Adult Child Living at Home But Not Working



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grown adult living at home with mom work or play

What do I do About the Adult Child Living In My Home?

A reader recently wrote asking:

What should you do when you have a 20 something person laying on your couch all day long, eating your food and not lifting a finger to do anything. The person is not working or looking for a job. (In this case, it was the daughter of a friend.)

 

It is very hard to answer a question like this because I don’t know all the details of the situation. Here’s what I would say based on the information I have. Maybe if it doesn’t work for you, it will help another reader.

When we are in a situation like this, many of us try to find solutions that will make everyone comfortable and happy. Most of the time, though, this isn’t possible, especially if one or more of the persons involved is not lifting a finger to try to help find a solution or make the situation better.

I don’t know why we think we need to make people like this happy and comfortable or find a solution that makes them happy. We all tend to fall into this trap at some time with someone in our lives.

In some situations, you only have two choices.

  1. You can either accept the situation as it stands, which means letting the person keep doing what they are doing and not allowing yourself to have even the least bit of resentment, anger or bitterness towards that person.
  2. You can break it off with the person and not have anything to do with them.

In your case, you can either keep allowing her to do what she is doing and not resent it or tell her, "You have two weeks (or some other reasonable amount of time to you) to find work, and this amount of time to find a place to live or pay me so much for room and board. If you don’t – by this date – your bags will be packed and sitting on the porch."

I know this sounds so awful to do but would doing this make you any more miserable than you are now? At least this way you would eventually have your home back and be out of your misery. As it stands now, you are stuck in the situation and the 28 year old is feeding on your food and on you emotionally.

This is plain and simple manipulation. Our kids do it, spouses do it, friends do it and it isn’t good for us or for them. Ignoring it or letting it continue is like giving a drug addict his daily supply of drugs. None of us would dream of doing something like that but we do it all the time in other ways.

As long as you let it continue, you are enabling the person to keep living the same way. Without realizing it, you are helping that person do the very thing that is hurting her, even when you think you’re helping. It is difficult and painful to stand up to someone who is manipulating you, but taking the easy way out and failing to stop it creates misery for you (and the other person, too) for the long term.

The choice is yours. You either choose to willingly live with the person as-is or ask her to leave.



Here are some signs that reveal if you are being manipulated or if the person truly needs help:

  • If the need is legitimate, you shouldn’t feel the resentment of being "put upon".
  • The person is usually trying her best to find work. If she is sincere, she will be off the couch looking for work.
  • She will bend over backwards to help around your home – cleaning, cooking, doing yard work or helping with the younger children without being asked. They offer.
  • She will make a great sacrifice on her part to help you. For example, she isn’t going out spending even a couple of dollars on things like a large drink, going to the movies or hanging out with friends. She should be using any extra money she gets to pay you to help with expenses like the cost of her food, even if she is trying save for something like rent. She can at least give a small token amount to you to show that she’s making some kind of effort.
  • She will be ever so grateful and won’t be able to say enough or do enough to show you how grateful she is.

We should always have empathy for people but be careful with sympathy. It’s okay but there is a point when it can do more harm than good.

      -Jill

 

Photo By: opensourceway

Comments

  1. says

    Our priest says that when he is counseling families about problems with their teenagers or young adults that the parents often excuse behavior by saying that they just want to make their kids happy. He replies it’s not your job to make them happy, it’s your job to get them to heaven. If your not religious you can replace heaven with “productive adult.” The point is, that we often enable and disregard bad behavior and we think this shows our love when the most loving thing we can do for them is to be tough.

    • says

      The same type of idea applies to to parents who just want to be their kids friends. God didn’t make me their friend. I am their parent. Big difference. They have many friends but only one parent. As a parent you hold a special place no one else can hold in your child’s life and for the life of me can’t figure out why a parent would want to change that place for one which many others can hold and isn’t near as special. Friends come and go but you are mom and dad forever. Why would you not want that position?

      Besides God put each relationship in a person’s life for a different and much needed reason. Grandparent, parent, friend, spouse. Each playing an important role. Sometimes we are so busy trying to fill another role we weren’t called for we mess up the balance in our child’s life and deprive them of something they need and can only get for a parent.

  2. Bea says

    At my job I’ve talked to numerous parents that have adult children that do have jobs, live with their parents, but don’t pay a cent toward helping out, and the parents are struggling to make ends meet. You don’t know how many parents allow this. The adult “child” has a fancy car, cell phone, a good job, and nice clothes but refuses to give any money toward their upkeep, and the parents don’t ask them to either, but bills are going unpaid. This situation is very common. Selfishness is common.

  3. Gina says

    I recently heard a quote that applies to this, “We should prepare our children for the path ahead, not the path for the child.”

  4. barb~ says

    I know of several friends in this situation. In one case, a couple has there three “boys” living with them. Th older two boys are twins and 29 yrs. old. The “baby” is 25 yrs old. Mom cooks, washes clothes, and cleans after them. Only one has a job, and the other two just hang out at home. I’ve heard the parents complain, but I’ve come to realize mom and dad both really like feeling “needed.” I believe they have crippled these young men, emotionally. I a recent coversation with the dad, I told him i would tell my own daughter to RUN FAST away from any man who is content to live with his parents at that age. What kind of skills can these men have as husbands or fathers in the future?? My daughter is out on her own, is productive and self sufficient at 27 yrs. old. and, I think she should be!

  5. Sandra says

    I am in a similar situation, both due to unavoidable and avoidable actions on the part of a 20y/o and a 46 y/o. I am genetically unable to refuse to help a loved one in trouble but there is a difference in helping and enabling. A workable agreement before allowing them to move in is the biggest help. In my case I do not charge room/board. I do however require that they work out the amount of reasonable room and board around the house, yard, garden, etc. I also require that they spend time every weekday either actively looking for work, working on some cleaning or project around my house, or doing any odd job they can pick up. There are always neighbors that need the grass mowed or bushes cut or help fixing a fence on occasion. If nothing else they can ride bicycles up and down these country roads and pick up aluminum cans. The agreement is 75% of all money earned goes into a bank account that I set up jointly with them and myself when they moved in. This money is to
    provide funds for them to rent their own place, etc once they find employment and the agreement is if they fail to hold up their end of the bargain I can take the money to pay for their living expenses that I have paid. I do not pay for cell phones, designer jeans, latte, beer, or gas for your car to go see your girlfriend. If you want those extras it comes out of your 25% of your pay that you keep each week. I provide a roof, a clean bed, adequate food, decent necessary clothing, heat, cooling, and transportation for job hunting. My goal is to provide support and help but not make things so comfy that they are tempted to make it a permanent arrangement.

    • Kim says

      Sandra, I really like what you’ve said , and am going to try use some of your ideas. My son is 24, and his dad and I are divorced. For the 8 years we’ve been divorced, my ex most of the time talks very disrespectivly about me to our kids especially our son..My son has my demeanor but has learned his dads bad habits and disrespecttful ways. He is a gifted musician and plays in two. Bands but beyond that will not get a job.. He manages to say the right things and manipulates me to continue to enable this. I just want him to be a hard worker have confidence and have the utmost respect, especially for women.. We have had other issues of panic attacts.. For a short period, but that only made me want to be here forbid more. I want to hire a drill sergeant to move in here and whip his butt into shape.. I don’t want to put him on the streets but I definitely want tough love, more than I have been able to do. I have my own business and have to help a lot with my parents who are in their late seventies. I’m worn down but not giving up.

  6. Grizzly Bear Mom says

    Although I am sickened by the selfishness of people I see living with my mom, I can’t do much of anything about other people’s children using their parents. I don’t despire co housing thourgh. In fact, it seems logical. Financial expect Suze Orman recommends that each pay their percentage of income toward household expenses. If you bring in 20% of the income, you pay 20% of the mortgage, phone, food, etc. Although the homeowner should just have to state their desire and have it filled, others should divide the work. No users at my house. I too can’t imagine anyone wanting to date or hire folks like we are discussing here.

  7. Stephanie says

    I am dealing with exactly this situation. I have an informally adopted son who has severe issues with responsibility (no I didn’t raise him, I got him later in life). He is currently living on my daybed in the living room. I am not molly coddling him. I give him a roof and food. I don’t supply endless amounts of money, and I make him work for what he does get. Plus I am fully supporting his Dad’s efforts to get him to do something useful in life. I won’t put him out on the street, but we’re sure practicing some tough love with him. I love him, but I see no reason for a healthy adult man to be living with his Mother and acting like a child the rest of his life. It doesn’t help him, and it sure doesn’t help us!

  8. Jaime says

    A co-worker of mine was just talking about this exact situation in her life today. Neither of her 2 adult sons paid their share of the phone or cable bills for the past 2 months and they did not tell her. She is a single parent. She tried applying for a new credit card and was denied because of the damage her sons did to her credit rating, since both bills are in her name only. The answer everyone at work agreed upon was that she should put envelopes on the refrigerator and tell her sons they need to put money into those envelopes every month in order for her to pay the bills. If they don’t put in the agreed upon amount of money then they should move out. The only problem I foresee is her enforcement of the rule. As I have always said, “A rule means nothing without enforcement”.

  9. Amber says

    I agree – pay up or get out. I had my daughter set up an automatic funds transfer to me on her pay days. The bank pays me like a bill so I get my money on time, every time. Now she’s slowly learning that being a responsible adult is harder than she thought and that money doesn’t grow on trees.

  10. says

    I was in the exact same place as so many of you parents out there. My 20 something son lived moved back in with us after being out on his own for only a year. In the time he was here, he fell back into all his bad habits; slept all day, played video games all night, ate our food, did nothing around the house to help, etc. After two years of this, we finally got fed up and told him to leave (with sufficient notice to find a place). He’s been out on his own now for over 3 years and has done wonderfully. And get this, he THANKED us for lighting a fire under his butt! When you take care of your children past the point nature intended, you bleed their self esteem and rob them of the pride that comes with being self-sufficient. I know what you’re all going through but toughen up for your kids sake and take the hard line, you won’t be sorry.

  11. Leah says

    Thanks for declaring truth without compromise! I really appreciate the understanding that is is not for NOW we are preparing, but for the future. I guess my comments are directed more to those who want to prepare their children as they grow. My parents were not wealthy, but hard workers, and raised 4 kids who became responsible adults. They started us early understanding the value of the costs of life. We were taught to give to our church, create a savings account, and know where our money went. Life was not always easy, but I was truly shocked to learn as a pre-teen we were considered “poor” by all the income charts, listings and the government! Our allowance was only paid when we did our part around the house, and as we became young teens, anything beyond basic neccesities of life we wanted,(the outfit I “had to have”,etc.) we found a way to pay for it personally. Because I had older siblings my parents had already prepared, I knew at 13 years old at what age I would be allowed to date, how much my parents would provide for my graduation costs (picts, invites, cap & gown, etc), how much they would provide for college, and how much they would give me as a wedding gift(not pay for the wedding). I applied these amounts toward paying for the events, and used my own earned money to make these events as frugal or as extravegant as I chose. Any money we made from a job beginning at age 13, we paid a percentage for house expense. Once I began driving, I drove my parents cars until the day I married and moved out of state at 22, because I paid them mileage for every mile I drove(work and pleasure). This helped them pay for the car they wanted, a better car than I could afford on my own, and Dad kept them maintained. I got a full time job out of High school, saved, and after 1 year of college (got a great job utilizing my talents that did not require a degree)I was invited by my parents, and chose to live at home. There was an end to it though. I could live with them until I married or age 25, whichever came 1st. I paid room and board from my adult job, milage to use their cars, but still understood I had chores around the house. Paying did not exempt that, because I understood if I had a place of my own, those things would have to be done by someone(me!). I saved and was able to go the places I wanted, travel, and do some great things with my time and money because they taught me the value of money as related to LIFE. I pray for those who are dealing with adult children who do not have this understanding. My older brother recently died of colon cancer in his 50′s. It took a lot of convincing to get him to move back in to my parents home and let them care for him the last few months of his life (he was single and they offered/insisted). Up to his last few days, he was still saying, “don’t forget to take my room and board from my money, Mother.” He understood, as we all do, they cared for us as we grew and they taught us to be responsible. My remaining siblings and I have now set things in place for our parents future. We have happily made arrangements and solid plans between us to see they have a place to be and are cared for whatever the future brings for them. See why you should train your children in the way they should go and not just make them “happy?” What will the future be for those who didn’t take a stand for personal responsibility? At what point do they allow the circle of life to be completed and they be the ones who are cared for in love and not from guilt?

  12. says

    I have 22 yr old step son who does NOTHING but drink and do drugs. He was kicked out of the military for drugs and was only in military for maybe a year and a half. Well since he came back home he does NOTHING at all. He stays out til 5 am sleeps til 3pm and then is out partying again. 7 days a week I might add thatthis goes on. My husband Finally listened to me and quit giving him money or the car. His life has not changed he is still out. I think he is a drug dealer, no I know he is. This kid just don’t get it. He is selfish and cares about nobody feeling. What do we do? I want him gone. I can’t live like this anymore it is affecting my health. Suggestions?

    • says

      Janet most of the time I try to come up with a couple of options or ways on how to deal with things. I hate to say too much on something like this without all the facts and all. I can only tell you what I would do.I think things in your case have gotten to the point that you only have 2 choices. You can keep living the way you are and everything stay the same or make him leave even if it means changing the locks on your doors and stop helping him.
      It is going to be really hard for him to change as it is but with you to fall back on he will never have a reason to change. You and your husband have to present an united front too. As hard as it will be to see he out on the streets you will have to do it. You think you will be hurting him by kicking him out but the reality is you are hurting him worse by helping. You may not realize it but by providing him a place to stay and car that in a way is the same as handing him money for his drugs.

      Often parents think they are doing what is best for their child by helping them like this but what they are really doing without realizing is they are being selfish because they don’t want to feel the hurt themselves of putting their child out on the street or they don’t do it because the parents don’t want to feel the hurt of rejection that doing something like this to their child might cause the parent. You need to love them more then the hurt and rejection you might feel. It’s hard. I am not making light of this or saying it is easy as a matter of fact I think it is one of the bravest and most courageous things a parent can do but I think in a case like this that may be what you will have to do because if you don’t you will destroy the rest of the family and if ever your son decides to change you won’t be able to help him because you are physically and emotionally destroyed.

    • says

      The first thing that popped into my head is do you realize that YOU AND YOUR HUSBAND could go to jail if drugs are found being sold from your house? I’m sorry, I know it’s hard but I agree and would change the locks while he’s gone one day and put his stuff on the front lawn.

  13. says

    As the friend of the parent, she can only give emotional support and a place for the friend to vent.

    Situations like this do not happen overnight; this may a lifelong training by the parent having low expectations for the child and little responsibility placed on the child’s shoulders. When you’ve done this for 18 years, how can you be surprised that the child is now an adult who wishes to continue.

    Has the adult child tried to find work in the past and given up? Does the adult child have depression or other mental illness? Are there any other issues like drug abuse or illnesses?

    If there are no issues as mentioned above then the adult child needs to pound the pavement to look for work. If there are no efforts put forth you can (in most states) change the locks and give them the number of a helpline where they can get into a homeless shelter. Believe me, after that, they will do everything possible to get work. THAT may be the best thing the parent could possibly do.

  14. Phyllis says

    Jill, this is a great article and it has obviously hit home for many folks who have a situation like this or are dealing with a situation like this. Kudos to you for writing in bigger terms that so many could apply to their individual situation and Kudos to the readers who shared their situation and solution!!

    No matter what the situation and no matter where we are, there are solutions to our problems and community helps!

  15. Dawn Perry says

    I think part of the problem is that we don’t train our teens to be responsible adults so when they get older, they don’t know how to take care of themselves. I was just having a conversation about this with my 15 year old this morning. We have given teens the privileges of adulthood like driving, going out at night, etc. without teaching them the responsibilities of adulthood. Who would want to leave if all the work was done for them? We need to be disciplined ourselves to discipline our children (discipline does not equal punishment but self-control).

    • says

      This is true and part of it is they need to be trained in small ways when they are little. So many people don’t train the kids from the time they are young and when they hit their teen years and start having problems they say “How did this happen?” or they use an iron fist to try and fix 13 yrs or more of things they should have dealt with when they were young.

      When my husband left many thought for sure I would have problems with my teenage son because there wasn’t a man around to help keep control of things. I had no problems with my son being disrespectful, talking back or doing what I asked him to do. I think that was because of 2 things: first from the day they were born my husband treated me with respect and always made sure the kids did too so much so that by the time they were in their teens it was a habit and a way of life for them and it didn’t even enter their head to do anything different. The second thing was that I was not ever afraid of my kids or worried would they be mad at me, would they still love me, would they not think me cool if I corrected them. I didn’t say wait till dad gets home to deal with you or pretend it didn’t happen or make excuses for them.

      Now that doesn’t mean things were perfect because I would have to tell them several times to do their chores or homework and typical kid things but they never sassed or rebelled like so many kids do and they didn’t dare not pull their weight in the family. We laugh to this day and tease my son how one day we were joking around and he was feeling his Cherrios and teasing me about how much taller he was then me (I’m 5’3″ and he was 6’3″). I said it didn’t matter I could still flatten him if I needed to and he started chuckling but before he even blinked I had knocked his legs out from under him and had him flatten to the floor and pinned down. He was so shocked. I started rolling on the floor laughing. We laugh to this day about it. Thank goodness it was in fun and I didn’t ever have seriously “manhandle” him.

      I said all of this to say. Start young with your kids. Take raising them seriously. We often spend so much time gone and working to give our kids material things and we don’t bother to spend time teaching them how to grow up to be responsible, respectable, good adults emotionally. We need to spend as much time taking care of this as their physical well being. I really think the epidemic of young adults not working and leaving home is not because of the economy but because so many parents work and no one it there to set an example for them to watch and learn from or to teach them. If it was the economy we would have seen this same thing happening during the depression but it didn’t.

  16. Laurie says

    This is GREAT advice. I just dealt with the same situation only the stepson is 47. Never offered to help or contribute. If he was asked to help he would
    sometimes accomodate us but generally HID in his room. This is a very well educated man. I regret that I put up with the situation as long as I did (3 months). So I would encourage ANYONE living in this situation to IMMEDIATELY take this advice for your own health and well being. I was making myself SICK because I didn’t want to OFFEND this person, when if fact it was destroying my health and my marriage. Thank goodness it is behind us!

  17. Liz says

    To Janet sub: Change all the locks on the doors when he’s gone and keep the doors locked at all times. When he’s gone, go through his things. If you find drugs, call the police and have them come over to the house and get it. Then, they will wait for him to show up and can arrest him. I know it’s pretty drastic, but he will not stop unless he’s in jail and goes through drug rehab. Just be sure you own your own property. One of my day care parents, who’s ex was in her apt. when she was gone, left stolen wallets in her apt. along with drugs. SHE was evicted because of a “no drug” clause in her agreement although it wasn’t her drugs and she didn’t know it was there until her husband left and she found it. She was also the one who turned in her ex. Also, my niece’s estranged husband is a drug dealer/user. He was in a drug “rehab” jail for a year in Texas. Unfortunately, he’s been arrested several other times, but drugs is such a problem in his small town, that they have WAY more worse cases than his, so they let him go after 90 days because they have too many cases to handle in the prosecutor’s office. Call your local law enforcement and tell them you suspect that your son is dealing and they can advise you on how to handle it. If he’s in jail, that solves your problem, at least temporarily, for you to change locks, etc. If he comes back, just don’t let him in. Call the police if he comes to the door harrassing you. You need to protect yourself and anyone else in the home. If people know he’s a dealer living in your home, you’re at great risk to be harmed or killed. Tell him when he admits himself to a drug rehab, and finishes the program, you’ll let him visit, but not live there. So sorry you are having to deal with such a dangerous situation.

  18. says

    Many excellent points here. This is a very difficult subject, with so many possible situations. In my case, our six children had chores from the time they could walk and talk; they had paying jobs outside the home, of their own accord, from the age of 12 or 14 or 16; and yet two of them are struggling financially, and although they are not living at home, yes, we are helping them. There were a variety of circumstances: their parents (us) having to move out of state for my husband’s work, their brother’s (one of my son’s) unexpected death which left another son bereft not only of his brother but of his roommate, and yes, the economy. One major department store gave my son a “job”, with “guaranteed five hours a week”. Not exactly a living wage. He got that job after many job searches. So he began writing online & is doing amazingly well but not well enough, yet. Parenthood is for life. Sometimes it’s knowing when to be tough and sometimes, in my opinion, it’s also knowing when to “feed the hungry”, etc., even when it’s our own children, or maybe more so, sometimes when it’s our own. Thank goodness they grew up learning to live frugally and learned that lesson well. And hopefully they will be able to get completely back on their own feet again soon & be there for us, if we ever need it.

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