How To Handle It When Adult Children Won’t Leave Home
My husband and I have always been good stewards of our money. Somehow, we raised a daughter that is not and it breaks my heart. She is now well into her 20′s and is in debt up to her eyeballs. She refuses to get a job in a restaurant or even her trade which is hair dressing. She basically lives on her child support and her dad and I have to help pay her bills as we are on one of her loans as co-signers.
How do we get her on the right track and help her start being responsible short of kicking her and our grandchild out of the house and turning our backs on her? I just don’t know how to motivate her to start taking responsibility… I’m hoping you have some suggestions.
Jill: First, we are imperfect parents raising imperfect kids in an imperfect world. In other words, we all struggle with something. I say this so you won’t think I am judging you or your situation. I am only trying to get you to look at things in a different way, to look at things honestly and to see what your options are.
Second, you are not alone wondering what to do when adult children won’t leave home. This is probably one of the top 5 questions I get asked. Adult kids staying at home is alarmingly on the rise. Just last night I was talking to a woman who was telling me about her 55 year old brother who still is not working and is living at home. This is more common than you think, but that doesn’t make it right.
None of my suggestions will be easy. When your daughter was young, you undoubtedly had to say no to her at times about something because you knew it was for her own good. In the same way, you may have to do some uncomfortable things for her own good now. It hurts to do that but you have to love her enough to be willing to endure that hurt unselfishly so she can learn to take care of herself.
Most likely, the hardest part about your situation is that you don’t want to see your grandchild suffer. Your daughter is an adult. Even though you don’t want your daughter to struggle, you probably would not have as many qualms about forcing her out on her own if she was alone. Grandbabies do complicate things and you will have to use your own judgement when reflecting on the things I will suggest. I do realize it will be hard.
Often, the only thing that will motivate someone when adult children won’t leave home is for them to be forced to make it on their own. Until they have the rug pulled out from under them, they will not change. Why would they? They know you will bail them out so, if it’s a little difficult to do something else, why should they bother to help themselves? She also knows that you wouldn’t want to throw out your grandchild or mess up your credit over the loan you co-signed. In a way, she has you over a barrel. She may not even consciously know that is what she is doing but that is what it boils down to.
Here are your choices for handling cases where adult children won’t leave home:
Be responsible for the loan you co-signed and nothing more, if push comes to shove. From this point forward, never ever co-sign a loan with anyone, including your children–especially your children. The only time I would consider that is if I was prepared to pay the entire loan without complaining or getting upset. In rare cases where you know your kids are extremely responsible, you might consider giving them a loan, but you should be prepared to treat it as a gift if they don’t pay.
You can tell her she can stay with you for a small monthly fee to cover some of the costs related to her living there. She also has to pay all of her other bills on her own. The monthly fee she pays you should be the first thing that comes out of her child support check, not something she pays you if there is any money left over after she pays her other bills. If her support check is small, it wouldn’t hurt for her to sign it all over to you. That way you can use it for her “rent” and then use what is left to buy clothes and provide for the needs of your grandchild. That way, her daughter is covered and both have a place to live, but your daughter gets nothing from it at all for her own personal needs or wants. The money is, after all, “child” support. Of course, this would also include the understanding that she is working towards getting a job and eventually moving out.
Tell her she has 4-6 weeks to get a job and to be moved out (You can choose your own amount of time. Just don’t make it too long and make sure it has a specific deadline). At the end of that time, if she won’t move, you have her belongings sitting on the front porch and the doors locked. This will be the hardest thing of all to do but if the other things don’t work you may have to break down and do it. I know this would be awful to have to do and would take a lot of strength but this is the part where loving her more than your own hurt and pain comes in.
After the deadline expires, if your daughter can’t take care of her child and herself, you can tell her you will keep your grandchild until she gets on her feet. If, after a week or two, the situation seems very bad and she hasn’t done anything to help herself you may have to file for some type of temporary custody. I personally wouldn’t do this right away and I would only do it as a last resort if I thought my grandchild was in serious danger.
If you don’t want to kick them out, I would at least make sure you don’t give her any more money at all. If you think you must, you can feed them and provide a roof for them but don’t pay any of her bills or give her a penny for anything, except what you need to pay on the co-signed loan to keep your credit ok.
I’m afraid this is one of those life lessons with consequences. You will have to pay the loan you co-signed. You know your situation better than I do so you will have to consider all of these options and decide for yourself what you should do. You might want to start at step 1 or, if it is bad enough, you might have to start at step 3.
Whatever you decide, you and your husband must both stand firm together no matter what. Don’t take this lightly and don’t be a party to emotional blackmail. That is exactly what is happening here and, like any blackmail, it will drain you completely before long. I’m not saying that your daughter is an awful person. She probably isn’t at all. She is simply irresponsible but she won’t become responsible until someone does something to make her take responsibility. Unfortunately, it sounds like you and your husband will have to be the ones to do it.
Being responsible is hard and it is work. There is no getting around it so you’ll have to choose now what you are going to do. If you don’t act because you think it is too hard, realize that, in a way, it is the same thing your daughter is doing. She isn’t acting to change her situation because it is too difficult and uncomfortable for her to try to work. If you don’t act to correct your situation, it is because it is too hard and uncomfortable too.
Be careful. If you don’t act now, you may need to plan on supporting her, her children and someday maybe a husband for the rest of their lives, just like the parents of the 55 year old man I mentioned at first. Adult children living at home and chronically depending on mom and dad generally don’t change unless they’re forced to do so.
Like with so many relationship issues, solving this problem is a 2 way street. Both parties are afraid to do anything because it is uncomfortable and difficult to do. You, being the oldest and wisest adult here, need to be the one to do something– no matter how painful it is.
One last note: You and your husband must be on the same page about your decision about how to motivate your daughter to leave home. If you’re not in agreement, it will not work at all.
Here are some related stories where parents are struggling with similar issues related to their grown children:
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