collection, your financial support isn't helping him learn how to budget. Providing support in a crisis or in a short-term situation may be helpful, but if the situation becomes chronic, it's important to re-evaluate your interventions. You may want to enlist the help of a family counselor if you have difficulty establishing and maintaining boundaries.
3. Set Clear Rules and Expectations
Whether you lend money or allow your child to move back home, set some rules. For example, if you allow your child to move home, develop a plan to help him get back on his feet again. Tell him he can keep living in the basement as long he keeps a steady job and takes classes to learn how to manage his finances better. Set a reasonable date that you expect him to move out and put it in writing. Provide extra motivation by reminding him that he isn't likely to have much success in the romance department when his dates learn he lives in his parents' basement. Besides a plan to get back on his feet, provide him with household responsibilities. Families work together to lighten the load for everyone, and he should share in maintaining the home.
4. Provide Consequences When Necessary
Although time-out and grounding aren't likely to be effective anymore, there are some times when you need to provide an adult child with consequences. If you allowed your son to move home to help him recover from financial mistakes but he spends more time partying than working, you may need to encourage him to leave the nest. Providing consequences is one of the most difficult, yet loving things a parent can do. Establish consequences first instead of reacting to his irresponsible behavior.
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