Failure to Launch, Part 3: Six Steps to Help Your Adult Child Move Out

by Kim Abraham LMSW and Marney Studaker-Cordner LMSW
Failure to Launch, Part 3: Six Steps to Help Your Adult Child Move Out

Many parents today are faced with a dilemma: How do I support my adult child in becoming independent? Do I let my adult child live in my home while he or she struggles to find a job? These parents think, “The economy is bad…maybe there really are no jobs out there. Should I continue paying for things like my child’s vehicle, insurance, clothes and cell phone? Maybe I should move him into an apartment just to get him out and pay the first few months’ rent, but after that it’s up to him. Or do I just kick him out of the nest and hope he learns to fly?” Kim Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner understand and have helped countless families in this situation. In their popular series on adult children in Empowering Parents, readers have learned why so many adult kids still live at home, and how adult children work “the parent system.” In Part 3, you’ll hear six specific steps that will help your adult child leave the nest.

The important thing to remember: your adult child is not entitled to live in your home past the age of eighteen. It’s a privilege and you have every right to set the parameters. That’s always been your right – and always will be.

Related: How to set limits with your child, teen or adult child.

First of all, we understand that many families in today’s economy do share a household for financial or other reasons. If you’re in a situation where your adult child is living with you and it’s mutually beneficial – or at the very least mutually respectful – that’s fine. This article is intended to help parents whose adult child is dependent or lives at home in a situation that’s become uncomfortable or even intolerable. In recent articles, we’ve looked at how over time our society has moved from caring for our children to caretaking for our children, sometimes long into their adulthood. Many parents are held hostage by emotions: anger, frustration, disappointment, guilt and fear of what will happen if they do throw their adult birdie out of the nest without a net. Today, we’re going to give you some concrete steps to help that birdie finally fly!

Step One: Know Where You Are
The first task in moving your adult child toward independence is to assess where you are right now. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are you in a place where your boundaries are being crossed and you need to establish some limits?
  2. Are you willing to allow your adult child to live in your home, within those limits, as he or she moves toward being more independent?
  3. Do you see your adult child as wanting to become independent, or as simply being more comfortable allowing you to take care of all their responsibilities?
  4. Has the situation become so intolerable – perhaps even volatile – that your main concern is getting your adult child out of your house, as quickly and safely as possible?

Where you are with regard to your adult child will determine—in part —what steps you need to take next.

Step Two: Change Your View
Instead of picturing of your adult child as a little bird whose wings may not hold him up when he leaves the nest, think of him as fully capable of flying. Our emotions can cause us to be so afraid of what will happen to our kids that we think of them as children, rather than adults. In reality, your adult child is an adult—equal to you and equally capable of making it in this world. Thinking of him as incapable is actually a disservice to him and keeps you in parental caretaking mode. Your adult child may be uncomfortable with some of the steps you’re taking that encourage more responsibility but that’s okay. It’s what he needs to experience in order to make changes within himself. Changing your viewpoint will help you strengthen those “guilt” and “fear” emotional buttons.

Step Three: Identify and Strengthen Your Emotional Buttons
Identify ahead of time what your limits and boundaries are, what you’re willing to follow through with and which emotional buttons will most likely get you to give in. One parent told us, “I’m okay with my adult child not having extras (cell phone, video games, internet, haircuts) but I can’t let him be on the street. I know myself. I’ll never stick to it.” That parent knew they would allow their child to live in their home without the benefit of extras or entitlements, so that’s the boundary that was established. Turns out, that adult child decided those “extras” were important to him, so once his parent shut down the Parent ATM, he was motivated to get a job and pay for things—including an apartment—himself.

Related: Does your adult child have a substance abuse problem?

Step Four: Make Your Boundaries Clear
Once you’ve strengthened your emotional buttons, it’s time to share what the new reality will be with your adult child. If your adult daughter lives in a separate residence but still depends on you as a source of income, make your boundaries clear: state what you will and will not pay for. If you need to start out small and work your way up, that’s okay. If you just can’t stop buying groceries yet because you know you won’t follow through with allowing your daughter to eat at soup kitchens or wherever she can find food (friends, etc.), then start with things like cell phones, haircuts, money for gas, cigarettes, internet and other non-necessities. It’s her responsibility to locate resources: friends, churches, government assistance. Your adult child can always apply for assistance through government programs such as food stamps and rental assistance if she is truly unable to locate work and support herself.

If your adult child lives in your home, draw up a contract that specifies the terms of her living there. This is an agreement between two adults. Don’t think of her as your child; picture her as a tenant. Then you’ll be less likely to have your emotional buttons set off. (If your neighbor gave you a sob story about how much she needed a cell phone, would you buy it? And pay the monthly bill?) An adult child may decide he or she doesn’t like the contract and will decide to live elsewhere. More power to them! The important thing to remember: your adult child is not entitled to live in your home past the age of eighteen. It’s a privilege and you have every right to set the parameters. That’s always been your right – and always will be.

Step Five: Shut Down the Parent ATM (PATM)!
The key to launching your adult birdie is to make it more uncomfortable to depend on you than to launch. A huge part of making your adult child uncomfortable is to stop paying for all the “extras”: things he or she views as necessities that really aren’t. In this world, he can live without cell phones, internet, computers, haircuts, make-up, clothes from the mall, video games and any other leisure activity you can name. If he’s struggling, he can get clothes from Salvation Army or Goodwill. He can take the bus. He can eat cheap. (Think boxed macaroni & cheese and Ramen noodles. You know…what many of us ate when we didn’t have any money.) If he doesn’t have the money for cigarettes or alcohol– he doesn’t get them. Many adult children make a career out of working their parents to provide things for them that they can’t afford themselves.

Most people aren’t going to provide these things to your adult child. There is no Neighbor ATM, Friend ATM (well, maybe a few times, but they’ll shut that down real quick) or Third-Cousin-Twice-Removed ATM. But there is a Parent ATM. Why? Because we’re typically the only ones with emotional PINs that work to spit that money out! (Read the previous article on emotional buttons and continue to strengthen them, so you can stop paying for things that keep your adult child comfortable. Disconnecting those buttons—and turning off the Parent ATM—is probably the biggest step you will take toward launching your adult son or daughter.)

Look at it this way. Your adult son’s hair can get really, really long; he doesn’t need a haircut. He doesn’t have to text; he can write letters. Stamps are less than a dollar vs. a $50/month data package. He can live without these things. Truly. He just doesn’t want to. It’s okay for your adult child to be uncomfortable; we’ve all been uncomfortable and survived. It’s actually a good thing and necessary for change.

This is the key: change occurs when things feel uncomfortable, out of balance or unsteady for a person. It’s what motivates them to find their equilibrium again, through employment, returning to college, offering their services through odd jobs or whatever it takes to get the things in life that they want.

Related: How to give consequences that work.

Step Six: Enough is Enough
Some parents have adult children at home who are abusing them verbally or even physically. You have the right to live in your own home, free from abuse, intimidation or disrespect. Anytime someone treats you in this way, they are violating a boundary and sometimes violating the law. It’s your right to establish personal boundaries that keep you physically and emotionally safe. In other situations, some adult children are not quite abusive, but they have literally worn out their welcome by taking and taking (financially and emotionally) without giving in return. The bottom line is you do not have to feel guilty about moving your adult child into independence so you can have your own life back. You have the right to spend your money on things for yourself. You have the right to enjoy peaceful evenings in your own home. You have the right to have the environment you want in your home. You’ve raised your child. He’s an adult now. You are not expected to provide for him any more than your parents are expected to provide for you as an adult.

If you are in a situation that is intolerable with your adult child and have decided he needs to move out of your home, the following steps will help:

Remember to strengthen those emotional buttons.  If your adult child typically pushes the “guilt” and “sympathy” buttons in order to stay dependent and comfortable, prepare yourself for what’s coming and come up with a plan on how you’ll handle it. You might even try making some note cards or adopt a slogan to remind yourself that you have the right to have your own home, free from negativity or meeting another adult’s needs.

Next, contact your local court to gather information about what legal steps you can take to move your adult child out.  Many states require you to serve a “Notice to Quit” to any adult living in your home. If your adult child still refuses to leave, you may need to follow up with an Eviction Notice that gives a deadline for him to move out, typically thirty days. If your adult child still refuses to leave, your local police department can enforce the eviction and will often notify the person that they will be escorted out of the home anywhere from 24 to 48 hours later. (Note: We aren’t able to address all legalities fully in this article due to the fact that each state differs in its laws regarding eviction.)

Related: Is your child verbally abusive?

Eviction steps may sound harsh but remember to think of your adult as a tenant. If you’re to the point of evicting your adult son or daughter out of your home, things have probably reached a point that is simply intolerable for you. Your adult child may resist moving out at first, but again, the more uncomfortable he is, the more likely he is to leave on his own accord. If you fear violence or other repercussions from your child because of these steps, it’s beneficial to seek out local resources on domestic violence and/or contact the court regarding your right to a restraining order. Safety always comes first and if you’re in a domestic violence situation with your adult child, you’ll want to talk with someone knowledgeable about a safety plan.

A Side Note…
If you’re living with a spouse or long-term partner who is not on the same page as you, it can make putting these steps into effect extremely difficult. You can only control yourself. If it’s causing serious conflict, you may want to seek counseling regarding how you can come to a mutual agreement.

The Bottom Line
Many, many young adults are struggling to become independent in today’s generation. Yes, the economy is bad and our country is experiencing hard times. But that’s nothing new. We’ve gone through recessions and depressions in the past. Families used to have “leftover parties,” where they got together and turned their leftovers into a meal. They used to wait until the weekend to talk on the phone to long-distance relatives so the rates were lower. Sometimes there wasn’t a yearly vacation and kids brown-bagged it instead of buying hot lunches. There’s nothing wrong with a family pulling together to make it in today’s world. The difference with many of the young adults in today’s generation seems to be in the sense of entitlement and the aversion to sacrificing in order to make it. Gone are the days of “If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.” Today, society is all about technology and instant gratification. But it’s not too late to teach our adult children the values of delayed gratification and working for things they desire. It’s okay for them to be uncomfortable and realize they have the ability to survive hard times through self reliance. If your guilt or fear buttons start reacting, remember: we give our kids these lessons out of love.  

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Kimberly Abraham, LMSW, has worked with children and families for more than 25 years. She specializes in working with teens with behavioral disorders, and has also raised a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Marney Studaker-Cordner, LMSW, is the mother of four and has been a therapist for 15 years. She works with children and families and has in-depth training in the area of substance abuse. Kim and Marney are the co-creators of The ODD Lifeline for parents of Oppositional, Defiant kids, and Life Over the Influence, a program that helps families struggling with substance abuse issues. Their first children's book, Daisy: The True Story of an Amazing 3-Legged Chinchilla, teaches the value of embracing differences and was the winner of the 2014 National Indie Excellence Children's Storybook Cover Design Award.


Although I don't have an adult child living at home, I do have an older sister living with us. I love the idea of a contract. Do you have samples?

Comment By : wolfpackfan

I am so glad to read your articles about children (ADULTS) living with the parents I just went thru a two year's She had a Baby and it was premee and she wanted to be at home with it as he had a stroke at birth and is in therapy now and has been sence birth. so she stayed with me and her father while the baby is in therapy. how ever she moved out for 3 months and fell flat on her but and had to come back. she was so rude and dispectiful to us and stayed only 3 weeks as we wouldn't give her a bed to sleep and she and her two children sleep on couch and floor she didn't like it she sold all of her furniture during the 3 weeks with and got mad at me screaming at us and in front of her children and having them so up set and told them that it was our fault, Now we can't see or grand childrern and she tells them we don't love and it just brake's our heart. we want have a good Christmas. By the way our Daughter is 40 year's old and has never grown up. oldest child is 12 year's old and has A D H D and she tells him he is stupid and ifm he get into trouble he says it's O. K. cause I'm Stupid and can't help it. I want to be with my grand children they need our love and care. Hope I can get some good answers to my problem...

Comment By : Marty

This is all great info. I have an adult child living at home but it is complicated by the fact that in the last 20 months he has been diagnosed as both bipolar and HIV positive. And to boot he just came out of a very toxic marriage. I don't know what is reasonable at this point. Any suggestions?

Comment By : jmrlvl01

I agree with all of this...but what if said adult child has his OWN 8 year old child....with emotional and physical problems? Makes $300 dollars a week and is ill himself? What then????

Comment By : Diana59

Thank you for this series. Many of the suggestions that you have made should be put into motion before our children become adults and we have to refer to them as "adult children". We forget all the things that our parents DID NOT DO FOR US. These were the things that created a sense of independence, prepared us to take on the world and make our own way. There would have been a sense of failure to be an adult and still depending on my parents for survival, let alone anything considered a non-necessity. Some of the most important steps to independence are often the most uncomfortable and difficult ones to go through.......for all parties involved.

Comment By : AJ12

I like the idea of making sure that they get a job and stay at a job for 6 months, minimally, to build their confidence. And, setting up a match savings with them. Match them a dollar for every dollar for a car or earning $3,000 to get several months in savings for them to start off on their own faster.

Comment By : Joyce

My 21 year old son is very verbally abusive to me. my husband has always denied the disfunction in my sons life. he got kicked out of high school and hasn been arrested several times and spent almost a year in jail. he was diagnosed at 17 years old with antisocial personality traits. a few years earlier with ADHD, high blood pressure probably from anxiety. he has never cooperated with treatment and was verbally abusive to the professionals that were trying to help him. He lives at home and drives me to insanity almost every day. My husband says to just ignore it and will not take a strong stand with him. we feel responsible for him because of his mental illness. He has not been employed for more than a few months due to his inappropriate behaviors. He was denied SSI benefits because of his unwillingness to stay in treatment. I am at my wits end and don t know what to do!

Comment By : laura

I am very impressed with the above article but the problem is in our country there is no such rules or help for single parents who have an adult child in the house and is asked to move out of the house we have been living in joint family even if we have a problem child. We have to live with him or her. When the parents are old they throw away the parents.My child says that I have to gave him everyting because his father pays me, if I tell his father there is a big clash in the house which I can;t take. My son is going to be 18 in August 2012 he even hates my voice he tells me to shut up when I try to talk but he talks to me whenever de likes. Want some advice.

Comment By : Ishrat

Thank you very much for this article. My son announced to us over the summer that he wanted to take a year off college. He has failed most of his classes, and has partied all the way to the Midwest and back to a state college. We had him sign a contract before he left for college and he breached it when he came home with dissappointing peformance. We told him that his mom/dad scholarship is terminated indefinitely. Our son does not yell or scream or act out but he twists everything we say and says things like "Well, what is the point, you guys must think I am a loser to begin with anyway..." He keeps forgetting that it is his parents who have advocated for him from day one. He could be belligerent and disrespectful and my husband and I were having problems because I tend to be the parent that go through the guilt and I resent my husband for saying that he is an adult and he should move out. We agreed to my son's request to take a year off after burning through so much money for college. He also asked for a therapist because he told us that he has issues. We hired a therapist and encouraged him to get a job because we were not willing to pay for his "exploration of self." We went through a very rough time in our lives - my son was very emotionally abusive to me and his Dad; disrespectful in his attitude. Finally he found a job at a small non-profit and we pushed him to move out. It was tough for him to find a place to live because he has no work history or big income so my husband and I decided to bite the bullet and bought a 2-bedroom apartment and rent it to my son and his friends. We decided that this purchase is more than a financial investment; rather, this is our investment in our son's maturity and independence. So far, he is learning to cope on his limited budget, taking the bus into the city, eating what they can cook or buy with their limited income. He is also learning to live with non-family members. I have learned, not in a small part, from reading on this site is to learn to respect his boundaries. I do not ask more than I want to know, I leave him alone, we do not ask where he spends his money, or with whom. Also, he has never withheld information from us. He at least asks to talk with us when he wants to discuss something. We of course, like any other parents tell him that we will always love him even if we may hate what he has done. Lately, he told us that he has found his calling as a teacher and will go back to college when his gap year is over or after the 2012 presidential election. He also acknowledged the opportunities we have been giving him thus far. We believe there is yet hope for him to turn his life around. We will always love him but we have turned our love into tough love to enable him to grow his wings and fly solo.

Comment By : Mocha2012

I have a child, he is 16 years old. I am very concern because he does not want to go to school, does not help at all in the house, even with his things does not take care. He is very lazy. He sais he wants to work, but what he will do if he does not graduate from high school. Please give an advice in what should I do? Thanks for help me!

Comment By : Arelis (mother of Two)

* Dear Ishrat and Laura, Sounds like you are both living with young men who have a strong sense of entitlement and are treating you in ways you find unacceptable. As parents, we often second-guess ourselves and how we should respond to our kids, even when they're adults. You have the right to set boundaries and limits with others about how you'll be treated - no matter who it is! Having a diagnosis is not an excuse to verbally abuse others and avoid taking personal responsibility. Laura, as you've found, such behavior is nearly impossible to ignore and doing so probably keeps your son comfortable - he's not experiencing any negative consequences for his behavior so why bother changing? The idea behind ignoring behavior is to stop it by not giving it attention. Doesn't sound like that's been successful in this case, probably because he's an adult, not a toddler. Also, blaming yourself will only keep that Guilt Emotional Button pushed 24/7 and is actually a disservice to your son. Many, many people are diagnosed with mental illness and do not verbally abuse others. They go on to lead successful lives because they choose to do so. Your son has had many opportunities to be involved in therapy but is more comfortable with the way things are than to make efforts to change. Ishrat, you are not obligated to explain to give your son everything he wants in this world just because you receive child support. That money probably doesn't cover all the necessities of raising him including housing, heat, food, clothes, etc. You are also both trying to address these behaviors without the support of your child's other parent. That's hard, but you can't control other people - only yourselves. You can still establish boundaries with your child, even if the other parent chooses not to. It might help to start with small steps, small limits, which will help you build strength and confidence and start putting a plan down on paper of what you want to see happen with your son.

Comment By : Marney Studaker–Cordner, LMSW and Kim Abraham, LMSW

* Dear Marty, It's so hard when grandchildren are involved, especially during the holidays. That's when our fear and sadness buttons get pushed. We're afraid of being cut off from our grandkids and it's sad to watch those children struggle as well. It tugs at our heartstrings and sometimes we end up allowing our adult kids to treat us in ways that are unacceptable, just to make sure we can stay in our grandchild's life. Kids are often used as tools to hurt another person: the other parent, grandparents, etc. and whenever that happens it's very sad. You had, and have, every right to set limits on how you will be treated by your daughter and to draw the line at rude and disrespectful behavior. It sounds like you've tried to let your grandchildren know how much you love them and that's really all you can do. You can keep offering that love to your grandkids and your daughter, while maintaining your boundaries. Sometimes time really does heal things and your daughter may yet come around. It sounds like you and her father are supportive of each other and we wish you both peace during this difficult holiday season.

Comment By : Marney Studaker–Cordner, LMSW and Kim Abraham, LMSW

* Dear Diana59 and jmrlv101, Each of us has to decide what we will and will not tolerate in our home and in our relationships. Again, many people do choose to allow their adult kids to live with them for financial reasons or to provide other support. It's all in what you can live with. Even if an Adult child is ill, there can still be a reciprocal relationship - meaning it's not all him taking and you giving. He can still treat you respectfully and (in Diana's case) parent his own child rather than leaving that role to you. He can still make contributions to the household, even if it's not financially. Sometimes it's about taking small steps, developing a plan for him to move toward more independence. A good way to determine what's reasonable is how you're feeling about it: if you're feeling uncomfortable or resentful, your boundaries are probably being crossed and it's time to make some changes.

Comment By : Marney Studaker–Cordner, LMSW and Kim Abraham, LMSW

* Dear Wolfpackfan, Any contract should address issues that are important to your individual situation: Is there a time limit on how long the living arrangements will last? What are the financial obligations (who pays for what)? Are there any property restrictions (furniture, etc.)? Are there any issues that are specific concerns (Such as overnight guests, substance use in the home, visiting children/family)? The purpose of a contract is to clarify expectations and responsibilities up front, to limit surprises or "Gee, we never agreed on that," or "I never knew that" conflicts down the road.

Comment By : Marney Studaker–Cordner, LMSW and Kim Abraham, LMSW

* Dear Arelis, There are actually many things people can do without a high school diploma, but you're right: a good work ethic means your son is more likely to be able to find and keep a job. It sounds like right now your son is comfortable sitting on the couch and taking things for granted. You're more worried about his future than he is! One way to help him feel uncomfortable is to start backing off now from providing him with "extras": cell phones, internet, designer clothes, fast food, video games, etc. - things he wants but doesn't truly need. This may make him uncomfortable enough that he gets off the couch and finds a part-time job, so he can get the extras he wants for himself. In doing so, you're also preparing him for real life, when he will have to provide for himself. Hang in there - often we worry about what road our kids will take. Sometimes a high school diploma doesn't seem important to them when they're sixteen, but remember, he can always return to night school or get his GED if he finds the motivation to do so.

Comment By : Marney Studaker–Cordner, LMSW and Kim Abraham, LMSW

My heart aches when I read some of the comments here. I have just finished two days of moving my 20-year old daughter into her first apartment. She is my only child. I have been a single mom all of her life. For three years now we have been at each other's throats. It was so awful to watch my sweet little girl turn into an abusive, foul-mouthed, lazy, disrespectful human being. It was equally awful that I turned into a nagging, ineffective, frustrated, foul-mouthed shrew. I'm sure you get the picture--our house became almost unliveable with all the screaming and tension. We were so stuck in the mud, and there were times I was absolutely certain it would never end-we would be stuck here FOREVER. After high school she spent a year away at college. It was an expensive disaster-she failed miserably. I had begun to relax with her gone even though I think I always knew she wouldn't make it. I suspect my lack of confidence in her was not as well hidden as I thought. When she came home for the summer, I told her I would not finance any more college. We went after each other with both barrels for three months. One day at the end of the summer during a particularly nasty fight I wanted her to leave the house and she refused. I dialed 911, thought better of it and hung up. The police called back, I told them it was a mistake but they showed up anyway. I ended up having the cop come in my house and make her leave. She was unfazed--I was mortified. I remember not being able to stop shaking. She went to live with her boyfriend's family. I hated that arrangement but I was glad she was gone. She got herself a job at Target, took out student loans to retake the classes she had failed previously and failed them again. But she kept the job. She was gone for six months--working at Target, not studying and playing video games with her LOSER boyfriend. I couldn't take it. So, once I calmed down, I started calling her and inviting her to come home. After a disasterous Christmas, she finally did. Guess what--the same old mess was back within a few weeks. She was stealing money out of my purse, still seeing the LOSER, staying out all night, using the foulest of language blah, blah, blah. I absolutely couldn't believe that nothing had changed. In fact, it had gotten WORSE and I had asked for it. There was one ray of hope, though, she kept her job and even got "promoted" to be a barista in the Starbucks at Target. During the calmer moments I managed to talk her into taking a look at a local school that trains court reporters. She agreed to enroll, kept her job but the acting out never let up. She went to school, but didn't do much work. I was getting so fed up with EVERYTHING, I decided to take a drastic step--no joke--I decided to sell my house! I had been thinking about it for awhile, for reasons other than my daughter's behavior, but now seemed as good a time as any. While the house was on the market we had to keep it neat and clean to show at a moment's notice. She would trash her room, her bathroom and leave dirty laundry all over the laundry room. I was constantly cleaning up after her. I'm sure you can imagine what it was like to live here under those circumstances. It took six months, but the house finally sold. Unbelievably, I told my daughter she could come to live with me at my new place (out of the area) or she could get herself an apartment and live on her own. She make a few half-hearted attempts to look for apartments, roommates etc. but, of course, nothing ever worked out. I finally had to find something, rent it in my name, and move her in. She is spending her second night there right now. We went grocery shopping today and, I have to say, it was FUN--the first time I have had fun with her in a very long time. She said she couldn't believe that she was 20 and didn't know how to grocery shop. It made me feel terrible, but all I told her was that she would learn--I meant it. The real shocker was when we went through the check-out and she saw how much it the groceries cost. I think the value of what I have provided for her over the years is beginning to sink in. She has refused vehemently in the past to discuss a budget with me and she started to get scared when she saw the grocery bill. I told her matter-of-factly that maybe she would want to discuss budgeting after a few more trips to the grocery store on her own dime. The point of this very long comment is this: THINGS CAN CHANGE BUT YOU, THE PARENT, HAVE TO CHANGE FIRST. I am convinced that if I had not changed my attitude toward her, if I hadn't stopped thinking of her as a helpless child and started expecting her to behave like the adult I wanted her to be, this nonsense WOULD have gone on forever. I forgot to mention that over the past several months I got her to see a counseler several times--I actually had come to the (wrong) conclusion that she must have some sort of mental condition!! All of this so that I didn't have to change MY attitude toward her. The pieces have started falling into place since I changed. I don't want anyone reading this to think that any of this was/is simple. I still have to talk myself down sometimes when I think of her living on her own. But I keep sane by thinking that she deserves a chance to find out what she can do. I'll be there to catch her if she falls hard, but I'm not expecting that any more. And I sure am not going to jump in to save her the minute she skins her knee--she can handle it or she will learn to. I hope this helps. There are alot of us out there struggling with this situation, and I suspect there will be alot more in the future. And we seem to struggle in silence, since no one wants to admit that we have less than perfect children. I know that's where I've been for awhile now. I just keep thinking about James Lehman saying, "You parent the child you have, not the one you wish you had." I love my daughter, warts and all, and she deserves a chance at her own life.

Comment By : Martie

First I am to thank you for your respond to my comment posted a few days ago. Please can you give your suggestion in what can I do with my 16 years old son, because he spoke to me about in not going back to school to dedicate every day to practice basketball which is his dream to be a famous player. I kept listening quietly because he almost never tell me what are his desires for his future. He also toll me that he does not need my permittion to quit from school (he said it in a nice way)but he only want my approval in that way he will feel better taking the decision. He said that he can go back to get a GED anytime he needs it. As you see I am very concerd in what I should do in this case. Should I talk to his counselor at the school or what else I should do? Give me an orientation in what any parent can do in this situation. Thanks a lot for any suggestion.

Comment By : Arelis Mother of two

To Arelis Mother of Two: It sounds like your son has made the decision to quit school and pursue his dream of professional basketball. These are the most difficult times for parents: when our kids hit an age where they start making choices that aren't what we pictured, such as quitting school. It can help to remember that this is your son's journey and he will continue to make many choices about what kind of life he wants to have. It's great that you were able to listen to him, recognizing the opportunity when he shared his thoughts and dreams with you, when he typically doesn't. It must have been very difficult to listen, without trying to advise him against his plans. But by listening, you opened the door to him to be willing to continue to communicate with you and very likely earned some of his respect. Just as we want our kids to hear us, our kids want us to hear them. He's probably right about not needing your permission, but you might want to check with your local court on what the legal age is to quit school. He's also right about being able to return to get his GED in the future. The positive news is that he's given that some thought as a back up plan, should his dream not work out. Many talented athletes and entertainers have quit high school to pursue their dreams. Will it turn out successfully for your son? Only time will tell. He may try it and decide it wasn't what he indeed wanted. If he's talented, he may indeed have a career in basketball. If he's made his decision, you're limited in what you can control. You can't physically force him to attend school, and trying to do so will likely end up in a power struggle with you on the losing end. At this point, he's willing to talk to you. You could ask him if he's open to your thoughts on turning his dream into a plan. Maybe he'll decide on a time frame: "If I'm not where I want to be in a year, I'll go for my GED." Or maybe he's open to the idea of talking to others who've pursued this dream, such as recruiters, players or coaches, which will help him decide if it's realistic or not and what steps he might take. The key is to keep communication open and it sounds like you've already started.

Comment By : Marney Studaker–Cordner, LMSW and Kim Abraham, LMSW

My husband and I are not on the same page. I feel he is in denial about the situation and gets angry whenever I discuss it with him. If I do not agree with him, he starts to shout and then I am the problem. I think it is easier for him to direct his anger at me instead of actually facing the situation about our daughter who spends her days watching TV or playing on the computer. Whenever I bring up the situation with my daughter, she gets angry, goes into her room and slams the door. My husband keeps claiming there is a time or a date(which keeps getting extended) when he will back me up but as long as he does not(he will not even ask her to do a chore or get out of bed), our daughter has a back-up against doing something concrete

Comment By : toofrustrated

I not only have one, but two adult children and two grandchildren living here. My daughter's husband just moved out (a real loser). I've never kicked them out for fear of what will happen to my 3 and 4 year old grandchildren and due to the type of father they have (always out trying to sell pot or whatever he's doing, not worked a real job in 3 years and my daughter wants her children to have a real father all their life. She doesn't want them to end up like my kids (with divorced parents)...haha right, give me a break. I found out they both have medical marijuana permits and they always threaten that I won't be able to see my grandkids if I don't back off. My son who also lives here is just as bad. The ages are 21, 22, and 29 of these 3 adorable individuals. I told my son 3 days ago that he has 30 days to move out. Now that my daughter is without her husband (this happens about once a month), she is doing a work search program with our local welfare office, but they are very verbally abusive to me (I feel it is drugs doing that), and eventually start being nice to me again as they feel guilty for the way they talked to me. None of them have contributed a cent in many months. I'm at my wits end and not quite sure how to handle it.......

Comment By : Help1234

* To “Help 123”: This is a challenging situation. On the one hand, you want to ensure the safety and security of your grandchildren; on the other, you’re tired of the disrespect and verbal abuse being heaped on you by your grown children. I can understand why you would feel torn. What Debbie Pincus suggests in her article Adult Children Living at Home? How to Manage without Going Crazy is to ask yourself what are you ultimately responsible for? You get to decide where your limits are and how you will respond when those limits are crossed. You can also decide what the rules and expectations are in your house and what the consequence will be if those rules are broken. What can be effective in these situations is focusing on what you can control. For example, Carol Banks suggests in her article Disrespectful Child Behavior? Don't Take It Personally to respond to your child’s verbal abuse by saying “It’s not okay to speak to me that way; I don’t like it” and then turn around and leave the room. You may not be able to control how your children speak to you but you can decide what your response is going to be. You may have to decide whether or not your children can continue to live in your house if the abusive behavior persists. Only you can decide if that is something you’re willing to follow through with. Good luck to you as you work through this challenging situation. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

I think the difference is that an adult child who is grateful and appreciative is easy to want to help. Want is the operative word here. You don't have to help an ungrateful, selfish person, even if they are related to you. My cousin moved out of his parent's house at age 36. Mommy and Daddy paid for his food, car payment, auto insurance, toiletries, medical care, haircuts and vacations, including spending money. It was insane. He worked full time and made as much money as my husband did at the time. My cousin's parents claimed that their son could not afford to make it on his own. Meanwhile, I was home with a baby and somehow we made it with the same income! Now I manage a department of professionals and often see college grads looking for a job. Every once in awhile I see salary expectations that are absolutely ridiculous and you can tell that these people have no training for the real world. Yes, you must actually work and do a good job or else an employer will replace you. Imagine that! I have even heard some new grads bragging about how their parents still pay some of their bills because their jobs don't pay enough yet. I was lucky. I wound up rid of a very lazy new grad with a horrible work ethic. I met with her and gave her the news on her raise, which was 3%. She got upset and said that if it wasn't at least 10%, she would quit. I told her that I accepted her resignation. It is a pleasure when I get a new employee who really gets it. Being tough on your kids and teaching them the hard lessons early really helps them later. I can always find a new employee. That girl who quit might not find another job soon in this economy.

Comment By : Patti

I have a 20 year daughter that lives with me, just recently got a job, but her belief is that her mom should pay for everything for her because that is what a parent is supposed to do. I am a single income parent and am still paying for a divorce plus other bills, I am struggling financially to keep up with my own bills and yet I get the "You said you would help pay for this" attitude when I tell her I don't have the funds to help out. She sleeps in when she wants, does not do dishes or clean up after herself. She threatens me with "I know you don't want me to live her I can sense it", but treats me with kind words when she needs money.

Comment By : Beyond stressed

I know this is kind of odd, but I'm actually not a parent that has an adult child. I am an adult child. I'm a 19 year old "man" who lives with his dad. My dad and i have these same conversations about me getting a job, and how he can'trovide for me for forever, and I know this. We have this conversation about once a week and each time we do I say that I'm going to go look for a job, and apply for college, but I don't. I don't know why I don't do these things, even though I know I need to. I read all three articles and I completely understand it, and see a lot of similarities in myself. I'm not a bad kid, I have never done drugs, nor have I committed crimes. I also don't disrespect my father. I also do a lot of chores around the house. I do play video games, sleep in, and pretty much have everything I need. Computer,car,iPad,nice furniture,ect. My parents don't exactly spoil me. I just save my money from birthday/christmass. I guess the weird thing is that I know I'm in the wrong, but I still can't fix my problem. I graduated high school with a decent gpa although I didn't try what so ever. At the time I didn't have my drivers license, did no chores what so ever. Over this last year I have defiantly matured as a person, but every time my father brings up my job situation he says that I have been on a big vacation not doing anything but playing video games and watching tv. It's hard for me to argue with him because it is semi true. I guess my problem is the negativity. All I know is that I'm scarred of living on my own, and I have no idea how I'm going to achieve this. By the way, I'm overweight, have acne,and balding. I also have never had an official job. Nor do I have any real references to give. I have no self confidence, and no motivation. I don't know what to do.

Comment By : Adultchild

* To “Adultchild”: Thank you for sharing your story and your perspective with us. I can understand your fear and anxiety around living on your own. Living on your own isn’t always easy but it isn’t impossible, either. It takes a lot of courage to admit when you’re afraid. It’s great you have a dad who is willing to assist you as you move towards independence. This may be a great time to decide what it is that interests you, what skills you currently possess and what skills you would be able to develop. It might be helpful to find out what sorts of career or employment counseling centers are available in your area. These types of resources often have career interest inventories or other types of assessments to determine what you may be interested in and/or proficient at. This can give you a good place to start when trying to decide what it is you want to do. There is a national resource available that may be able to connect you with employment and career counseling services in your area. The 211 National Helpline can be reached by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by logging onto You might also see if there are any adult education classes available in your area, either through the local school district or community college. Keep in mind, no one starts out with a list of references and job experiences. Most of us started out from the same place you are. As James Lehman points out, people develop self-confidence by doing something difficult and being successful at it. You just have to take it one step at a time. We wish you luck as you continue to face these challenges. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

I have a 23 yr old son who is quiet, shy, respectful and rarely asks for anything. He had a learning disability throughout life and so school was difficult. He tried a vocational school far from home but got very homesick and came home after a few months. He finished a computer technician training program but has been unable to find a job. He spends the majority of the time in his room, but, when asked, he will do various chores around the house. I am at a loss as to what to do help him get out on his own. I know he has a confidence problem but he is also not very ambitious. Any suggestions?

Comment By : Homer2000

* To Homer2000: It can be really hard to watch your child struggle to overcome the challenges he needs to face in order to be a successful adult. It sounds like he has made some gains in terms of finishing school and his training program. We suggest having a conversation with your son about his next step to be more independent. As James Lehman states, it is important to start where your son is, and move forward from there, so you may want to start with a small, achievable goal. When he has a goal to work toward (for example, he will be working in either a paid or volunteer position for at least 20 hours per week within 2 months), you can then help him break that down into smaller tasks (for example, he will contact 3 companies per day about possible positions or internships). It may also be helpful for your son to work with local resources in your area, such as a career center or volunteer matching program. You can find local support by contacting or by calling 1-800-273-6222. We hope this information is helpful and we wish you and your son the best.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

Thank you for your article. I'm a step-parent to an adult child. My wife (his mom)and him did not get along and would argue constantly. He felt that she started with him and she felt he was being verbally abusive. I did tell him he needed to be respectful of her regardless. Yes, vice versa as well with her being respectful, but as it is our house and that's his Mom, he has to be respectful whether he agrees or not with her. Unfortunately, I didn't MAN up, I was too nice about it. Well, the relationship had gotten worse where she did not feel comfortable with him living there. She told him to leave a few times, but he didn't feel he did anything wrong that he should go. We finally signed a lease to live at another place and terminate our lease at the old place without adding him to the new lease. I wanted to support my wife's feelings even though I felt we should have told him our plans and didn't give him enough time to find another place. I did tell him that we are moving without him and he needs to find a place, but I would help him get started. My wife consented to it even though she didn't agree to it and thought he is capable on his own. He was upset that we didn't tell him the news till the last minute and he said we knew he was searching for a FT job (he works PT right now). So he's trying to get me to have him live with us even though I had refused. I'm at a crossroads. I do agree with my wife with him not living with us, but I thought we should have at least given him options. We don't have the money to help him with renting a place, but would that be enabling him even though he doesn't have enough money on his own? Are there places he can go that for little to low income salaried individuals? what is right?

Comment By : What is right?

* To “What is right?”: Thank you for sharing your story. It can be difficult to know what is going to be the best approach to this situation. There really isn’t one “right” solution. There’s no way to know for certain whether or not telling your stepson more in advance about moving would have created a different outcome. Either way, it is likely that this would cause your stepson to be uncomfortable. The situation at present is that you have decided to move and you’re both in agreement about not allowing him to live with you. That’s OK. Ultimately it’s your choice whether or not you want to continue allowing him to live with you. I can tell how much you care about supporting your wife in this decision while at the same time wanting to help your stepson make this transition smoothly. Most towns and cities do have programs available to help out young adults who are struggling. To find out what types of assistance and supports are available in your area, we would suggest calling the 211 National Helpline. This great service can inform you of what resources are available in your area to help your step son. You can reach the 211 National Helpline by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by logging onto I hope this has been helpful. Good luck to you and your family as you continue to work through this situation. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

Thank you. Our handling of the situation was not right as we didn't discuss fully or seek more Godly counsel before action was taken, but even so, this action would have occurred further down the road anyway because there was no respect from him towards her. He feels he should be living with us, but he's not willing to reconcile or work things out which mean the hatred towards each other will continue. I can't have him come back if there's no changes or if none are willing to see the other's side of the situation. I know a lot of it was due to my laxed action, but there's some issues from them as well. Thank you again.

Comment By : What is right?

Help! I have a 22 yr old son that has absolutely NO motivation to get a job or go to school. He attended college in a nearby town for a year but didn't like it and quit. He gets depressed but totally refuses to talk to me or see a dr. or therapist. I'm a single mom and he STILL lives with me but his dad lives nearby and we are good friends and are trying to figure out what to do. His dad has bought him a truck, a computer and of course, his cell phone service. He visits friends but they all have jobs and/or are attending college. I cannot kick him out! Any other ideas of what I could say to him to help him get going with his life.

Comment By : Jannie014

* To “Jannie014” Thank you for writing in. It can be very challenging when your adult child seems completely unmotivated to move ahead with his life. I can understand you’re reluctance to have your son move out of your house. Many parents struggle with this as a consequence because they are afraid their child doesn’t have the skills to be successful on his own. Even if you aren’t ready to have him move out, you might consider developing what James Lehman calls a Living Agreement which he discusses in his article Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part III: Is It Ever Too Late to Set up a Living Agreement?. For some adult children it takes being uncomfortable in order for change to happen. From what you have written, it sounds like your son is pretty comfortable because all of his needs and some of his wants are being provided for him without him having to do much to earn those privileges. As a parent of an adult child, any support you give him, from spending money to providing a roof over his head, is a privilege. You might consider having your son earn the privilege of being able to use the car or money to put gas in the car by making steps towards being more independent. For example, the agreement can include the expectation your son will either have, or at least look for, a job or go to school. If he does either of these things, then he can earn the privilege of being able to drive the truck. If he is having a hard time finding a job, it might be helpful to have him speak with a job or career counselor. Most colleges and universities have a career counseling department as do many towns and cities. You might consider calling the 211 National Helpline to see if there is a career counseling center in your area. You can reach the Helpline by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by logging onto You might also want to read the first two parts to that series. You can access those through these links: Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part I and Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part II: In Response to Questions about Older Children Living at Home. We hope this information is helpful for your situation and wish you and your family luck. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

This is a very good article for dealing with kids who refuse to launch. However, I think your approach to the "getting a job" portion is naive. You say: "Yes, the economy is bad, but we've all been there before..." REALLY? Those who have jobs are always the ones quickest to judge the jobless, I've noticed. Our country has not seen a recession this bad since the Dust Bowl. And this, perhaps, is worse because now we have the added difficulty of *being turned down for being overqualified.* In the Dust Bowl, no one would refuse you a job as a peanut picker just because you used to own a general store. Today, many of us who have degrees are turned away from menial jobs BECAUSE we used to work somewhere better and they're certain we'll leave if something better comes up. Not that I was a kid when this happened, but I was laid off from my job as a scientist and couldn't find a job in a YEAR because I was overqualified for anything menial. No jobs that weren't in my field would take me, either, because of my physics degrees. I started lying on my resume to lower my education, and got more bites that way, but when they do the background check they still find out about your degrees and past jobs. My husband was laid off and applied for EVERYTHING--the most not-so-hilarious rejection he got was from Taco Bell. "We just don't think you're Taco Bell material." Also... Salaries ARE lower now, especially compared to cost of living increases. These days, if you boot your kid out at age 18 they won't get a non-menial job that even pays half their bills, because all the non-menial jobs that actually pay enough will prioritize the kids with degrees. Ever heard of the "working poor"? It's a real thing. Seriously. Oh, and gone are the days where young employees can work their way up the ladder like they did in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Hell, even the 80s. People are retiring later and later, and no one wants to risk leaving the job they're at, so no positions open up to be promoted to. I've seen it in the sciences and businesses alike. Starting out small and working your way up can no longer be achieved with hard work alone. You need luck, too. Don't assume your 18-year-old has luck. You'd just be setting them up as one of the working poor. Also, DON'T start booting your soon-to-be college grad out the door at 8am every morning to "pound the pavement." There's this thing called the "internet." Unless they're planning to pay you under the table, ALL employers these days post jobs online. They don't want to be called directly. They want to weed through the electronic resumes at their leisure. I'm highly qualified (work experience + 2 physics degrees) and believe me, the one year I was laid off, at age 26, I could only spend 3 hours per day, at MOST, applying to jobs online before I'd covered all the latest postings. (Side note: I wasn't living at home and paid all my own bills, and the poverty we faced that year was pretty bad. I didn't learn one bloody thing from that poverty, other than the fact that your brain will actually block out memories that are that bad. Poverty isn't a teacher. Don't treat it like a lesson your kids need to learn. Believe me, I learned responsibility through the simple experience of getting a non-menial job and living on my own. Poverty wasn't necessary.) Telling your kid "finding a job takes 8 hours a day" is utterly outdated. Business don't want to be bothered by you "pounding the pavement" and showing up in person unless they asked you to based on your resume and maybe a couple phone interviews. And even if you force your post-college kid to apply for a menial job while they're hunting for a better one, in all likelihood they WILL have trouble finding just a menial job, because yes, the economy is THAT BAD. Letting your child live at home after age 18 is no longer a "privilege". It's necessary, if you ever want your child to afford their own dental insurance, haircuts and gas. Anything other than trade schools or unions won't hire your kids unless they have college degrees, and tuition is higher than ever, so if your kid isn't good at building stuff or lucky enough to get a college scholarship then yes, if you have the money it's your responsibility to fork over. Ages 18-23 aren't the time to toss your kid out. The years of college age are now an investment period--invest in your kid well, send them to a good school or at least don't make them pay rent to live at home and go to school, make sure they pick a major that will get them a job and they'll get a good job and launch just fine. And guess what? Then they won't come back as boomerang children.

Comment By : times HAVE changed

I am so frustrated that I could scream. My daughter, age 24, is still living at home and she doesn't seem to think about her future. He father stopped paying child support when she turned 18, yet she doesn't seem bothered by the fact that I'm paying for her health insurance, car insurance, food and she lives rent free. I am feeling hurt and resentful because I have no where and no one to turn to. I can't just kick her out. I don't know what to do. On the bright side, she does have a part-time job at a big name pet store.

Comment By : CeeEllBee

I have lived with the world's most beautiful woman for two years now, dated for about six years. But now I have taken the stance and moved out and ended the relationship! Why, you may ask? Well the problem is her daughter, her 28-year old daughter who lives with her and has 2/3 of the basement and a huge washroom and office to herself for only $300-00 a month. This in itself is not too bad but when you add in the attitude, the doing of the laundry for her, the cooking for her it becomes a bit of a hassle in my eyes. I have always said that her daughter needs to grow up and move out! In her own place she can do as she pleases. Now I need to ask the question: Am I wrong in trying to force the daughter out? I moved out because I do not want to put up with all the "crap" I have to listen to every night...and that attitude that persistently comes out of her mouth and the demeanor!! Yes I am pissed off with the situation, and I do not see an end in site! Now my girlfriend and what was my fiance is also upset. What do I need to do??? Three is a crowd! I believe that!

Comment By : Angry and frustrated

* To Angry and frustrated: It’s clear how much stress this situation has been causing for you and that your frustration level has hit a critical point. It’s okay to take a step back to decide what you need and what might be helpful. Ultimately, only your girlfriend can decide what boundaries she is willing to put in place in her relationship with her daughter, and you have the choice of deciding if you are willing to live with those boundaries, or lack thereof. These are tough questions, and ones that only you can answer. We sense your struggle with answering them, and encourage you to reach out for local support. If you are not currently working with anyone, 211 is a great place to start. 211 is an information and referral service that connects people with resources in their community. You can reach them by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by going to Thanks for reaching out to us and we wish you the best; take care.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

I am an adult child (26 years of age) living with parents. It is not like I want to stay with them for the rest of my life because I know that we all are going to die someday. But, I want to gain independence by maybe getting a life coach, getting a stable job, renting an apartment, and so on. I realize that I would never be a child again even if I think or am treated like one.

Comment By : 20DeVry13

i think most problem stem from not understanding how much a person need for retirement and present expense. I know i won't be able to be hyperextending to my children past a certain age and even be buying budget items in the present to meet my retirement savings. Picture this, our kids will grow to be strong and will be much able to work for themselves while our bodies will only be aging and limited. Enough that I stay home and give them lots of love. When their basic needs are covered and we give them a lot of loving and structuring attention, no things will suffice the strength we have vested in their lives. I say besides not knowing future retirement needs. Parents need to give their young kids enough attention so they do not become rotten adults.

Comment By : dianedales

The comments on this page is heart wrenching and I feel so sad. My son, age 30, was molested by his older brother when they were kids. The family found this out 4 yrs ago and my life has been a living hell ever since. My son was never a bad kid but now he's been going to college forever. He's nasty, disrespectful. I even called 911 a few times. He has his Associate however, he does nothing to help me out financially. He doesn't think he can find a job without a degree and I realize after so many years, he doesn't want to find a job and doesn't want to help me. He has turned into someone I can't stand. Meanwhile I take care of my younger brother is is a little mental retarded who worked over 20 years as a messenger. He lost his job 3 yrs ago and has been desparetely trying to find one in NY. Its so hard for him but he never gives up. My son is another story. One year I went to family court and got all the stuff to put him out and got cold feet. I did not serve him with the papers. The whole process tore me apart inside. My son also has seizures, so again, I am so torn and confused but yet I will not put up with his verbal abuse and nasty tempers. Every time I get ready to go the family court route again, I get a lump in my throat and I feel terrible, but enough is enough. I raised him and his two brothers as a single parent. I worked and went to college at night but I'm torn whenever I think about what happened to him and I feel so guilty. It hurts but I can't stand him living with me and being mean anymore. I told him if you hate me that much, why don't you leave? He makes excuses and blames me for everything. I am seriously thinking about family court again. I never went when they gave me a court date. Does anyone know if I will have a hard time if I begin proceedings again? The whole scene makes me even sad but I've got to do something. I own my own home and sometimes its a living hell with him living here. I don't even care if he gets a job now. I just want him gone. I want him out.

Comment By : Hurt & Afraid

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