Adult Children Living at Home Driving You Crazy?

Adult Children Living at Home Driving You Crazy?

Do you have an adult child living at home who’s driving you  crazy in one way  or another? Do they seem unable to do chores around the house,  contribute  financially, or be respectful? In recent years, because of the  economy and lack  of jobs, the old expectation that kids will move on and out of  the house has  almost disappeared. With an estimated 25 percent of adult kids of  the Boomerang  Generation living at home right now, millions of us are dealing  with “extended  parenting”—which involves a whole new set of concerns and pressures.

“Staying  in a pattern of doing too much for you child can leave him in a state of  permanent adolescence, ready  to ‘let Mom or Dad do it’ while he goes about his  business.”


Related: Is your  adult child driving you crazy? How to  “keep calm while you parent on.”

Having adult kids live under your roof can be a major source  of stress in  any family. Whether you’re concerned about your child gaining  employment,  paying their share of the rent or contributing to household chores,  a whole new  set of dynamics occurs when adult children live with their parents.

If you have an adult child living at home with you and it’s  causing stress  and resentment, keep reading, because I’m going to tell you  about ways you can  help create a healthier, more respectful situation for both  of you.

Old Patterns Whatever the reason for your kids being  back home, life  together can be difficult. One of the biggest challenges is to  create new patterns  together that will reflect everyone’s greater  independence.

The first thing to realize is that expectations have changed  for both of you  because you have both moved into a new stage of life. It can be  so natural to  revert back to the old patterns and roles that operated when your  kids were  younger or before they left home. These patterns, unfortunately, will  be  roadblocks to helping your kids get on their feet and out the door—and won’t   help in maintaining strong, healthy relationships while they are home.

Related: How you can  stop your child’s backtalk and  disrespect.

One of the most common patterns parents and children fall  back into is the  “over-/under-functioning pattern.” This happens when you fall  into the trap of  doing too much for your kids, which results in your children  doing too little.  It’s easy to default back into this pattern because often it  might have been  going on for years.  Every  parent wants to be helpful to their children –  that’s natural. However, when you  do for them what they can do for themselves,  you are over-functioning. It can  contribute to your adult child  under-functioning, “learning to be helpless,” which  impedes their ability to  move out and make their own way. And it can happen  naturally—you clean up, do  the laundry, and pay the bills, just like you always  did. Only now, your child  is an adult, and could (and should) be doing these  things himself—right?  Staying in this pattern can leave your child in a state  of permanent  adolescence, ready to “let Mom ot Dad do it” while he goes about  his  business. And probably your adult child means no harm by any of this—he’s  just  behaving the way he always did, because nothing has changed.

Over functioning for your child can be difficult to give up  because it can  be an automatic response, and also might give you that warm  feeling of being  “helpful” to your child. But when your adult child acts  helpless or resists  managing her own functioning—and as a result you feel like  maybe you “should”  be doing more for her—keep in mind the true meaning of the  word “helpful.”

  • Is doing for your child what they can do   themselves really helpful?
  • When you think you’re being helpful, are you  really showing your kids how “real life” works?
  • What is your motivation for helping your  kids –  is it in your or in their best interests?
  • Are you giving in to your kids’ demands out  of  guilt or fatigue, or because you want them to like you or not bug you—or   because you want to keep the peace?

Once in a while, doing things for those reasons is fine, but  when it becomes  part of your pattern with your adult child it ceases to be fine.  However  well-meaning, it’s never in your child’s best interest if you’re taking  away  their self-sufficiency or pride of accomplishment by doing too much for   them.

Related: How to stop  the Family Anxiety  Cycle.

How to Deal with Your Adult Child’s Disrespectful  Behavior

Understand that there is often an “underlying annoyance” for not only you,  but also your adult child in this situation. She might be not want to be in a  dependent situation. They might have expected things to go differently, too, and  thought that they would have had a job and been on their own by now. They might  also come with the idea that you would behave the way you always have—by taking  care of them—rather than expect them to pitch in more. All of these things will  add to the tension. Your adult child might take it out on the safest people she  knows—her parents. But just because your child feels that way does not mean it’s  okay for her to act entitled and be disrespectful.

Knowing what your child might be going through might help you to stay calm  and communicate with her without overreacting or getting into a power struggle.  In a peaceful moment, you can say, “Hey, Katie. I’d like to talk. I get that  this living situation might not exactly what you were expecting at this point in  your life. Still, I’d appreciate it if you could express your annoyance in a  polite way and help out around the house as long as you’re living here. When you  come at me with an accusing tone or take me for granted, I don’t like it. If  you’re going to live here, then you need to help out and learn to speak to me in  a respectful way.”

If your child is being rude, disrespectful and acting entitled, you do have a  choice in how to handle the behavior. Remember, you are responsible for the kind  of relationship you develop with your adult child. If you don’t want to be  treated disrespectfully, respectfully tell him that. Let him know what you need  and what you will and will not stand for. As well, ask yourself if there is  anything in your interaction with him that might be contributing to his  disrespect and entitlement. Are you snappy or critical with him because you feel  you’ve been taken advantage of, but you have not yet addressed that with him?  Could he be acting entitled because you keep letting him off the hook and not  holding him accountable? Are you constantly “helping” him, leaving him feeling  suffocated? Take a close look at yourself and then authentically interact with  your child. Most importantly, try to find positive ways of interacting.

Below are 5 ways you can avoid over-functioning and stop  this pattern from occurring  (or continuing) if you and your adult  child are living under the same roof,  including steps you can take to help  your children launch and thrive.

1. Set clear  timelines and expectations with your adult  child.  Do you want your child to move out by a  certain age or  when she gets employed? Will you be expecting her to contribute  money while  living with you, and if so, how much? What about household chores? One  parent I  know was arguing with her adult daughter over chores constantly while  her  daughter was job-hunting. She decided to charge her adult daughter rent,  and  uses the money for groceries and to pay for a cleaning service for the  house,  and it’s working out beautifully. However you do it, it’s important to  make  your needs known from the get go, so your child will be prevented from   overstepping boundaries. They should also let you know what they need from you,   which will prevent you from overstepping their boundaries. By knowing  what you expect from each other, your child can also better  plan what they’ll  need to do to get on their own two feet. Try to feel no guilt  in asking these  things from your offspring even when they look and sound like  they can’t  manage. Don’t buy into that thinking or play into the guilt, because  you will  only contribute to holding your child back if you do. Just stay calm  and remind them of the reasonable boundaries you  have set and stick to them.

Related: Unmotivated  child won’t take  responsibility?

2. Don’t blame or  shame. If your child is having trouble  leaving, be careful not to blame  yourself or them.  Here’s the truth:  placing  blame only increases stress and keeps the anxiety cycle going.   Look for contributions and make necessary  changes, if needed, but do not blame  or shame your child or yourself. The  economic situation has hit this generation  hard and kids have to deal with fewer  job opportunities—and many are paying off  huge college loans. On the positive  side of things, many kids are staying or  returning home because they enjoy and  get along with their parents, unlike  generations before them. This can be a  chance for you and your child to relish  some extended time together. If  boundaries are respected, this can be a great  chance for you to enjoy a  fulfilling and satisfying connection with each other  as adults.

To help your child eventually move on, guide him in solving  the problem of  getting out within a reasonable time frame, rather than placing  blame on  yourself or on him for his inability to go it alone right now. The  best advice  is to stick to boundaries and look honestly at your own motivations  if you are  over-functioning so everyone can move forward, rather than getting  stuck in a  cycle of blame and guilt.

3. Be a consultant,  not a manager. Guide your child in  making her life plan and help support her  goals.  Remember that guiding  and  supporting are different from “getting in your child’s box.”  You may  not agree with your child’s personal  or professional choices, but you don’t  necessarily get a vote in her decisions  anymore.  You are now a consultant  to your child, not a manager of her. Allow her to live her own  life  without your fingerprints or judgments.   By doing this she will not  regress back to a childlike role or fall into  a pattern of learned  helplessness—and you will not regress back to the hands-on  role you played when  she was much younger.

4. Let go. I once  knew a family whose adult sons lived at  home. It was in part due to a cultural  norm (they were originally from a  culture where adult children stayed with  their parents, bringing new spouses  into the house when they married). However,  the parents in this family did  everything for their sons, from laundry, to  cooking to buying their cars and  paying for their insurance. The end result was  that they had four grown “boys”  under one roof who could not (or would not)  keep jobs, do chores, pay their own  bills, or commit to relationships. Well  into their forties, they never quite  matured enough to be independent in their  lives. These well-meaning parents had  over-functioned and done too much for  their kids—out of love and a feeling of  wanting to be helpful—all along, in  part because they dreaded the moment when  their sons would leave…and you know  what? They never did.

We sometimes believe that kids who have trouble leaving home  have some  deep-seated problems.  But  often, if we take a closer look, it might  actually be the parent having trouble  letting go. This is a tough one to  grapple with, but it’s very important to ask  yourself honestly if you are ready  for your child to leave—and if you might in  some way be holding them back.

Try to pay attention to subtle messages your child might  pick up from you  which suggest to them that you’re not ready for them to leave  (even if you feel  like you’re tearing your hair out and want them out). Is it  possible that your  child feels you need to be needed by them? Have they have  come to believe that  they can’t manage their own life without you? Make sure  you look honestly at  yourself and see if a pattern of dependency has developed  between yourself and  your child. If so, you can start changing the pattern  today. Rather than  focusing your energies on your child all the time, get the  focus back to  developing yourself and managing your own needs. Ask yourself  what you might be  avoiding whenever you over-focus on your child. When you get  back into your own  box, it encourages your child to do more for himself—and to  think about letting  go and moving out.

Keep in mind that if this pattern has been going on for a  long time, it’s  not fair to suddenly just pull the rug out from under your  child and throw them  out of the nest.   Instead, help them make a plan with realistic goals and  a way to stick  to them.  This might include paying you  rent money that  you save and give to them for a down payment on an apartment,  or the promise  that they will apply for a certain number of jobs per week if  they haven’t been  doing so.

Remember, you can support and guide your child lovingly, but  you don’t have  to do it for them.

Related: How to get on  the same page with your  spouse.

5. The real job of  parenting. Your real job as a parent is  to prepare your kids to be on their  own in the world.  Your goal is to  help  them toward self-sufficiency. As hard as it can be to let your child go  and  make his or her own mistakes, it’s the best way to be a loving and  responsible  parent. To love your child is to assist in letting them make their  own way.

If you feel guilty to expect more from your kids or guilty  standing up to  their resistance to do more for themselves, don’t. If you’re  continually  helping them and taking care of their needs, you’re not preparing  them to fly  out of the nest and into the world. The good news is that if you  have a  tendency to overdo things for your child and buy into their helplessness,  you  can change, starting today. Begin by questioning your own reluctance to  stand  strong for yourself and start allowing your child to do things for him-  or  herself.

Respect the necessary transition you are both going through  – taking all of  the steps described will help your kids to spread their wings  so that they can  eventually fly and thrive.


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