Should you support your adult child?

There are lots of us out here. It’s not hard to understand.

Maybe they have just finished college and are saddled with crippling debt. As season of low-to-no expenses might be a blessing.

Maybe they got a great job, but it doesn’t pay well. It’s a great stepping stone, but doesn’t provide enough for them to live independently.

Or maybe they have been downsized. In our unpredictable economy, jobs come and go.

For some of our kids, they got into trouble when they purchased a new car. Of course, they had to have the fanciest cell phone. Then the rent at their apartment skyrocketed. They still had to make student loan payments, but now they have also acquired tons of credit card debt they are responsible for.

As parents, we are not alone. A CBS News report said almost 40 percent of young adults lived with their parents, step-parents, grandparents and other relatives last year, a number at the highest point in 75 years.

What can you do to help? What SHOULD you do to help?

While you may or may not have the financial ability to assist, there are risks worth taking and some that should be avoided at all costs. Right at the onset, there is one thing no parent should ever do, and that is to use your savings or retirement income to pay back their creditors. This may actually enable more credit spending because creditors will view them as good payers and may actually extend MORE credit.

With that cardinal rule stated, if you’re a parent who wants to help your kids while encouraging their independence, these are important factors to consider.

Financial Considerations

1. Charge rent. Love means introducing your kids to the real world. Paying for housing will help them to become more responsible and understand the consequences of their actions. It’s also good for their self-esteem. Even if the amount is so small as to seem inconsequential, making this a priority will help build up your child’s discipline.

2. Let them work it off. There will be cases where cash payments are impossible. Give your children the option to contribute in other ways. For example, they can help by painting the house or completing other household chores. What if they are looking for extra income opportunities? In our home, we keep a running list of tasks — things the adult child can help with to earn cash.

3. Teach money skills. Discuss the basics of creating a budget and sticking to it. Talk about using credit responsibly and adding to your savings on a regular basis.

4. Plan for the future. Job hunting is hard work. Praise your children for making an effort. Offer advice and referrals if they are open to them.

5. Set time limits and conditions. It’s wise to support your kids in a way that gives them a better chance for success. Make it clear that you are letting them move back in for 6 months or a year. You can always extend the time if the circumstances warrant it.

6. Modify your support as needed. Strategic limits on your assistance reduce the risk of creating a sense of entitlement. It’s okay for you to change the terms and amount of aid if you think a different arrangement would work better.

7. Act in unity with your partner. Parents need to present a unified front. Negotiate between yourselves first about what assistance you can offer your children.

8. Protect your own retirement. Think long term. Covering your own retirement expenses will take the pressure off in your later years and avoid placing a future financial burden on your kids.

Personal Considerations

1. Abandon any sense of stigma. With so many adult children living at home, this is not out-of-the- park abnormal. Rest assured that you have plenty of company and this is no reflection on you.

2. Talk things over. Communication is critical when you have more people under one roof. Address potential conflicts promptly and respectfully.

3. Draft an agreement. Put things in writing to avoid misunderstandings. You may want to lay out the key house rules.

4. Establish curfews. You and your kids probably have very different bedtimes now. Let them know the quiet hours you need. Taking shoes off by the door can also minimize nighttime disruptions.

5. Decide on overnight guests. You have the right to determine sleeping arrangements under your roof. Set aside a guest room for girlfriends and boyfriends if it makes you more comfortable.

6. Learn from other cultures. Much of the world still follows traditions where grandparents, parents and children live together. You may want to give the idea another look.

7. Enjoy getting to know each other. For however long you share the same home, there is a special connection present in parents and children living together as adults. Be open to seeing your sons and daughters in a new light.

Managing a multi-generational household is challenging, but the rewards are significant. Take pleasure in each other’s company and support your adult children in getting ready to launch out on their own.

No matter how great your desire to help your child, realize your own health and well-being must take priority. You are not harsh or mean because you insist on your adult child growing into a responsible adult. A truly happy and responsible adult is one who can earn their own way through life, rely on their own self-initiative, and gain more wisdom.

All healthy and successful parents want to see their adult children thrive, be self-confident and self-reliant. Acknowledge, agree on, and honor boundaries and everyone involved will grow from this experience.

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