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Failure to Launch, Part 1: Why So Many Adult Kids Still Live with Their Parents

by Kimberly Abraham, LMSW & Marney StudakerĖCordner, LMSW
Failure to Launch, Part 1: Why So Many Adult Kids Still Live with Their Parents

Are you one of the millions of frustrated, exhausted parents whose adult child is still living at home with you? Like many in this situation, you might be feeling resentful that your adult son seems to think he’s entitled to meals, laundry and gas money when he does nothing but sleep and party. Or you get frustrated and angry when your 20+ daughter doesn’t pitch in around the house—or even take time to thank you for what you’re doing for her. When your kids were little, you probably expected and accepted the fact that they’d move out one day. So why does your child seem incapable of moving out on their own, and how do you handle it when they don’t? Before we can figure out what to do about adult kids who can’t launch, we have to look at why it’s happening to an entire generation of kids in the first place.

Kim Abraham and Marney Studaker–Cordner are experts in the areas of parenting, child behavior problems, O.D.D. and substance abuse, and they have worked with families for decades to help them resolve difficult issues, including how to help adult kids launch successfully. They are also the co–creators of Life Over the Influence, a new program to help families with loved ones who are struggling with substance abuse issues. This article is the first in a planned series by Kim and Marney in Empowering Parents on Adult Children Living at Home. They begin by explaining some of the main reasons why this situation has become such an epidemic.

Over time, our kids have stopped learning to solve problems and entertain themselves because adults are quick to jump in and fix things for them. Itís done out of love and with the best of intentions, but over time weíve gone from caring for our children, to caretaking.

So many Empowering Parents readers have written in asking questions about the challenges they face with their adult child who is still living at home. We’ve heard from parents whose kids are verbally abusive, disrespectful, and demanding—and who seem to have a permanent attitude of entitlement. You wonder, “Wasn’t this supposed to end at the age eighteen? Why is he still acting like a surly teenager?” Often parents who’ve counted the days to a child’s 18th birthday, looking forward to their own “emancipation,” find themselves wondering just when that countdown will actually end. Twenty? Twenty–five? Thirty?

Before we can look at how to help an adult child move on toward independence, it’s important to understand how we got here as a society in the first place. If your child is not yet an adult, this article can still help you avoid some of the pitfalls that can lead to having an adult child who has no intention of leaving your home.

Related: Is your adult child running your life? How to set limits and help them solve problems on their own.

Once Upon a Time, Long Ago….

In 1974, a quaint little show called Little House on the Prairie began its run on network television. It followed the life of a family and a young girl named Laura, who grew up on the frontier in the 1800’s. Each week, Laura encountered a new situation that offered opportunities for her to learn about life, develop values and morals, and take responsibility. She had conflicts with the local bully, Nellie; she fell in love with a boy who didn’t love her back at first; her family struggled and a piece of chalk and new shoes for school were things to be celebrated. Laura also had respect for her parents. And, most importantly, the children each had a purpose and a role in the family. She helped her mother care for the younger children; her older sister did sewing jobs to contribute to the family; everyone pitched in to help with the farm and animals. There was no law at the time to say children must attend school until a certain age; in fact it was considered a privilege. Laura did her homework nightly because she wanted to learn and because it was expected. Her parents allowed her to experience struggles and she learned she could overcome adversity. Her mother didn’t run to Nellie’s mother every time there was an argument. “Work it out,” was the message Laura received.

Welcome to the 80’s…Big Hair, Pop Music and a More Comfortable Life

Fast forward to 1987: a movie called Parenthood hits the big screen. It was a film about the joys, anxieties, and ups and downs of parenthood. It was also a movie that subtly showed how society had begun to change its views regarding the roles of parents and children. One of the characters, Larry, is an adult child who has returned to his parents’ home. A man in his thirties with thousands of dollars in gambling debt, returns to his parents’ home with a small child to raise. Larry literally cannot believe it when his father (played by Jason Robards) suggests he get a "regular job," with no potential for a quick payoff and riches.. “I’m better than that,” he says. The end of the film shows Larry’s father, a man in his sixties about to retire after a lifetime of hard work, getting a job so he can pay off his son’s debts, while Larry leaves on another get–rich–quick scheme. The father also takes on the role of raising his grandchild, as Larry has no ability or inclination to care for his child himself.

Related: Is your adult child living with you and abusing substances?

The lesson was that Larry was never allowed or encouraged to take responsibility or learn from his mistakes. Jason Robards describes his view of parenthood to his oldest son in telling the story of how he thought the child had polio as an infant: “I hated having to care, having to go through the pain, the hurt, the suffering...and it’s not like that all ends when you’re eighteen or twenty–one or forty–one or sixty–one. It never ends. It’s like your Aunt Edna’s ass. It goes on forever and it’s just as frightening.” This theme wasn’t just part of a movie; it was a reflection of how times were starting to change in our society. Larry was 33 years old and his father still believed it was his job to fix his son’s mistakes.

Failure to Launch : Not Just a Movie

Moving on to 2006: the romantic comedy Failure to Launch depicts the life of a man in his thirties who is the modern version of Peter Pan—he’s never really grown up. He has no idea how to commit to a real relationship and is perfectly comfortable living with his parents. His parents, on the other hand, are very uncomfortable and hire a beautiful woman who makes her living doing guess what? Building a man’s self–confidence and creating a “crisis” that he can successfully resolve, thus gaining the skills he needs to make it on his own. Her job is to help grown men accomplish what they never did in adolescence or early adulthood: learn to live independently. Again, our society’s view of family life is depicted through the media and shows us finally reaping what we’ve been sowing: the long–term results of doing too much for our children, rather than letting them “do for themselves.” While the movie is funny, and of course has a happy ending (he eventually moves out), in real–life there’s nothing funny about your adult child living in your home because they’re unable to “make it” on their own.

Related: How to parent your child effectively—and give him the tools to launch.

Life Lessons Lost

Think back to when you were a child. If you’re over the age of thirty–five, you probably played outside until the street lights came on. All the adults in the neighborhood had authority to reprimand you, and you truly cared if you heard the words, “I’m going to have to tell your parents about your behavior.” You played ball, King of the Mountain, Hide and Seek, Cops and Robbers, marbles and made snow forts. Kids used their imaginations to invent any kind of game they could think of. Whether you lived in the city or the country, you “found something to do.” Groups of kids built tree houses and in doing so, negotiated who would get what materials from which garage, who would be the leader and what tasks everyone would have. You didn’t know it, but those negotiation skills helped you understand how to manage in the workplace years down the road.

In the “old days,” you experienced conflict with other kids and when you complained to your parents, you heard something like “Well, work it out.” And that’s exactly what you did—you learned how to resolve conflict. You also learned that life isn’t always fair and it isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes you were angry, bored or afraid. Often you were disappointed and frustrated. You learned to cope and you learned that you would survive these emotions, as painful as they might have been at the time.

And you also learned about natural consequences. If you did your homework, it was because it was expected and it was your responsibility. If you didn’t, you likely failed, because that’s a consequence to not completing your work. Some kids passed to the next grade; some kids didn’t. You had chores and, no, you didn’t necessarily get an allowance. You couldn’t wait to grow up so you could make your own rules and have your own place. Living with your parent’s rules made you uncomfortable enough that you wanted to leave someday and surviving adolescence left your parent happy to see you go! Every day of your childhood and adolescence took you a step closer to having the skills you needed to do just that. Childhood and adolescence were a time of gradually gaining independence so you could one day live as a productive, independent adult.

Generation X and Beyond

Since the eighties, we’ve seen a boom in technology. Cell phones, texting, iPods, laptops, computer gaming, Facebook and Twitter. It’s a whole new world, one that doesn’t require much imagination. There’s no need to invent games now; just turn on an Xbox. Instant gratification has taken on a whole new meaning: there’s no reason to be uncomfortable in today’s world, if you have the means.

As we’ve become more comfortable with technology, our society has also shifted to the extreme of simply not wanting to be uncomfortable at all. And we’ve passed that on to our children. Many of us want our children to have lives that are “better than what we had,” even if we had it pretty good. We hate to see our kids suffer. If you ask any parent’s wish for their child it’s almost always “for my child to be happy.” We spend much of our time trying to make that happen for our kids in childhood. We involve them in activities (dance, gymnastics, sports, clubs); we get involved in their academics (PTA, choosing particular teachers, observing a classroom through a two–way mirror to make sure the teacher is using an approach that’s acceptable, making sure homework is done at night); we get involved in their social relationships (calling the school if a child is having conflict with a peer, determining who our children can and can’t be friends with).

These things can be good, in moderation. But as a society, we’ve gone to the extreme. If our child gets a teacher he doesn’t like, what’s the first instinct? Call and get his room changed. If our child is bored, first instinct? Get her signed up for an activity or try to find something to entertain her. Over time, our kids have stopped learning to solve problems and entertain themselves because adults are quick to jump in and fix things for them. It’s done out of love and with the best of intentions, but over time we’ve gone from caring for our children, to caretaking. “Caretaking” is anything we do for our children that they can do for themselves. It means fixing or solving a problem for your child rather than teaching or showing him how to do so himself. This might mean doing your child’s homework for him so he won’t fail or so he’ll graduate. It could be that you’re cleaning your child’s room because it’s easier and it will be “done right.” While caring for our children is a good, positive thing, understand that when it crosses into caretaking, it stunts your child’s growth. Skills he normally would have learned as a young child or adolescent get delayed into his twenties or thirties—or maybe never.

The Only College My Kid Applied to is Basement University

In 2011, a generation of young adults struggles to find their way, emotionally and financially. They’ve entered adulthood ill–equipped to cope with things such as persistence in the face of being turned down for a job; the day–to–day responsibilities and potential conflicts of a marriage; doing without cable TV or cigarettes until basic needs have been met. Many young adults in this generation tends to have high expectations for employers, little tolerance for the needs of others when they conflict with their own and often believes they deserve material items even if they can’t afford them.

Sadly, during childhood and adolescence, the primary coping skill many kids have learned is to simply go to their parents when there’s a problem. When they enter adulthood and mom or dad isn’t there to fix things, they don’t know what to do. They come back to the one coping skill they’ve learned: go to the parent to solve the problem for them. Many remain at home, sitting on parents’ couches or sleeping in, rather than moving out. Their parents step in and pay rent and utilities, buy their food or pay their insurance. This can go on into their twenties, thirties and even longer. In fact, we know a 99–year–old woman whose son continued to live with her until he was 67 years old. At the age of 96, she was out mowing her lawn while her son sat on the couch, taking no responsibility whatsoever. He was her baby and he remained so forever. Add substance abuse to the mix, and the caretaking mode we go into shifts into high gear. We feel driven to save our child, no matter what age, from the risks of drinking or using drugs.

Related: Is your adult child drinking or using drugs?

Good Intentions Don’t Always Get Good Results

Many questions from EP readers have mentioned the struggles of dealing with adult children who continue to exhibit oppositional defiant characteristics, have substance abuse or display a basic resistance to growing up. These parents are not alone. It’s helpful to realize that this is a reflection of how our society has gone to the extreme of caretaking for others, not just our children but even for our spouses or other loved ones.

It’s important to remember that caretaking behavior is borne out of love. We want our loved ones, especially our children, to be happy and healthy. But over time an unhealthy caretaking cycle can develop: the child experiences stress/struggles; they go to the parent; the parent intervenes, fixing or resolving the situation; the child learns to look outside himself for coping skills, in the form of the parent. And so the cycle goes on into adulthood. The key to breaking this cycle is to help your child with internal coping skills, foster a sense of self–confidence and let them experience for themselves that they can be uncomfortable and still survive.

In our next article in this series, we’ll look at how to overcome the challenges to helping “launch” your adult child into the real world—without having to hire an actress to help you!


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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.

READER'S COMMENTS

This is a great article. Kim and Marney are right on the money.We also need to step back a little and let the teachers in our schools have some authority in disiplining our kids in the class room.

Comment By : Big Daddy

This article starts out great but, unlike most other articles on this site, it stops short of giving suggestions to stop the cycle of caretaking. How is a parent to know when they've crossed the line from caring to caretaking? This subject is very relevant in this day and age. I know I could use some concrete advice about how not to be a caretaker or how to reverse cartaking habits. Thank you.

Comment By : Scunnered74

Sorry meant to click on 5 star!

Comment By : kicks

We have to be willing to let our children fail when they are truly children. The consequences are far less painful and they will hopefully have these lessons to take into adulthood. The term "adult children" is sadly, a reflection of how society has slipped into this pattern of not letting our kids grow up and be accountable. Are they adults or children?

Comment By : AJ

This article is so very true! Now, can we imagine how children of our children will be? This is not a nice picture... a whole society of frustrated, people with no copying or problem solving skills. We have to go back to what our parents taught us; work,values and satisfaction, problem solving. Not given them excessive material things. We have to remember that the best way to teach them to fish is giving the a fishing pole and the instruments and taking them to the river; its not "fishing for them" then giving them the fish all made and ready to eat... don't you think this make sense??? Parents just simply "STOP FISHING FOR YOUR KIDS".

Comment By : VirgDalila

This article is awesome. I have an adult child who has tried 3 times to make a home of her own. She has 3 children, one of whom I have raised since he was born. He is now seven. They are living on their own now. The statement that was made in the article about about the children of these adult children was right on the money. I am the first to say that I worry about those children constantly. I have finally made myself step back and it sure isn't easy. Almost everything in this article is absolutely true of me and my daughter, who is 29 years old. I give you a rating of 5 stars. Thanks for helping me understand why we have gone through these trials and tribulations.

Comment By : septemberpromise

* Dear Scunnered74: Thank you for your comment. Since this topic is such a difficult and varied one, we've decided to run a series of articles in EP to address the issues around adult children living at home. In the next article, Kim and Marney will give parents some concrete tips on how to handle this situation effectively. Please "stay tuned" to Empowering Parents!

Comment By : Elisabeth Wilkins, Editor

I love how the article is showing the changes through the years, not only in media, but in the school system as well. Back in the "little house" years, parents also signed an agreement with the school to give permission to use corporal punishment. That alone kept me on the straight and narrow through middle school. Schools no longer have that authority which is a shame in my opinion. I understand the pros and cons, however, there is something to be said of "if you do this, be prepared for a paddling young man". LOL I remember having to clean the entire school yard for spitting my gum out in the sand box on a dare AFTER being sent to the principal's office and getting a stern lecture about chewing gum at school (that's how old I am). I was rarely in trouble, and knowing that I could get lectured, paddled, or who knows what, I kept out of trouble. LOL

Comment By : luvmykidz

Beautifully said. Now have to figure a delicate way to send to my sister...

Comment By : Tracy

I don't know what happened to falling and trying to pick yourself up!! To the kids today, you have no idea!!!! what you're in store for. Stop going to your parents and DO IT YOURSELF

Comment By : suzyq

Because my parents were Depression era workers who left school at ages 13 and 15 respectively to work and live independently, this concept is foreign to myself ( out upon graduation from college-job or no job) and my own children- 2 adults and 2 teens. You found roommates, and scraped the ground. The only reasonable reason to be home over age 21 is chronic medical illness. Otherwise growth does not occur. It surely was harder during the Depression and without education but it was done. Perhaps it can't be written on paper but it does work out. Parents who allow them at home have already lost integrity and are causing their own dear children to lose so much of life. Foster independence, not dependence. PS The money always works out somehow, but you do trade off a great deal of security.

Comment By : Glork

This behavior these kids learn doesn't end even when they do move out. Then they expect the government to take care of them and act in the role of "parent." It's sad, pathetic, and results in abuses of programs meant to be positive, and a loss of basic rights and freedoms for those of use who CAN and WANT to take care of ourselves. Overall, I agree with the article, though some details I think could be clarified. If your kids are around other kids that can pose a true danger to them, I think the parents should step in, but that all depends on the age of the child. Stuff like that you really have to be paying attention as a parent and figure out where to draw the lines based on the kids, their age, personality, etc. It's important to be aware and pay attention to the big picture and your child. http://www.homeschoolingwithattitude.com P.S. I hope this doesn't post twice, it looked like it didn't go through.

Comment By : Elena

When a child has a severe learning disability, it can be very hard to not provide extra academic help at home. I never "do" my son's homework, but I do find myself providing much more academic support than I provide for my typical child, because my son has a learning disability. I find that I monitor my son with the learning disability more, checking assignment books, checking for understanding,reteaching concepts, and assisting with studying etc. My son works very hard, and struggles just to pass his HS classes. I wondered, after reading this, if I am doing a disservice to provide this level of support. How does this concept of "letting kids figure it out" apply to kids with learning disabilities, in the context of academics?

Comment By : Karen

I had 2 stepkids at home. One at 22 decided to quit his job because he didn't like his supervisor, and was taking drugs. I told him drugs were not acceptable and he had to move immediately. He lived in his car for over two months. He finally got a job and moved to another state. The other stepchild at 20 slept until 5 pm, and watched movies all day, no job. I told her she was moving out in two months. She got two jobs and moved out even before the deadline. I had two other stepkids who stole everything they could get their hands on for drugs. I told them they were no longer welcome in the house. They were homeless for two years, but finally got their act together. No one can take advantage of you unless you let them.

Comment By : wamster

I'm now a greatgrandparent (age almost 80) and I can identify with most everything in the article. I'm looking forward to the future ones on the subject. I have forwarded it to 10 people already and may send it to more. I give it a rating of 5! Jim

Comment By : JimK

What about a 24 year old who dropped out of college after 2 years and works fulltime, but can't afford to live on her own because she doesn't have a well-paying job and has to pay back a student loan for the semester she bombed. She can't afford to go back to school right now, either. We have a son in college and aren't paying for her mistakes. But we want her to move out on her own.

Comment By : momof3

* Dear Karen: It sounds like your son is already putting forth a tremendous degree of effort and commitment to his schoolwork. Thatís a very good sign Ė it means he is motivated to do well and has a good work ethic! We all have varying degrees of talents and abilities. Academics may come easier to one child, while another has more artistic talents or is good with animals, etc. The key is to prepare your child for real life, even if he has a learning disability. He probably has the same hopes and dreams for himself as his siblings do: to have his own home, family, job and basically live a happy, independent life. We know many adults with severe learning or even developmental disabilities who have been able to live in their own homes and work in the community, because of recent movements within the community mental health system. Itís recognized more and more now that all individuals have a right to independence and to engage in meaningful activities. Providing extra support to your son is fine. However, if you find you are both spending a tremendous amount of effort on classwork, to the point he isnít even getting much time to relax or have family time, you may want to request a meeting at the school, as they may need to look at some different accommodations. Again, he is taking responsibility for his classwork and thatís a very good thing. You may want to identify a small step toward increasing his independence, such as only checking his assignment book every other night, until he gradually learns to do it on his own. If he forgets to check it on his own one night, you could prompt and assist him on developing his own system to remember. A failed assignment can actually be an opportunity to recognize what needs to be done differently. How can he remind himself to check his book? A learning disability means he may have to come up with a system that works for him, since what works traditionally with students is a challenge. Many successful adults with learning differences have gone on to live independent and inspiring lives (for example John F. Kennedy, Beethoven and Thomas Edison). As your son starts learning to take more responsibility and has some successes, it will help him feel confident in himself and in his ability to navigate in the real world. It sounds like you love and support your son very much. The best gift you can give him is to provide opportunities for him to gradually increase his ability to complete things independently.

Comment By : Marney StudakerĖCordner, LMSW and Kim Abraham, LMSW

* Dear momof3: It sounds like your daughter is already taking steps toward some independence Ė she has a job and is paying back her school loan. That is a good example of her taking responsibility for her own life choices. Itís reasonable that you would allow her to stay, temporarily, in your home while she pays off that debt. The key is not to allow her to get too comfortable staying home. Even if she canít pay rent, she can still pay for her own things such as haircuts and clothes and contribute to the food budget. She can also help out around the house in lieu of rent. If you havenít done so already, you may want to have a conversation with her about your expectations and a timeline for when she will move out independently. If itís a five-year loan payoff, you probably donít want her at home for the next five years! Can she pay extra on the loan while sheís living at home, enabling her to move out sooner rather than later? What is her plan to move toward independence? Our next two articles will further address steps you can take to move your adult child toward more independence, so please stay with us!

Comment By : Marney StudakerĖCordner, LMSW and Kim Abraham, LMSW

I would suggest anyone allowing children to move back in, insist on seeing their bank account records too. Also insist if the they're getting cash out, you want to see what was purchased. One of my stepsons' wanted to move back in, and when I asked for his last two months bank statements, he refused. One of the bank statements came to my house, I opened it, looked at it, and I saw he was buying pizza constantly, buying lingerie for ???, going to the video store and buying Xbox games, buying pornographic magazines and videos; to the tune of about $500. That is the cost of an apartment. He was not permitted to move back in.

Comment By : wamster

As a mom of 3 boys (each 4 years apart) I stay pretty busy. I would love to be bored for just 15 minutes! When they complain of boredom, I make them clean the toilet (with 3 boys in the the house this is never a waste of time). They have other chores, too, but they've gotten pretty good at solving the boredom problem without my assistance. I'm working on coming up with other ways to apply this psychology... Hungry? Oh, yea, tonight it's your night to cook.

Comment By : Mom of 3

What is a parent to do when practicing "tough love" to a "Clueless", GrandMa is forever enabling and giving in (constantly undermining the mom), paying for vehicles, phone, insurance, etc., putting a roof over his head when he was made to leave his childhood home due to his actions,all the while "Clueless" sells and smokes marijuana and works part time. What do I do with "Clueless" and a GrandMa without a clue!?

Comment By : toughlove

Great article and a great website!

Comment By : BZ

my husband is the step father to my kids. using the term lightly because my two boys are 19 and 20. the older one is working, paying rent and for his own insurance and phone. the other is not working, and is displaying the symptoms stated in the articles, sleeping late, staying out with friends, etc. he applies for jobs sometimes and is working out physically to train for the seals. My husband is angry that he does not get up, apply for more jobs, do more work around the house, etc. He has decided that I will not pay for car insurance or phone anymore or I will suffer the consequences. I say that he won't be able to get a job if he can't drive his car. And, if he did drive the car, uninsured, it could really cause him MORE problems. I have budgeted his $100 insurance premium into the budget (I work, my husband doesn't) but i am afraid that he will threaten to divorce me again if I pay it. Is cancelling the insurance a good move? Also my son said that he will repay the premiums once he is employed.

Comment By : threatened

Been saying all of this for years...it drives me nuts to see what we, as parents, have done to our children. Each time we catch them before they fall, we are doing them a disservice...how can a child grow up if he isn't allowed to grow up?

Comment By : Frustrated_Canadian_Parent

There are a lot of generalisations and assumptions in this article. Not all parents are caretakers and not all children exploit their parents. For people living in low socioeconomic areas, or metropolitan areas with ridiculous property prices, it may genuinely be not possible financially for the child to move out. Add to that the fact that, even for university graduates, the job market is more competitive than ever before, and the economy is struggling. Prospective employers are shedding staff, not hiring them. Time and time again, young people are hit by economic crises the hardest. While we shouldn't solve our children's problems for them, we should be supportive and help them through difficult times.

Comment By : Sam

I understand all this, however I can't kick my son out unless it's done legally. I've spoken to many attorney's and even the police and I have to go through the court system.

Comment By : frustratedmom

The article is helpful but does not provide a solution. When my children were small (late 80's early 90's) quality time was drilled into our heads. Both parents were working and we were made to feel guilty because we worked and tried to raise our families. Now it's our fault our adult children are lazy and have no coping skills even though as parents we showed by example how to live, work, care for our home and family. We provided a good life for our kids (too good) catered and spent too much time with them. I grew up a farm, we worked hard and couldn't play until the work was done. Guess what, the work was seldom all done. Now I have an adult son who won't work, lays in bed, is not motivated to move forward. Yes, we have a plan for him but it's not his plan. I'm frustrated. Once again who is dumped on but us. I feel no matter what we do it's not right. Now we have to undo what we've done and created. Please offer solutions.

Comment By : alsoafrustratedmom

* To Ďalsoafrustratedmomí: We understand your frustration. Many parents out there feel like they just canít win because they are being pressured to do this, and judged if they do that. Youíve worked really hard to help your son in the best way you knew how and now he needs to make some choices about what heís going to do next in his life. We at EmpoweringParents.com do not place any blame on parents in situations like yours. It happens a lot and we know how incredibly challenging it can be. The other two parts of this three-part article series do offer some concrete suggestions that you can try. You can find the other two parts here: Failure to Launch, Part 2: How Adult Children Work the "Parent System" & Failure to Launch, Part 3: Six Steps to Help Your Adult Child Move Out. You can also find several additional articles with suggestions for dealing with adult children on this page: Parenting Articles about Adult Children. Thank you for your comment. We wish you and your family luck as you move forward from here. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

This article is a great lead in to part 2 and 3 of this series. I plan on commenting on each one of them, because I need help in this area: I have a son who is 27, has graduated from college, but has never attempted to work after college. (He graduated in 2008, with a degree on criminal justice.) He does not drive. He does not smoke, do drugs or drink. His day is spent in his room, in his bed, with his computer and Xbox, although he spends large amounts of time in the bathroom and some time in the kitchen preparing himself food. He is on food stamps and medicaid. (I am on neither, but because he is over 23, and jobless, the state of Missouri provides $200 a month in food stamp benefits per month for him, even though he is living at home. As far as the medicaid, because he has been diagnosed with depression, he is able to have medicaid, also.) My son has been seeing a psychologist for over a year, but my son is still the same; because he is an adult, I have very little say in his treatment. At one time, he was going to a therapist who thought he might have Asperger's. I want to get him tested for this because not only does he have a lot of the symptoms, Missouri will provide more services for him IF he has a diagnosis. His therapist gave me the name of a person who can test for this disorder, but since he (the referral) will not accept medicaid, the cost would be $910 for the testing. I cannot afford that, nor do I feel that I should have to provide the funds for my son, since he is an adult. There is a school that is about 2 hours away who does test for Asperger's and also takes medicaid, but the next available appointment is one year from now. So for now, I do not know what to do. My mom (who is 88) says to kick him out. I have actually threatened that; we have a homeless shelter here in town who would take him, but my son said that he would commit suicide before he lived with "those people." His father died in 2009, but I was never married to him, nor did I ever live with him. His father did pay child support until my son was 18, but was never there for any emotional support. At least now I know (by reading this 1st part of the series,) WHY my son, along with many, many other adult children struggle to become independent. We (as parents) have made it too easy for our kids, we ARE truly caretakers. And no, I am not saying that all parents of all dependent adult children have this issue.) I just know that I was like that, and continue to be. I wash his clothes. I drive him everywhere. (He will not take public transportation because "the people" [his words] "that use public transportation gross me out.") I know that I have enabled him. I know that I am his caretaker. But I am afraid to kick him out. My life is on hold. I would like to have a smaller apartment. I would like to be in control of any messes in my house. Anyway, I am going to read the next two parts of this series, and I WILL be commenting. I know I will learn a lot. Thank you for this!

Comment By : Enabler2Him

What if you have an adult child who is writing songs, sitcoms, etc. yes, they are doing something with their time, but where is it going? They dropped out of college but plans on going back (I think), but does not have job and refuses to take any job (even apply..."are you kidding,I'm not doing that!")You tell them I am not giving you any more money, then actually ask for gas money, because it took a tank full to drop off three job applications. And try to put you on guilt trip, "you come down me every day", "I just want to try this (writing) why can't you support me" "its not uncommon to support a 22 year old, I'm not 30, I'm not on drugs". Yes, I heard of starving artist but its not the one living in my house!

Comment By : mbr

My adult son lives at home and I don't mind as long as he follows the rules and is peaceful, which he is. We do things together as much I have time for them. There are some frustrating times when he doesn't understand why $200 doesn't go very far, but once he is out on his own, he will figure it out I'm sure. Other than that and an occasional obstinate attitude, my son is a real joy to have around. I love him. He does help around the house and that's a real blessing. I will hate to see him go if and when he ever does. But I'm sure he'll be back around to do things once again with Dad :-)

Comment By : Donald

I put part of the blame on the schools, which coddle, expect extensive parent involvement (promotes helicoptoring?) and fail to recognize when a kid has ADHD (inattentive type) and executive functioning issues. If the child is a parent's eldest, the parents could be ill-equipped to know a thing about these issues yet educators should be able to recognize them. The schools pay to have psychologists on staff but I suppose all they detect is the glaringly obvious and disruptive cases. And school counselors are nearly worthless.

Comment By : frustratedlots

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