Young Adult Children
Recently, a co-worker and I were talking about our adult children. Sometimes, for Baby Boomers, our young adult kids seem less mature than we were at the same age. Is that really true? Did our parents have the same thought? It’s hard to remember how I saw myself and the world when I was a young man. Age brings a perspective that youth lacks.
However, it’s a fact that there are more young adults living with their parents than in previous generations. Jobs are scarce and housing is far more expensive relative to income than it was in my youth. It’s very hard for these adults to live independently. It makes sense for newly employed young adults to live with their parents and (hopefully) save money.
It may also be true that this generation is more financially dependent on their parents than Baby Boomers. My parents did help me out when I was a graduate student. But I was on my own after graduation.
These new realities place parents and children in a different relationship with each other. How do parents respond to their adult children’s requests for financial help? What are the rules for living with your parents? What expectations should these housemates have for each other? There is no template for related adults living with each other. We have to make it up.
Several years ago, my youngest daughter asked me to pay for her health insurance so she could leave a job she hated. She wanted to quit and look for another job but, needed my financial help to do it. She made a strong argument for my support, but I was uneasy. I thought she should stay put until she found another job. I decided to say no. My daughter was angry with me. But she didn’t quit until she found another job. I thought that she did the right thing, but she still thinks I was wrong.
- My template for providing help— I only donate to causes that I believe in. I helped pay for both of my kid’s graduate education because I am a strong believer in the value of higher education. I made a decision never to lend my kids money. If I want to help them, I give them a gift. I don’t want our relationship to be soured by a debt.
- It’s very useful to have discussions with adult children about these nuts and bolts matters before they arise. This is especially important when your kids are living with you. Discuss your expectations about housework, coming and going, money, food, and guests. Your home is not a hotel. Don’t leave anything out! Be explicit and clear—what does straightening up after yourself mean? What does cleaning the kitchen look like? How do you want your adult child to contribute to the good of the household? How will you deal with unmet expectations? It’s helpful for both parties to make agreements with each other about these practical realities.
It may be reasonable to ask employed kids to pay something for room and board—it will engender a more adult relationship. If you like, stick the money in the bank and give it to them when they leave. But don’t let them know in advance what you plan to do!
If your adult kids don’t honor their agreements or engage in behavior or activities that are against your values or beliefs, it may be necessary to either change or rescind your agreement.
- Making life “easier” for your adult children is not always doing them a favor. A successful adult life requires facing tough problems head on, getting along with others, and taking your agreements and responsibilities seriously. Protecting your young adult children from these realities does not help them grow into their adult shoes.