Advice about Parenting Young Adults

Parent Q&A

Over-Protective Adult Child During the Pandemic May 20, 2020 (9 responses below)
Young adult launching, need advice re: finances Oct 21, 2019 (1 responses below)
How to find shared housing in the East Bay for a young adult Oct 7, 2019 (3 responses below)
Evicting adult child Sep 8, 2019 (7 responses below)
Advice on money matters with our almost 22 yr old college grad Jul 7, 2019 (19 responses below)
Parent Group for "Failure to Launch" young adults? Apr 26, 2019 (4 responses below)
How to launch a 22-year-old. Mar 29, 2017 (3 responses below)
Young adult back -- advice to make connections Mar 4, 2017 (1 responses below)
What Happened to My Brilliant, Loving, Talkative Son?? Jan 3, 2017 (8 responses below)
Grown children hate each other Nov 26, 2016 (10 responses below)
20 year old step son Jul 1, 2016 (7 responses below)
  • Is anyone else having trouble with adult children trying to tell them what to do re. the pandemic? Relations with our 30-year-old daughter, who lives overseas with her children, have been affectionate and close for the last several years; she calls most weeks, seems to enjoy talking to us and receiving visits, and confides in me without being asked about her children, relationships and career. However, we haven't communicated for almost two weeks now.

    Initially, she was bothered by my going out twice a week to walk or have coffee with her father, or with a friend. (We stay outdoors, away from other people, and the friend and I keep well apart.) My daughter had accused me of "going out to play with your friends; how is this essential?" and so forth. My husband and I finally e-mailed her about our safety precautions, along with City of Berkeley guidelines, etc., reminding her that we need fresh air and sunshine, that we were trying to understand her fears, and that we love her. Her response, sent just to me, was cold and downright nasty: among other things, she accused me of endangering her father's health, claimed that the e-mail was patronizing ('all your little factoids") and that I was ignoring the pandemic's seriousness, ending with the request that I not contact her for a while, which I have honored. (I expect that she'll call sooner rather than later, but it might well be later.)

    I understand, or think I understand, the fear behind her words. I was also responding to her emotions with facts and science, which probably struck the wrong chord. And, as my husband pointed out, she can't/won't accept that we understand my health and his, and take good care of both; she appears to believe that anyone over 64 is not only automatically vulnerable, but should stay indoors 24/7.

    I know that she's working toward a job certification, and feeling stressed. Our daughter is a perfectionist, hard on herself and others, and has always tended to take out her stress on me, her "safe" person, but hadn't done so in several years; I hoped she was growing out of it.
    I remain angry, and hurt, although coping pretty well with my feelings. Any similar experience to share? I don't need fixing, per se--and, please, no lectures about social distancing; I'm well aware that not everyone agrees with me--but could do with a little consolation and insight. Best wishes to all the parents out there, whatever age your kids.

    I think I understand your daughter's fear and anger. You really aren't suppose to be going out for walks and coffee with anyone except people you live with. I know it's hard and it sucks, but that's what the health order has stated. Luckily, things are starting to open up and many restrictions are being lifted. I think you are somewhat in denial about your risk. You said you don't want lectures, and that's fine. But if you are going to interpret the guidelines your own way, don't be surprised when people, especially people who love you, get upset and scared.

    So sorry to hear that your daughter became "over-protective." My 30-year-old son, who lives on the East Coast, also became very directive (although he never became nasty). Some of the information and advice he gave me was useful but some seemed over the top. It was the first time our roles had reversed, with him worrying about me and giving advice (sometimes too intensely) rather than the other way around. I kept telling myself that this was his "stepping up to the plate" to be the protector and that it was a good development. He has since described himself as having "overdone" his own self-protection at the beginning (and perhaps your daughter will come to that realization eventually). I hope your daughter eventually re-contacts you. Or you might, after what is a long enough break, contact her again about non-threatening subjects (asking about her children, you and her father are well, Spring is lovely, you've been doing more cooking, etc.) Hang in there!

    I feel for you and your daughter. As you point out she is afraid and we are not our best selves when we act from fear. If she is a perfectionist maybe name for her how scary these times are and how anxious it must make her feel. I try to remember that nothing is perfect, personal or permanent and that this and all situations are complex and changing and that you want a connection with her. You are right to need sunshine etc. Do you have to tell her? Maybe say you are staying safe and following the health dept recs. And then shower her with love.

  • Hi community,

    I'm wondering if those of you whose kid has recently graduated from college might share some of your expertise. Our child is a senior, and has been supported throughout, along with working a little and over the summers.  We are having some trouble conceptualizing the transition from us completely supporting, to them supporting themself.  When we graduated college (oh so long ago) things were so very different, our parents did stop all support that month, but we easily found places to live and support for graduate school.  Now, that prospect appears daunting!

    Did you continue to support your child (rent, food, etc.) until they found a job?  Have them move in with you until they found a job / apartment?  Do recent college grads (not in tech or engineering!) even find well-paying jobs that allow them to find housing here in the Bay Area?  If you continued to support them, what was your process for having them take over payments?  (How long did you continue to pay for x, y, or z)

    We've wondered also if there is any kind of consulting, advice, or counseling that you’ve used or you know about to help families sort through these issues. Any recommendations there?

    Appreciate your help.

    Most of the young adults I know have lived at home until they found a job that paid enough to move to an apartment. The parents have paid for food, health insurance, and cell phone while the child is at home, and most continue to pay for the health insurance and phone after the child leaves. That said, in most cases, the young person has wanted to live with friends, or other young people and has figured out how to make that happen in 3 months to two years. I think it would be quicker if rents weren't so high in the inner bay area. The main problem has been if the young person gets depressed and/or starts using substances excessively. Then a therapist is necessary.

    There don't seem to be many well-paying full-time jobs for graduates who aren't in tech -- most of the young people I know are managing a variety of part-time jobs, or badly paying full-time jobs, and living with roommates and/or romantic partners (or both.) In our situation, I hope that reality will motivate the desire to go to graduate school for a professional degree. (Our grad finished a year ago.)

    One caution -- Some have returned home for relatively short periods after losing a job or ending a relationship, so be prepared for that.

  • My son, who is 20, is looking for a room to rent in shared housing in the East Bay. He's been searching on craigslist for months, with no luck. My questions: 1. Are there other rental websites he could be searching on? 2. Do you know of any shared rentals he could apply for? and 3. Do you know any other young people looking for housing who he could work with on finding a place together? Thanks! 

    First of all, is his budget reasonable? It is going to cost a bare minimum of $1,000, and probably closer to $1,500 for a room in a desirable area. Next, keep in mind that everyone wants to live with women. Women want to share with women, and men want to share with women. Sorry the world is so sexist, and sorry to be the one to point this out. His best bet might be to rent a whole house or apartment himself, and then find roommates. It is certainly a big responsibility, but it also gives him more control. He may want to check NextDoor or FaceBook for rentals. He may also want to try putting "room wanted" ads on CL, ND and FB. If he does place ads, he should make them short and sweet. 

    - check out roommate sites like

    - It's not as common as in NYC but he could hire a broker to find places. 

    -If he really want to think out of the box, could he qualify to buy a below market rate unit? Here's the link to SF's program as an example but perhaps there are similar programs in the East Bay.

    It should be no problem for him if he is within the "budget" and has a couple of good references!
    Tell him to try:
    Facebook Market rentals

    It is true that most people (specially older) will prefer a woman than a man but most definitely not all! Good luck to him!

  • Evicting adult child

    (7 replies)

    I would like to communicate with any parent who has gone through the process of legally evicting an adult child from the family home.  I met with an attorney through the Alameda County Bar Association referral service, but if my adult child and child's significant other choose to contest the eviction, I cannot afford the lawyer's fees, so I will be handling this on my own.  I have the Nolo Press book for landlords.  I was shocked to learn that, at some point over the last 24 years, I became a landlord and my child, a tenant, according to the law, even though no rent has ever been involved.  (My child's significant other became a tenant simply by dint of having lived at my house for X amount of days.)  The situation involves drug use, assault (multiple police calls) and a fire (the fire was accidental, but drug use by my child's significant other was involved).  Though I am over 65, there apparently are no legal services for seniors that assist landlords.  It would be helpful to talk to someone who'd been through this.  Please feel free to contact me directly.  Thank you.

    RE: Evicting adult child ()

    I would also contact adult protective services. Because of your age you are able to receive support from being abused or taken advantage of my others. Good luck!

    RE: Evicting adult child ()

    Hello.  I had a similar situation with my 80+ father a while back.  The routes we took were calling Adult Protective Services and calling the local police re: elder abuse.  We did not get lawyers involved, but I'm sure there are drop-in lawyers at your local senior center would do pro-bono work.  Even if you are an athletic senior and in very sound mind, I suggest pulling the "age" card,,,,And there is always having the couple busted for illegal substances.  Then you could get a restraining order.  All of this is hard to do, I know, but it sounds like you have already explored several other avenues.  

    btw, these are things Family Sanity takes about at their groups for parents of young adults.  You may want to attend a meeting.

    RE: Evicting adult child ()

    What about getting a restraining order against them?

  • Hi all,

    This may not be a "failure to launch" but I am the parent of an almost 22 yr old daughter who recently graduated college with a major in Political Science at a private University.  She also has ADD, anxiety and dysthymia (mild low levels of depression) and suffers from low self esteem.  She has a therapist and Psychiatrist and is generally doing well on low dose meds.  I am paying mostly out of pocket for her to get Cognitive behavior therapy while she is home for the summer.  

    Both her dad and I are scientists, are well established, and I'd be lying if I said anything other that we are doing extremely well financially.  I have tried my best to teach my children the value of money and not just throw money at them like it has no value.  We funded her college education 100%.  She is leaving college debt free.  

    My daughter was a confused high schooler and did not know what she wanted to do.  She was good at math (tested aptitudes as well as in classes), and after doing an internship in high school, we suggested to her that she major in Computer science.  She agreed and that was our biggest mistake.  She did not cope well with some of the classes although she did manage others including a passing grade in an Electrical engineering class.  By the end of her sophomore year, she was on academic probation; we encouraged her to switch majors and she ended up doing so.  She graduated in 4 yrs despite all this.  She now tells us she wants to become a writer; we told her she could do whatever she wanted, but she had to support herself somehow.  So she signed up for a year of Post grad service where she is given housing, a stipend ($600/month).  She supposedly wants to take classes and network and we are standing by.  

    Our fear is that she will never "fly the coup".  If it were not for me, she would have wasted this summer doing nothing but I insisted that she at the very least find a part time job which she did.  When she moves away from home again, we are giving her the car she used as a college senior, and paying insurance.  My big question is this:

    She is suggesting that we help her with payments for a few of her needs (personal) while has a bank balance of ~11K (past summer internships and jobs).  She knows that we can continue to support her but the better part of me feels like it is time to "cut the cord".  I am torn about this stance knowing her problems.  But my other fear is that our generosity is not going to propel her forward and keep her motivated to become independent.  Is that the right thing to do? 

    We have told her that if she decides to do a masters, we would help her (she knows that her 529 account has a substantial balance but we are not giving her the option of taking that money out for herself, at least not for the foreseeable future).    

    Our younger child, a son is very secure, confident, doing well and has a head on his shoulders.  Part of the issue is that she compares herself to him and I can't say that inadvertently and subconsciously, we have too.  

    Please only advice, no judgements.  I am wrought with guilt already so don't need anyone's harsh words.  

    I think you are asking the right questions-- encouraging her to understand the financial implications of her choices needs to happen now...we always covered health insurance, but expected independence for rent and living expenses after college.  When each child spent time back home post college, we charged modest "rent" which we held on to, then let them use it for deposit/last month rent on their own place (but it helped them learn to budget their income)

    you note personality/academic approach differences between your two children--we also had those, but the less academically "successful" is much more conservative and attentive to budgetting; his brother with the high paying tech job never met a dollar he couldn't spend, and has had difficulty building/keeping an emergency fund.  So understanding and working with each child's financial strengths and challenges may be important.

    I suspect your daughter needs your encouragement and faith in HER as she explores what she wants to do with her life, more than she needs your dollars... 


    You have nothing to feel guilty about! Plenty of kids don’t know what major to pick, change majors during college, and graduate without clear job plans. I was one of them! I went to the peace corps, then I wanted to be a writer but needed to get a paying job and I figured it out. And I flew the coop. 

    You are being very generous to give her a car & insurance. My parents did the same & I think it was the right thing. 

    If she is irresponsible with money, then I’d suggest that you say you won’t give her a further stipend, and she should use her savings to supplement what the service gig gives her. (Americorps volunteers typically qualify for food stamps & other govt aid since the pay is so low.)  When the service gig ends, she can stay with you until she gets a job. Or give her first months rent/deposit on an apartment. And then she’s launched! 

    No guilt! 

    I’m so sorry you are feeling guilty about anything. Given the challenges that your daughter has to confront every day, her her graduation from college in 4 years, it sounds like she and you are doing wonderfully with difficult circumstances. Congratulations to all of you! 

       About supporting your daughter, this is her first year out of college. She has a service job lined up to do productive work this coming year - which is great! She can’t live on $600/mo, and you will not suffer in helping her financially. I encourage you to help her. Poverty is not the only motivator to grow and become independent. And it could be an overwhelming worry/experience for your daughter when she is first venturing into the work world. With her ADD, anxiety, etc, she may be much more successful in ‘launching’ from a position of safety and support than from fear and deprivation. If her need for support doesn’t decrease over the next couple of years, you’d need to have a conversation. California is a very difficult and expensive place to get started. Your daughter will find her way, with your support.  Life teaches unavoidable harsh lessons. I just don’t think that, in some artificial way, we have to pile on. You’re all doing great! 

  • Are there any existing parent groups for those with "failure to launch" young adults?  My child is 23 (24 soon), out of high school five years, unemployed nearly all of that time (no college or vocational classes either). She gets no spending money and I stopped paying for her cellphone over a year ago.  I've taken away the house key and told my child she could no longer live in my house, but she came in while I'm at work (dog door, windows). Short of installing an expensive security system I can't afford and barring my dog from using the dog door, I can't prevent that.  I'm at my wits' end, and would like to connect with other parents.  I've tried Alanon , but found it completely unsatisfying and very frustrating, largely because of the 12-step model that so closely hews to AA. 

    Anyone know of anything like this?

    You might want to try the Family Sanity Support Group:

    Very helpful for parents with your situation.  And you find out that you are not alone.

    I am sorry you are in this difficult situation. I can empathize, as I am as well. If no one responds with recommendations for existing parent groups, perhaps we could start one (I will contact you directly through BPN).

    The one support I have found is through Al-Anon. Each group is different. I go to one in Menlo Park that's for parents. It's not rigid in it's approach in the way I've heard other Al-Anon groups can be. Many long term members have not done the 12-steps, and "higher power" is used loosely.

    I've tried Willows in the Wind, but find it more for parents of minors committed to sending, or having sent, their teens to wilderness therapy or other therapeutic environments.

    The failure to launch seems to be an epidemic. 

    Does your child have a drinking problem, cause I am confused why you might be attending Alanon.  Have you given her rules on how she could continuing living in your home, for example, she needs to have and maintain employment.  Start a game plan on having a career, or perhaps seeing a career coach to help her.  If she lives in your home, she would have to do chores, or pay rent at a reasonable amount.  My child is 21, lives at home, goes to college, has a full time job and does some small chores.  These are all things we sat down an talked about in advance to create a future for herself.  She suffers from anixety, so she also is on medication and sees a therapist.  Does your child have similar issues?  I am not judging, but it would kill me to have my child be homeless.  So unless you are not saying something here that is more serious, I think you both needs to see a therapist and work some of these issues and concerns out. It could benefit both of you.  Since you do not mention "Dad", I assume he is not part of the picture.

  • How to launch a 22-year-old.

    (3 replies)

    Our son chose not to go to college and has been working successfully at a large retailer since high school.  He loves his job, has never been late or taken a sick day and has exhibited very adult, responsible behavior.  The problem?  He won't leave the nest.  We gave him a deadline about a year ago, helped him search for apartments, made sure he had enough money for security deposit, etc. He made the motions of looking on Craigslist for roommates but the deadline came and went. He just seems incapable of pulling the trigger and we learned we weren't the type of parents who could kick him out.  He has friends but is very isolated and spends all of his free time in his room in front of his computer.  

    I'd appreciate hearing from parents who've encountered this challenge and succeeded in creating an independent adult.  Any information would be helpful.  On his salary he will need roommates, so renting a place on his own is not an option.  Any actions, websites,  or simple tips would be greatly appreciated.

    Out of the nest

    RE: How to launch a 22-year-old. ()
    RE: How to launch a 22-year-old. ()

    What can i say? I can understand wanting your kid to "mature" and be independent.  Mine went to only 1 semester of jr. college, then back to sleeping all day and up on computer all night.  He ditched the friends he had so they went on and forgot him.  I don't know what to do myself, though fortunately mine just got PT job and 2 classes at BCC so h'e coming around.

    Definitely don't kick him out. Out where? E.14th St.? Telegraph Ave? Under the freeway?  And how long will he last out there? Homeless people are found dead frequently, but does it ever make the news?  Hardly--it's not "newsworthy". Or they die in emergency room or jail.  They usually get into drug use cuz life is too miserable to bear.  At minimum wage you can't even get a room around here unless you're really really lucky. And in most retail jobs, you don't have a "salary", you have minimum wage or a few bucks above it (commission may put you at 5 or 6 bucks above it depending, and varying daily--still not enough for a decent place).

    Interesting that u say "pulling the trigger".  You indicate that he's not capable of killing himself (!?!).  Who is capable of "pulling the trigger" and shooting himself? Sounds like you yourself are pretty fearful of what will happen when he leaves.  

    In many (if not most) countries it's normal for young people to stay with parents until they marry, and some stay on even after that.  They have big happy families (or problematic, sometimes dysfunctional) but at least there is togetherness) with fun, noisy, frequent get-togethers of extended family. We here have this weird notion that youth have to leave the nest and "strike out on their own" even if they're not ready emotionally or financially, then each individual lives in his own solitary little unit. WHY?  Is that happiness?

    If he's not destroying your home, stealing from you, committing crimes there, etc. then what's the problem with him staying? I think family togetherness & love is a great thing. Paying bay area rents on retail wages he'll never save enough to buy a place. I don't see any problem at all here, except trying to live up to someone else's standard of "normal".  If he's happy, why not let him be? If it ain't broken, don't fix it.

    RE: How to launch a 22-year-old. ()

    Welcome to the world of young adult parenting!  My two oldest are in their early 30's. Currently they both live with roommates, one in a subsidized apartment that he heard about from a friend, and the other in a rough part of Oakland that is still affordable for two guys making hardly any money. But they have both lived at home for stretches of a few months to a few years since graduating high school.  It really bothered me at first. I felt like I had failed as a parent.  I had expected they would take flight and leave the nest at 21 and not come back unless there was some terrible calamity. At least that's how it was with me and all my friends back in the day.

    But it's different now. It is soooo expensive here even for young people with well-paid jobs. My kids both (eventually) graduated college but they are not in tech, law, or medicine. They can't afford an apartment in the East Bay, and I don't see a time when they will ever be able to. Many of their friends have moved back home, or their parents are subsidizing their rent, or "helping" them buy a condo or house.  Or they are living with a bunch of other 20 and 30 somethings in scary rundown warehouses in Oakland and Emeryville. The friends who have coupled up mostly are spending their entire paychecks on rent, or else trying to figure out how to move to Oregon! 

    I realized after my kids hit 25 or so, when their brains finally matured, that I like having them around! I didn't mind as much when they'd move back in for a time. I admit I like it better when they have their own place (and so do they) but it isn't the shameful thing I experienced when they were younger. However I worry every day about how they can ever afford to stay in the Bay Area long term, in the place where they grew up.  I don't see how it is possible unless they move back in with us.  So we are seriously considering remodeling our house so it can accommodate them and their families in future years.  

    This is all to say that maybe you could accept for now that your son is living with you because of all the economic forces we have here in the Bay Area. Lots of other parents are doing the same. Your son might rather have his own place, but the only option he can realistically afford right now is to live with a bunch of strangers in a low-rent area or ramshackle apartment. Or move out of town.  So living at home might be the best option for him right now. Connections with friends is how my kids have found their living situations, and your son is keeping up his friendships, and making new ones too hopefully, so things can change. In the meantime maybe think about ways to make him feel like more of a roommate and less of a son, so he can feel a bit more independent. I never charged my kids rent when they moved back in - a lot of parents do that - but I did expect them to help out with their younger sibling (homework, piano practice), prepare dinner, stuff like that.

    Good luck and hang in there!!

  • My daughter is back after 4 years away at college and having such a tough time making friends and breaking back in.  She's socially shy anyway and needs a group or activity to be part of that will help.  She's tried some meet up groups but hasn't found a fit and also is trying to volunteer where she has interests (in healthcare) but that's been slow.  I'd also love to try any kind of big sister scenario if there's any such organization that matches up.  thanks for your thoughts....

    You didn't say if your daughter is working, which is were most 20somethings meet friends. I would suggest she look for a summer job that is fulltime and with a lot of other people in her age cohort... like camp work. Many "fancier" camps want counselors with BAs so she's not necessarily overqualified. It doesn't have to be her life's work but it does put her in the fun trenches every day for 12 weeks with peers. I'm thinking Galileo, Roughing It, Edmo, TechKnowHow... there's no shortage of fancy camps!

    I have friends who did Big Sister volunteering in their 20s and they said it was emotionally very very hard. Maybe your daughter is ready for that... Other volunteering in groups I agree is a good way to try to meet friends, although in fairness I was a steady volunteer at one place throughout my 20s, and didn't make lasting connections - some volunteer gigs are more social than others, so she might want to try a few.

  • My son is 19.  He's always been a wonderful, talkative, studious, smart, computer guy par excellence.  Over last years, though, he's so depressed (or ??) i don't know what to do.  It's due to violent crime suffered at age 13 and bad experiences at school.  He hasn't spoken since October.  He eats  bare minimum and looks famished.  He was going to BCC after graduating BHS but has stopped.  I gave him BCC catalog and told him to sign up.  I don't know if he has. 

    He's up nights and sleeps days.  Used to be up 7pm till 7am but now gets up around 11:30 pm and in bed by 7am.  I think he has no energy due to lack of food though fridge is jam packed with what he loves.  Yes, i cook for him, since he only heats frozen dinners & eats once a day. As i get up he goes straight to bed.  When family came for Christmas he stayed in bed all day, refusing to see anyone.  He absolutely avoids all contact with people except 1 friend (in S. Cal on vacation now) and our neighbor, who's busy studying for exam and can't be bothered.  In past he'd talk to me when his friend would come, but last time not even his friend could get him to speak to me.  I open his mail, like Jury Duty & Selective Service (yes, he went to Jury Duty & signed up online for SS but won't open any mail, not even cards w/ $$ in them).  He only goes out to do laundry in the yard, then comes back & often dumps baskets on floor till i shove it all into drawers so we can walk in this place.  Shower?  About 2 per month.

    He has seen therapist but it's been over 3 years.  You can't make him do anything, especially talk.

    He CAN function if he really wants.  At 16 he had techie job running computers at a factory, installing software, etc.  He was doing great and they loved him.  He COULD get another job easily if he tried.  He barely graduated due to lots of help from case manager at BHS (i got him an IEP for depression and they still track him) and cyber high to make up flunked classes.

    A program that helps youth will start working with him but so far all has failed (i've tried a lot).  He has Kaiser so that eliminates almost all other programs.  I am hoping it'll work and they won't say "He has Kaiser, we can't help".   A Kaiser social wkr. came 3x to talk to him, but he stared at computer the whole time. 

    No, you can't have him 5150'ed.  Forget it.  The cops won't come for a guy sitting quietly on the couch with laptop.  He'd have to be violent or destructive, which thankfully he isn't.

    I can't take his laptop.  He WOULD  probably get violent.  I'd need backup here, 3 people.  Turning off internet won't work.  He goes to cafe with laptop & sits there, or uses cell phone.

    My idea is to go on 2 month vacation & leave him  here with rent paid.  He'd HAVE to get food, cook, wash dishes, etc.  My neighbor has keys to look in on him (she's great).  It'd stop the dependency & force him to go out (maybe motivate him to get job).  He can get food stamps if not and i'll leave Berkeley Bowl gift cards.  I see no other solution, having tried so much.  Any sincere suggestions welcome.

    Desperate Mom.

    Hi--you must be so worried. As a recently retired therapist working with teens and families, I strongly encourage you to find a therapist/social worker for yourself who can help you work through this situation. You can't make him do anything but you can change the situation by making changes by yourself. You already have some ideas and some support so build on that as you move forward. Good luck to you!!

    Sounds like you have tried everything. In our house if you are over 18 and not in school or working, you got to leave. I've had to kick out  depressed young adult because he was getting billigerent with me in front of the younger ones.  There comes a time when parents just have to get on with their lives and young adults have to see it. Life goes on whether you like it or not. 

    Last I heard that depressed young spectrumy adult is moving on with life. Found a place to live and went to Jc and has a job with GNC. He's managing. I'm not in his life but I'm not getting disrespected and abused. Maybe one day he will wake up and appreciate what I have done. 

    I've seen parents and society coddle so much which includes myself that these young adults just aren't ready by adulthood. I'm trying to do differently with the next set of kids. Don't do anything for them that they can do for themselves. If you do too much for them lovingly, they don't have a sense of accomplishment and pride. That causes depression. Let them fall and rise again. 

    Many people have suffered from violence and bullying but just got to rise up again. 

    I'm sorry you have to go through this. It's utterly painful to watch your kid slip and fall. But once you are down the only way to go is back up. You can tell him that and just step back. 

    Dear Desperate Mom,

    I believe that you are the same Mom who posted about your troubled son on June 6, 2016. (See letter reprinted below. I would simply link to it, but it was one of the last posts on the old BPN site, and I don't have time to try to find it.) 

    Was any of the advice helpful?  It was I who suggested that you 5150 him, but you replied that it is impossible. Yet It is clear that this situation -- already terrible six months ago -- is now extremely dangerous for your son, and for you.

    I suggest that you find a psychiatrist who can help you to decide on a strategy and give you the tools to implement it.  (I don't know of one, but the network here has good recommendations on file.)  

    Professional help is required at this point.  Don't wait!  

    "Nightowl Son Walks Around Town in Dark Alone Who knows Where"
    "My son, 18.  has become a night owl, up all night, sleep most of day.  Lately he goes out at
    9pm, comes back around 12:00, goes to sleep at 6am.   I ask “Where did you go?”  “out.”
    “What did you do?”  “Nothing.”

     He has no car, goes on foot who knows where.  I gave him condoms (which he left).  He’s
    only 114 lb, not a match for muggers/etc.  No drugs/alcohol/gangs/crime ever in his
    life--he’s a nerd, on computer, reading, trouble shooting, programming.  He’s always been
    a good kid.

      Due to depression over last 4 years he speaks very little (though he has bright times).
    Sometimes he speaks twice a month.

    I tell him to go out in day but it fall on deaf ears.  You can’t make him go to shrink (or
    do anything).  It’s dangerous in the middle of the night with no witnesses.

    He eats minimally, maybe a Bagel, peanuts, some ice cream and that’s it all day.  Meals
    (that he likes) are often left on table.  If i don’t cook the food rots and $ is wasted so
    i cook.  He’s skinnier than a fashion model, wears 16 slim.  He hasn’t seen MD since 2012.
    He’s malnourished if you ask me.  Last time he saw MD was 2012.  What are you gonna do,
    pick him up and strap him into the carseat and drive him there?  Yeah, right.

    I had idea to travel for 2 months with rent paid leaving him Berkeley Bowl gift cards.  He
    could get Food stamps too.  It would force him to shop,cook, clean etc. and stop all
    dependency on me (he does his laundry as i won’t touch it).  BUT i got FT job that won’t
    allow it.  When i get vacation Will go.  For now,the cycle continues.

    He was at BCC first semester after graduating Berkeley High but he didn’t go this term.
    Hope he will next term.

    I’ve tried shutting off internet.  He walks to cafe & uses computer there then walks back
    alone at midnight-perfect target for muggers.  Then i have no connection for my needs, so
    i’ve punished myself.

    Please no rude, judgmental, sarcastic or hostile comments.  I’ve always been the best mom
    possible under hard circumstances.  Keep those comments to yourself please.  I’m looking
    for helpful suggestions only.
    --Thank you"

  • Grown children hate each other

    (10 replies)

    I am coming off of a horrific family gathering over thanksgiving- my 23 yr old "launched" daughter and my 21 yr old  college student son have never gotten along well but this was especially awful. I think my son might be jealous of her success as he is floundering in college and barely passing and she has done the traditional route of college to really cool and rewarding job. I want to hear from other parents ---shall I quit having hopes of them ever getting along? We are supposed to have another big family reunion of sorts over Christmas and I dread trying again as it is soooo disappointing and embarrassing --- please no judgement as I am raw with pain. And if your kids did grow out of their childhood resentments etc --- when did it finally happen? 

    RE: Grown children hate each other ()

    Hi, I can respond to this from the sibling perspective more than from the parent perspective, hope that this helps. My brother and I were 2 years apart. We were never close, fought a lot (even physically) as kids. I can say now, as an adult, that this stemmed from my mother's subconscious preference for him over me. It took many years of therapy to work through all this, I thought for years it was my own fault.  My mother also took great pains over the years to pressure us to stay close, which backfired on her because I am now estranged from both of them for going on 6 years (no regrets on that front). So my advice to you is twofold:  Examine your own behaviors and look deep - your son's jealousy did not spring freeform out of his view of his sister, it is real, and it is most likely tied in to you somehow. Whatever you do, do not try to play peacemaker, do not criticize either party, do not try to manipulate the situation in any way. The more you try to influence the situation the worse it will get. They're adults. Let them work it out (or not) - basically take a deep breath and let go.  As for practical matters, if they are not able to act like adults in a large group setting then don't invite them, perhaps encourage them to explore their own "Friendsgiving" next year and save yourself the grief. And when I say don't invite them, let me be clear, either invite both or none, do not invite one over the other (that will only feed the beast). As for the coming holidays, speak with them separately and lay down some boundaries, but also give them permission to not attend if they don't want to. Keep reminding yourself that the universe lent them to you, and now that they are adults, they are no longer yours to keep.

    RE: Grown children hate each other ()


    I hear your pain and am sending you my sympathies and hugs. I too have kids, older son with mental illness and younger daughter a freshman studying engineering. I can relate to having dissimilar kids having to interact with each other without stressing us all out. Its always tough. We have to keep talking to our daughter to be tolerant and respectful and patient. My son on the other hand can be completely oblivious to the stress his behaviors cause to the family. 

    My suggestion to you is to keep such gatherings at a minimum. Talk to them both separately about how you feel. Perhaps your daughter can talk directly to your son about how he feels. He may open out to her more privately. He may just need a friendly ear. Even if they dont like each other much, your home should be a neutral zone and they have to be nice and respectful to each other and towards all of you. Best Wishes!!

    RE: Grown children hate each other ()

    Hi,  hate to disappoint, but my sibling and I fought bitterly as kids and we've just never been close.  It's very sad for me to not have that closeness but here we are, late middle age, and it's just not going to happen.  Our personalities are very different.   I suggest that you talk with each child separately in person if you can, or on the phone if you can't, to bring it up and ask their views about how to make it a better family time over Xmas.   What do they want/need from each other?  What sets them off?  Maybe you should play some fun games to force them into a different, more fun mode, if you can.   Sorry, no magic bullet here; wish there were one!  I'd use it! 

  • I'm looking for help with repairing my and my husband's relationship with our young adult daughter. The tip of the iceberg is that we are concerned about choices  she's making that are potentially dangerous to her future. We are uncomfortable with what she's doing and who she's with, to the point that we can't have her live with us. We always had a close relationship when she was growing up and she was a seemingly mature and easy to work with kid. We are dealing with navigating the waters of adulthood, and coming to terms with not liking her choices but still loving her, and having her perhaps recognize that she may need to look more closely at what she is doing and why. Below the surface though are many other issues, the impact of some poor parenting (conflicts in parenting styles and power struggles which impacted our relationships with our kids), not recognizing the signs of anxiety and depression, drug use, and sibling issues. Our daughter also has issues of gender identity and the repercussions of sexual assault, which we learned of much later. We are (all of us) sad about where we are and looking for someone who can help tease out all these issues and help us to find some way forward. Oakland would be great in terms of location. Someone who is on Aetna would be even better but insight, problem solving, and the ability to listen and help us listen is the best. Thanks.

    Hi there - our situation was less complicated than yours, but my mom and I went to therapy to deal with similar issues, albeit from a slightly different point of view.  I initiated therapy because I felt like my mom was very judgmental about my decisions.  In therapy we were able to explore her fears about whether I was making the wrong decisions.  Our therapist was Linda Brunson, who has an office on College Ave. in Rockridge.  Her # is (510) 652-7702.  Linda helped us see each others' point of view and find common ground, and both of us liked her very much and felt safe and comfortable.  I wish you much luck!

  • 20 year old step son

    (7 replies)

    So here's the situation- he's 20 years old, was living with mom until graduation. He then went away (1 hour away) to school, for one year. He never got a job while there. He didn't really make friends, didn't play sports. He was relying on his dad for money. He is obsessed with gaming. He then told his mom and dad he doesn't want to go back to school after summer, he's lonely there. I believe the real issue is, he can't survive on his own and hasn't been forced to. So his mom said he can't go back there, now he's with us. He's very nice, but socially awkward. I think it's because of the odd gaming world he's into. He has been here three months. I pay his cell bill, he has no car, no job, games all day. He only comes out of the room to eat. He doesn't shower nor brush teeth really. He states he's out trying to apply at a few jobs, nothing has come of it. I've stated he needs to help around house, if I cook- he cleans. He does, but that's it. You have to tell him to do stuff, like take out garbage. He doesn't know how to even cook for himself. This is a habit created by his mom, allowed behavior I feel. 

    So my issue is now the dad feels guilty he hasn't been around enough (he's military) so he's afraid to push him. He says he's a good kid (I continue to correct and say no, he's a man), he's afraid he will go to drugs or drinking. I told him that's him expecting him to fail then. He needs to be assertive and make a goal and timeline. He says he is looking at classes at a community college. I feel he should go back to the school he was at and finish it. No need to have us continue to enable him. He needs to learn to stand on his own two feet. Have a car, pay his cell phone. 

    My husband and I fight over this. He tells me stay out of it, but this is my house also and he leaves him here with me while he travels for work. I said he should go to his mothers then while he's working. Help!!!

    RE: 20 year old step son ()

    I've been a college professor for 18 years teaching computer technology. The situation you describe is typical for many of my students.  They are "good" young adults, it's just our education system is being run like a factory and we expect every K-12 graduate to go to college and become the millionaire.  I think you will find gamming is the new "drug so if  he's not into drugs or alcohol he's getting his fix through gamming.  They use to call TV a "drug",  it looks like gamming is the new "drug".

    Our education system has become so focused in preparing every child to attend college they have taken the creatively and desire to create and explore out of this generation.  Just look at our schools they have eliminated all of the "fun" classes where students get to "do" or "build something they can be proud of.  Very few schools have wood, metal, auto, electronics shop classes any more.

    These were classes where students would learn how to make something and take pride in what they had made.  It's sad but most of  my students don't know how to use basic tools such as a screwdriver.  (Interestingly many of the women in my class know how to use tool.)
    Couple of suggestions.  Encourage him to volunteer to give his life meaning.  We have a friend who is in this program.
    Would the military make sense?  (Sounds like his father is doing well in it.)

    If you are desperate to get him out of his room discontinue your Internet service for a month and see what happens.  Without connective to the Internet he won't be able to play games, become board and faced into finding something to do.

    Hope this helps.....  And just know you are not alone.  There are many young adults who are in the same situation as you are.

    RE: 20 year old step son ()

    How about going to a local community college? Maybe get a catalog, and go though it with him, looking for classes he might enjoy. Try to do it in a friendly, not demanding way. Suggest he bring classmates home for dinner. It sounds like you are resentful of the situation. But you chose to move in with a man who has a son. You need to put your resentment aside and try to work with your stepson towards a more productive live. 

    RE: 20 year old step son ()

    It's likely that your step son is depressed; you should be thinking about getting professional help. This is also likely to be an issue of family dynamics beyond your step son, himself.

    Your husband saying that he's a good kid is an expression of affection. It's not helpful for you to be insisting that he's "a man".

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Flaky and immature 22 year old daughter

Jan 2014

Our daughter is a senior at a college elsewhere in the state. She is on track to graduate after 4 years and gets good grades. When she came home for the holidays, I noticed a marked downturn in her attitude. She says that she and her friends are worried about their job prospects upon graduation.

She has taken to drinking and I am very uncomfortable about this. When I raised the issue, she lashed out, saying that her Dad and I are drinkers, and have set a bad example for her. My husband is a foodie and wine fancier, but he does not drink to excess. I limit myself to six glasses of wine per week. But perhaps she does have a point.

Meanwhile, above and beyond the drinking, I am horrified by her unreliable and flaky behavior.

Upon returning home from college, she asked me to make her an appointment with my hairdresser. On the morning of the appointment, I discovered an empty vodka bottle. A girl friend had slept over, too, and I assume that the vodka had been consumed by more than one person over two or three nights. The hair appointment was set for noon. At 11:15 our daughter emerged, announcing that she intended to miss the appointment because she had a ''stomach ache''. It was obvious that she was hung over from drinking.

I told her that the righteous thing to do was to go, stomach ache or no stomach ache. I reminded that hair stylists work hard for their money, and that she is expected to be a woman of her word. I reminded her of the rule: ''You do what you said you would do, when you said you would do it, whether you feel like doing it or not.'' She organized herself and we went to the hairdresser. She and the stylist talked about doing some highlights and made an appointment for two days later.

The morning of the highlighting appointment came around and I went about my business. Her Dad offered to take her to the BART station so that she could get to the hairdresser.

When I came home, I discovered that she had flaked on the appointment. There was a message from the stylist on our house voicemail at 20 minutes after the appointment time, wondering where our daughter was.

She wandered in, nonchalant, and said that she had decided not to go through with the highlighting. I asked her whether she had even called the stylist. She said, yes, she had. I reminded her that 24 hours' notice was customary. She rolled her eyes.

Our daughter is 22 years old, a legal adult. I tried to raise her right, but I feel that I have failed.

I think that youth unemployment is a great social evil, and if there were more jobs for young people, they would have a more responsible attitude. There are very few jobs near her college. Her Dad and I told her we did not want her to get a job in a bar.

But it seems that there is more going on here.

Help! Any ideas?
Worried and embarrassed

As you describe it, there are several issues here.

1) Your daughter's drinking. She's of legal age. Sometimes adults get drunk. That doesn't mean they aren't good people. Your daughter is doing well in college, which seems a good sign. Certainly she could be a high-functioning alcoholic, but you don't have any evidence of that. I think you chalk this up to not your business and let it go. If she begins repeatedly coming home, drinking to excess and being hungover, you can set some limits about that behavior in your house in the future, as in ''It's your business if you get drunk a lot, but in my house, we don't do that. If you want to drink that much, maybe you should stay elsewhere.''

2) Her unreliability. She sounds immature. Time and experience will hopefully cure that. Don't make appointments for her anymore or get in the middle of her arrangements. She's a big girl now and it's her job to set these things up for herself and to deal with the consequences of, say, a hairdresser refusing to book with her anymore.

3) Youth unemployment. I think this is a big deal too, in fact I rail about this a lot, but there are plenty of immature employed young adults also. As for telling her not to get a job in a bar...really, mind your own business. She's an adult and there's nothing wrong with working in a bar.

4) I know it's hard, but it seems time to disengage a bit. Let her make her own mistakes and learn from them, and try not to think catastrophically (such as ''I have failed'' at raising her right). Were you a fully formed adult at her age? Can you think of really dumb mistakes you made? It's the only way to learn. And you standing there with the attitude that she's a failure if she makes some mistakes isn't going to help her grow up, or your relationship.

I understand, I've got a 23-year-old daughter

Stop ''helping'' her. Let her feel the full impact of her mistakes. If she had booked and then flaked on a hair appt, w/o 24 hour notice, she would be (rightly) charged.

The justification of her party lifestyle because of a poor job outlook is B.S. Her excuse that her drinking was caused by you and your husband is even more outrageous B.S. Your ''acceptance'' of these excuses is enabling behavior. She drinks and parties with her friends because she wants to. There's a big difference between having a glass on wine in the evening, and drinking to excess in order to get bombed, which is what she is doing. She's 22, so time to step back and let the chips fall where they may. Try to keep the lines of communication open, so that if she recognizes that her partying has evolved into alcoholism, that you can then assist her - after she comes for you for help.

Job outlook and personal efficacy are NOT related. Here too, your attitude is ''enabling.''

Oakland Mom of 21 yr old

Please do not feel that you have failed. What you are describing is very common behavior for a 22 year old. Remember those ''Your 4 Year Old'' books? Too bad there is not one for 20-somethings. We would all feel much better, because what you are describing is the status quo, I think.

I have boys a bit older than 22, so my experience is not exactly relevant, but I do remember how at that age they wanted to be grownups, and drink and party with friends, but they didn't really have the money or maturity for independence. It is very hard to be parenting a kid that age, but I think it must be hard for them too, knowing that they are still dependent on their parents even though they feel they have progressed into adulthood.

Over the holidays I hosted my sons' 3 glorious girl cousins aged 22 to 26 for a couple of weeks, here from the east coast. Smart, talented, funny, hard working girls. During that brief time, they mostly went out partying, slept till noon, made enormous messes, and cheerfully agreed to multiple conflicting events including tickets that I spent a bunch of money on. But they were taking a break from intense jobs, and college classes. For me, it was aggravating but also exhilarating to be around these energetic girls. That is just how people are at that age, and how I was at that age too. They have their plusses and their minuses.

See if you can appreciate her plusses more than her minuses. The minuses are mostly a side-effect of being 22. You have lots to be proud of, and she has a lot of growing still to do. local mom

Mentor/Life Coach for Failure to Launch?

April 2013

Our young adult son is STUCK. Living at home, no job or job skills, attending community college. And, as you can imagine, he feels terrible about himself. We've gone the counseling route (many times) but what he really needs is a mentor to help him 'launch'. Any recommendations? Mom

I can't offer a coach suggestion, unfortunately. But I did wonder about your diagnosis of failure to launch.

If your son is attending community college classes, he shouldn't be feeling bad about himself. He's in college! Many young adults have trouble finding work. He just needs to keep looking.

I'm not trying to minimize things; maybe you kept your post short so we're not getting the whole picture. But I was left with the feeling that everyone's shaking their head about his failings when he's attending school. I worry about a shame spiral here.

My husband didn't go to college until 24, and then spent 10 years working his way through community college and a CSU. Now he's getting his PhD at a UC. There are many paths. If your son is struggling, I salute you looking for help. But is he really struggling?

My son has been seeing Life Coach Casey McCaroll, he is just fabulous. Someone on this list recommended him before and I cannot be more grateful for the referral. Mom of teenage boy

Dealing with a 21 year old son

Dec 2012

I'm the mother of a 21 year old boy. He is taking a '' break'' from college after not being able to decide on a major. He move back with us, his dad and I, and is seeing a therapist. He is looking for a job but it a very slowly and inefficient way ( my perception not his). We have given him all the support possible but are not willing to pay for his easy life...My son insists it is a process,he is trying, etc but what I see is a wonderful, charming and smart young man waisting his life.

He watches the sports channel, listen to podcasts and smokes pot I'm sure very often. No girlfriend, no exercise... My Mother insists, yes even and that age you can force a son to change his life, go back to school, etc. I wish I could force him to go away, to travel to leave this environment but how do I do that? Any suggestions? All parents out there know how much energy and sacrifice we invest in this kids, it is painful to see all that work did not take us anywhere... A sad Mom

Your son may be officially entitled to call himself an adult, but he's still acting like a teenager, and it sounds as if his parents have allowed him to do so, which is no favor to him. How does your husband feel about the situation? The two of you need to discuss it thoroughly, come up with some ideas for your son, and then meet with him to see what his own (concrete, detailed) ideas might be. And, yes, the meeting should include a deadline for his moving out. (The gift of first and last months' rent would kind, but you are not legally or morally obliged to support him at this point, and I hope you're not feeling guilty at the idea of pushing him out.) For a sample meeting, see this recent ''Doonesbury'' cartoon:

I am joking, kind of, but trust me--if he realizes he can't act like a kid any more because you won't allow this, he'll either move or find a job or go back to school, or a combination of the above.

In the meantime, when I became irritated with my 20-something daughter recently, I started reading up on the subject of adult children to get some perspective. Some helpful books (in this case from Berkeley Public Library):

''When Our Grown Kids Disappoint Us,'' Jane Adams. A quick, glib read that resembles an extended magazine article, so more of an overview of the subject than a detailed analysis. Still, good for reassurance and encouragement, the way the first session with a support group might be.
''How to Raise Your (Adult) Children'' by Gail Parent & Susan Ende is much more fun and very readable. It's like Dear Abby, with letters from despairing parents about money, living arrangements, work, family rituals, marriage, divorce, etc. Nice, specific situations, and each letter receives two answers: Parent gets to be funny and pragmatic, while Ende is the therapeutic voice.
''Walking on Eggshells: Navigating the Delicate Relationship Between Adult Children and Their Parent'' by Jane Isay I haven't started yet, but it looks informative.

Good luck. He'll relaunch himself, but it will happen much faster if you give him the shove he needs, and perhaps wants. Melanie

It's good to know that he's seeing a therapist (he sounds like he may be depressed), so that's an important step. It would also be useful to sit down with him and develop a list of possibilities for what he wants to be doing 4 months from now--is he interested in travel; there are work abroad possibilities; he could work for a few years--what type of job is he most interested in? If he truly is confused about what to major in and also about what type of work he'd like to do, then it's hard for him to plan to go back to college. So focus on the near-future. What might he possibly like to do--work in an office, sales, play music, work in retail? Any job will give him experience and help him decide what he likes and doesn't like about that type of work, so encourage him to get a job doing something so he can broaden himself. You could tell him that to live rent-free, he will need to be doing two things--looking for a job daily and starting an exercise program. By the way, it is tough finding work especially for someone who has not graduated from college (although retail is hiring at this time of year), so the slow process may reflect reality. If he can agree to work on these two goals, that will help to get him moving. And help him realize how hard it is to find a job without a college degree. Anonymous

20-year old daughter keeps dropping the ball

Dec 2012

Last year, our 20-year-old daughter left a good east college after one semester - not a good fit. She returned home, then did a 2 month stint working on organic farms in the south, took doula training to volunteer as a birth coach and found a full-time job in local health food store. All good EXCEPT for the fact that although she says she will return to school - she knows it's a likely professional dead-end without at least a BA - she's doing nothing toward that end. She loved the birth-coaching training and has sounded very enthusiastic about volunteering at SF General, but keeps dropping the ball to make it happen. In vulnerable moments she'll tell me she feels paralyzed and needs to make a change in her life, she wants to move out but then she'll just be working to pay rent which seems like it's own kind of dead-end. We just visited two college in Pacific Northwest, neither of which she loved. I don't know how to help guide her. She's such a delightful person, it's hard to see her stalled. Suggestions welcomed.

Perhaps your daughter could become a certified nurse-midwife ? The problem is that unless she's willing to work hard there's no hope of her having any sort of good job in the future. It's disturbing that there are so many parents posting similar letters, and no clear good answer. Parent of HighSchoolers.

21 year old needs to leave home

Sept 2011

I am hoping that someone in this community can give us some advice. We need our 21-year old out of our home. She is very immature for her age, but her behavior is such that we feel inadequate to help her here anymore and may even be enabling her. In other words, we need her gone. Yes she is in therapy and we are covering this with the therapist. What we are looking for, so that we feel she is safe and cared for, is something like the old-fashioned boarding house, with house rules, curfews, meals, in other words structure and accountability. Does such a thing exist anywhere? We are also looking for residential programs that are not primarily for substance abuse as we feel she could definitely benefit from more intensive therapy. Maybe there is even someone who lets out a room and would keep an eye out? Any ideas would be helpful.

There are programs exactly like you describe for young adults. There are programs that offer intensive therapy, as well as life skills classes; I have even heard about programs that offer placement in family homes, with vocational training. I suggest you talk to an educational consultant; our family has used David Heckenlively ( and we have been very happy with him. He has a background as a therapist. He might suggest a stint at a young adult wilderness program as well. Those programs are remarkable for interrupting trouble patterns of behavior and instilling a sense of confidence. Of course, as an adult, your daughter will have to go willingly to any of these programs and then she will have the option to sign herself out, but she probably realizes she needs some help and structure and would welcome the chance to develop some independence. Good luck to you. It is very difficult to have a child who does not follow the normal developmental trajectory. But there are some wonderful professionals out there who can really help. Alice

Consider going to a Certified Family Therapist as a Family - the therapist will see the family as a whole. The therapist will decide if individual sessions are also needed. Improved communication and setting the stage to emancipate your daughter successfully would be good goals. If you do not wish to seek therapy yourself - you have to ask - why not? Your daughter will likely improve when the resposibilties for rational behavior are shared all around. If you have any health insurance there may be coverage for this, and some therapists will provide services on a sliding scale. Even a few sessions may make great positive change. supportive

Young adults not leaving home is becoming more commonplace. There are many reasons for young adults not ''launching''; sometimes, as you indicate, your child hasn't learned self-structure and motivation to be independent. Sometimes there are mental health and/or drug problems. In other cases, young people are doing what they can, but they are limited by economic realities. Whatever the problem, the solution always involves some strategic moves on the parents' part, which is difficult and warrants support from others. As others have suggested, therapy for her and for you is important, and sometimes finding the right program for her can help. But the real shift is in your being able to hold the belief that she can, and should individuate and be on her own and setting up a realistic plan for her to leave the nest - and then sticking to it.

Adult children who live at home and are dependent on their parent(s) are likely to then resent them for that dependency. The longer that dynamic persists, the more the parent-child relationship may be damaged. Good luck!

Parenting a 20-year-old - guidelines?

August 2011

Does anyone with a 20yo son or daughter read this? If so, do you know of any good books, magazine articles written to give me some guidelines/clearer understanding of the developmental issues for this age (particularly male)? There were so many resources for the younger years and now I guess I am supposed to have it all together!!! But I have never parented a child this age before and I am still parenting! BTW the issues that arise when a 20 yo decides he wants his driver's license are not all the same ones that arise when a 16 yo gets his! Grateful for Resource Info
Mother of Emerging Male Adult

Parenting your young adult requires less parenting and more coaching and a different set of boundaries. It's launching time. ''Ready or Not, Here Life Comes'' by Mel Levine is an outstanding read! Jan

My children aren't acknowledging my birthday

April 2011

Dear Fellow Parents, Now that my kids are off at college - I'm wondering what to expect in the way of birthday acknowledgements. I spend a good amount of time asking my children what they want or need and make a point to send them a package. On my birthday they each called me, but I didn't receive anything. What's appropriate? I don't ask for much, and nothing expensive, but it feels unequal. Something personal is most appreciated (I also did see them in person following my birthday so it's not just long distance). I'm wondering how to bring up a subject such as this, without it being a guilt trip. Their dad's birthday falls around the holidays when they are home, so he tends to get more acknowledgement. I'm interested in your thoughts and experience. Thanks - Uncertain Mom

I think you should tell them what you would like in the way of acknowledgement ''when it is my birthday I would really like it if you would...'' and if you are married to their dad (or have a good relationship with him), ask him to remind them a few days ahead of time. happy birthday!

Don't wait for them to mess up and then complain. Just tell them what you want a month or so ahead of time. I think it is really sweet that they called you; many kids do not even do that. Maybe you should just be thankful they remember you and leave it at that. Why do you want things from them anyway? anon

I think a telephone call from the kids on mom's birthday is pretty much in line with what one would expect from young people away at college. If by the time they have gone off to college they haven't developed a habit of giving a little present, I think it unlikely that they will suddenly start doing so. Maybe as they get older and have kids of their own, it might occur to them that Hey! we should celebrate mom more. But in the meantime, I would be happy with the phone calls and not take it to heart. finally sending mom flowers now

Personally, I think that they remembered your birthday and called you on your birthday is very sweet. I would be delighted with phone calls from my young adults. Don't see the need for a gift. mom of 3

Resources for Parents of Older Adolescents (20+)

Jan 2010

My 20-year-old daughter is at university overseas. This is her last year; she is writing a B.Sc. ''dissertation'' (i.e., not as demanding as a graduate dissertation), working part-time, living with her boyfriend of one year, considering careers, looking for full-time work down the road. We pay her tuition and rent, and she pays the rest. She is feeling stressed out right now, but is pretty well organized, ambitious, concerned about the economy, and wants some material security. She speaks of marrying her young man and starting a family in her mid-20s. And, of course, this is absolutely what she wants, and her desires will never change, and she KNOWS this! (Kind of like she did at age 16, although admittedly she is more objective about herself these days.)

She and I talk about once a week, e-mail, etc., and see each other a couple of times a year. When she wants advice or an opinion of her resume or whatever, she asks me and makes notes. Advice I offer on my own might be ignored, criticized, or listened to.

I don't think my daughter is immature for her age and her intelligence; probably pretty mature, although this is hard for me to judge. At this point, though, I'd like some guidance about how to be a good/better parent-consultant, as Mike Riera would say. Can anyone recommend a book, website, or support group (East Bay preferred) for parents of people in this phase of adulthood? Anonymous

One thing you might think about as you embark on your role as a parent of a young adult, is that your 20 something year old is not an adolescent. She is an adult. So, while you feel she is immature and not ready for the decisions she is considering, your time of make those decisions for her are over. With a young adult, not a teen, a parent can ask questions designed to help the young person think about choices. However, one cannot do this too much. The basic rule is comment and question when the young adult raises an opportuntity to do so. You can express your concern and why, a few times. But, I gotta tell you, that you do not have control over what your daughter does. That is the difference with a parent of a young adult. You can plant ideas. Ask a well timed question. Offer support, as I am here if you want to talk. But, your role is a lot of stepping back and stepping back again. If you are too forceful or intrusive, you might just lose the opportunity for your daughhter to want to hear you at all. As scary as it sounds, if your daughter really decides to get married, you cannot stop her from doing so. peggy

No Longer a teen, still on the couch

April 2009

So J. turns 20 in a few weeks. He dropped out of high school in Orinda his Jr. year, got a GED and is not interested in college. He's working occasionally for a construction company hauling stuff and assisting carpenters.

In the past few weeks there has been no work, so he sits on the couch all day, playing video games, watching movies, waiting for the next free meal. We have asked him to pay rent (a small amount) which he rufuses to do. He is beligerent and feeling entitled to do nothing. His step siblings, now a sophmore and Junior in high school are very busy, taking all core classes, getting great grades, involved in sports and music and slated for University. It is distracting to have a sibling that has no responsibilities and frankly it's not a great environment.

I understand this is a part of the growing. What can we do? R.

I'm sure you will get many responses to your question, but here's my $0.02. This must be a very frustrating situation for your family. It sounds like you are a caring parent and perhaps your son has gotten used to low expectations and tolerance of beliggerent behavior. Perhaps he has an undiagnosed learning disorder, and perhaps he is depressed?. No doubt this is a tight economy, but he needs to look harder for work in other, perhaps lower-paying jobs. Perhaps this will inspire him to pursue an education. Consider having a serious conversation with him about your expectations for his behavior and consequences (if he doesn't live up to them. You might also consider seeing a psychologist or family counselor. Good Luck

I'm assuming you're the mom? You don't say. Assuming you are, your son sounds lazy and unmotivated. Why should he make a change when he's got a couch, food, and is allowed to do what he's doing? You'd hve to take a strong stance and tell him to get the lead out and get a job...or at least show that he's looking. He'll be there untill you set some firm rules. anon mom

For myself and my three siblings growing up in our house, the rule was always very clear. At 18 (i.e., done with high school), you are in college, the military or have a job and an apartment. Your son is on the couch because you are allowing him to be. You are not doing him any favors by letting him lie around all day and not contribute; what incentive does he have to change? What kind of message does this send to his better-performing siblings? Give him a reasonable time period, offer to help with the deposit on an apartment or other living situation and get him off the couch. tough love

Your message reminds me of the example described in the book, Boys Adrift. Yours is not an easy or enviable situation, but you are on the right path to take action now. Don't wait. Step one: lose the electronics. If you think it is too difficult to do, just imagine him as a man, still on your couch, ten years from now. Hang in there.

I'm not in that situation, so here is my two unproven cents! I would recommend that you ask your son to start going to a class to learn a skill! In this day and age he needs to know how to do something. Is he interested in car repair? Construction? Cooking? Computers? Maybe you can work out a plan with him about the cost for technical school and living expenses and have a plan about when he needs to have his own place (roommate situation probably) after he's finished with the program. Either that or say he needs to be paying something or contributing to the household in some way by this and this time and in that time to get any type of job he can! It sounds like he's depressed too. Maybe he could go to some therapy! I don't think it's a healthy person who sits around avoiding what they need to do. In extreme you could get rid of the games!!! or make it pay-per-view!

I'm sorry this is happening. I think it's more common then you would think. I know at least two other families with ''grown-up'' sons who are having a harder time of it and it took them a longer time to get out on their own or to find themselves. They also were not fabulous students in school. It will happen eventually. Making clear rules and expectations, might be the way to go. anon

My two sons are in their 20's, flew away, and now are back home so I can sympathize. One of them dropped out of HS and worked a few years, living on his own, and the other one was away at college and is back now. Both of them have low paying part-time jobs and can't afford their own place. Here are a few ideas for you:

1. Your son sounds like he might be depressed. Having his younger sibs around doing so well is probably pretty discouraging too.

2. I paid for career counseling for one of my sons. He was in an entrenched depressed state too. He went to Toni Littlestone in Albany. It was a GREAT experience, he really liked her, and he identified a career that he is interested in and would be good at, that he is now working toward.

3. This same son and I were sometimes having angry fights, and I told him he had to either move out (he could live with his dad) or go to therapy with me. He went to therapy with me and it was really beneficial even though we only went twice (to a couples' counselor who specializes in improving couple communications!)

4. I told my HS drop-out son that if he is living at home, he must be either in school or working. He had enrolled twice in community colleges and dropped out. He was unable to find a job for eight months. I heard an NPR show about the Mexican government paying kids to stay in school so I made that offer to him. He suggested instead that I pay for martial arts classes in exchange for his going to school, so he's back in school now, though taking only 2 classes, but is applying himself.

5. I don't give them allowance but I do pay for their cell phones and their medical insurance. The fact that they don't have any spending money is a big incentive for them to have and keep jobs.

6. We have a rule that the living room is for the whole family, and the TV can't be on in there during the day. My college grad son used to watch ESPN all day. It took a lot of yelling and bad vibes to get this rule established but now it is, we don't fight about it anymore.

7. My sons do household chores that REALLY contribute: all the garbage and recycling, daily kitchen cleanup, driving our younger child's carpool & taking him for haircuts, new shoes, to dr. appts, etc., each cooking dinner one night a week, doing the grocery shopping. Life is actually a lot easier for me with them living here. I know they want to have their own places but I will be sorry to see them go.

It is very hard to parent a 20-year-old and I wish you all the best.!

What can we do?

Go get family therapy - I would suggest a MSW therapist.

What I can say from reading your note:

This has been going on for a long time - at least since high school if not before.

Your couch son will not improve by being compared to his achievement oriented step siblings. If that were going to kick in it would have happened by now.

You son may have a variety of difficulties ranging from learning disabilities to depression to just really bad habits. The family social dynamic may not approve but so far it has accommodated what is currently going on. Having an outside trained therapist might give you some guidance in exploring further diagnoses and ultimately creating a plan for your son to lead an independent life. I have known high achievers and low achievers who never left that living room couch. Since your son is not self motivated it will take some very consistent steps to institute constructive change. If you simply put him on the street, it does not sound like he is prepared for life. Wishing You Courage to Seek Professional Help

This is not ''part of the growing.'' Tell him he has two options: pay rent and act like an adult or get treated like a child. He doesn't get the best of both worlds. If he won't pay rent, then you take away the video games (lock them up) and anything else he does instead of working or going to school (community college, adult school, whatever). Give him a list of chores. If he gets truly belligerent, then you need a family counselor. If this goes on, at some point, you'll have to kick him out. Zero Tolerance

You have probably heard this before, and it's the hardest thing you will ever have to do, but its time for your son to leave the nest and fly. My mom had to do this with my brother years ago and it was the best thing she could have ever done for him.

She gave him 60 days notice to find a full time job and a place to rent. He was living in Marin and working part time. He found a house to share with 3 other guys, and asked for more hours at work.

A friend recently did something similar with her 20 y.o. son (a high school classmate of my daughter). He wasn't even working. He stayed with a friend until they got sick of him, then his aunt, and they were ready to kick him out. Only then did he get a job at Walmart, and rent a room from some people who were sharing a house. Right now he's pretty angry at his mom, but I'm sure as he matures, he'll realize it was the best thing for him.

The other thing you can do is to see if he is interested in some kind of post-high school vocational training program, like they have at Wyotech or Everest. HVAC is highly needed and a big paycheck too.

BTW, all this comes from experience. Last Sept. my 20 y.o. moved to Sacto., got a job, shares a house with 3 other young women, and is doing OK. She's not ready to go to college yet, but she knows its a necessary part of her future. mama bird

Before there is a tragedy here, please give your son 30 days notice to vacate your home. If he has not vacated by the 31st day, please call the Sheriff and have him removed. I don't mean to be unkind, but you have enabled and contributed to his irresponsible behavior for I'm not certain how many years. You are doing him no favors by providing food and shelter for him. I am very certain your son is a good person, and for years you have not allowed him the opportunity to be a responsible person, demonstrate this goodness, and blossom into all he can be. Please stop strangling him and let him go. He will achieve his goals and dreams when he is independent of your control. Anon Mother of 3 Sons

I know lots of people have advised giving your son 30 days notice to help him move on with his life. I just wanted to say that in this economic climate that might be dangerous. There are very few jobs out there and housing is at a premium. Also, he might be suffering from a psychiatric condition and the last thing that you want is for him to go homeless.

Needless to say, I would advise that you tell him he has to get job training. Also, he needs to volunteer somewhere like at a nonprofit or soup kitchen. Tell him that's what he has to do if he's going to keep living with you. Also, make it clear that when the economy picks up again, you want him to move out. Work out a plan so that when it does pick up, even if it's not for a year or two, he'll be on his way to being independent.

Also, having him see a counselor or psychiatrist might not be a bad idea if there is something going on there. If he won't get training or volunteer, I would definitely have him looked at. Anon

I've been very reluctant to respond to this posting because my only experience with a similar situation turned out so tragically that I hesitate to bring it up. So many people have suggested a Tough Love approach -- and that may indeed be the best thing. This young man may be a bum-in-training who just needs some motivation to get his act together. But he could also be a young man in unspeakble pain on the brink of disaster. My friend found herself in a similar situation -- to all appearances her son was surly, lazy, and parasitic. He certainly inspired no sympathy in anyone. He was legally an adult, but he was still her beloved son. No one seemed to be able to reach this kid. Professionals finally convinced her that Tough Love was the only option that would force him to take care of himself. So, although it broke her heart, she threw him out. After some time, the young man committed suicide. I don't need to tell you what this did to my friend. I have no idea what should have been done, or what could have been done -- perhaps nothing was possible. Not every problem has a solution... I'm sure this was a very rare situation, but I just thought I should mention it. anonymous

This sounds like a big challenge. And I think there are many steps that a concerned parent or adult can take in response without ''throwing them out on the street''.

I would encourage you to look for a class in The Parent Project. Their curriculum is specifically designed to address difficult parenting situations. This national program has helped hundreds of thousands of families, some of them in much more dangerous situations than your own (gang involvement, heroin addiction, etc.) You can find out more about them at

I would also encourage you to contact a mental health professional to assess your son for depression or other conditions. This is a situation that can be positively, firmly and lovingly addressed. No doubt at some level he's not feeling good about it either. Best of luck, Dave

''Training'' programs for immature 20 year old?

June 2008

My daughter will turn 21 in August. She has always lived at home, and schooling has always been difficult for her. In school, she has tested too high to qualify for special ed assistance but eventually qualified under ''other health impaired'' because of problems with depression. Since graduating from highschool, she has been attending a few classes at community college and working parttime in the retail sector. She seems to enjoy the day to day aspects of working, but she is very worried that she cannot earn a living wage. She has failed or withdrawn from almost all of the academic college classes she has attempted. The only academic classes she has passed are 1st semester Japanese and 2 semesters of intro Japanese conversation. We charge her ''rent'' (which we are putting in a separate bank account for her possible use if she decides to move out, wants to try an expensive program, etc). (Also, by the way, she has never learned to drive). It is probably time for her to try an alternative route, other than college. Any suggestions? In particular, I would love to find a program that mimics some of the social aspects of college--living away from home, for example, while adding some training in being an adult--how to manage financial matters, how to build a career, how to look for a job. If I can't find a program where she can live independently from us, I'm wondering if there are any local programs that offer the ''training to be an adult'' approach. I'm also interested in suggestions further afield on how to help this fledgling leave the nest and launch herself. Need a new approach

Check out College Living Experience. There is one in Monterey. I am hoping to enroll my son. They were recommended by an educational consultant. I feel your trepidation. East Bay Mom

You might look into two transition programs that have started up locally: College Internship Program in Berkeley and College Living Experience in Monterey. Both offer supported, independent living and academic support while students attend a few classes at a local college. Unfortunately, they're quite expensive. There are many other programs around the state and nationally, but the only website I knew of which collected their names seems to have gone offline. If you're interested in knowing more, I could put you in contact with a fabulous group of parents of teens and young adults with transition challenges who will know much more than I. E-mail me if you're interested. mnl

How to best help struggling college grad?

Feb 2008

Son, graduated college last May, living with a bunch of guys in a very large city elsewhere, working for the last 6 months for an international retailer making $9.50/hr and feeling taken advantage of (sounds like it to me but I don\x92t say so out loud). He\x92s also trying to get his music career going which is very difficult in itself. City is very expensive and he\x92s having a hard time getting by. On top of it, he had a DUI while here (thank God no one was hurt), spent some time in jail, and has a warrant now for unpaid fine. Husband sent him money (as loan) to pay fine and he spent it elsewhere. He\x92s alternately feeling optimistic or demoralized about his life (mentioning suicide several times since the DUI). I believe his drinking is under control. I\x92m glad that he can call me when he\x92s feeling down (he did so a couple of days ago and we talked for a long time). It does seem somewhat manipulative in that I\x92m suspecting he\x92s wanting me to offer to send him money, which I can\x92t afford to do. He won\x92t ask me directly, because he knows the answer is no - I'm firm about him standing on his own financially. And we're also firm that he's now on his own regarding the DUI, since we've helped to our limit.

I listen when he calls with his woes, I try to offer moral support and suggestions without explicitly telling him what to do because I want him to stand on his own two feet and figure it out for himself since it\x92s his life after all that he\x92s living. I believe on one level that the struggles will make him a stronger person, but on the other hand I\x92m riddled with guilt about the many ways I let him down when he was young, I\x92m worried about his suicide talk, I\x92m worried about his struggles, I\x92m worried about a downward spiral. I try not to let him know that I\x92m worried about him, because I don\x92t think this serves him in any way. Any suggestions as to the best way to deal with this and at the same time to maintain my own sanity and not to have sleepless nights about it?

Obviously Anon

Your son needs help. The good news is that he has a job. The bad news you may already know: he sounds like an alcoholic.

First, ask him to go to a 12-step meeting with AA. You can locate his closest one on the web, and give him the time and directions. (If he does attend, ask him if he raised his hand.)

Second, arrange to pay for a qualified therapist, with the money not passing through your son's hands. He needs professional evaluation and help. Note that many experienced therapists will not touch an alcoholic, if he is not in a 12-step program.

While this expenditure may be financially painful to you, consider it money that would eventually spent for his funeral. Travel for two to Boston/NY ($2k); funeral costs ($5-10K). Your son well and alive (priceless).

Good luck. You have my sympathies. Friend of a friend of Bill Wilson

Listening to your son's very real problems and offering moral support and suggestions are all very beneficial to him. However, I think that now may be a time to help him more directly, if you can. It's all very well and good to want your son to stand on his own two feet and figure things out for himself, but as a mother I would be very, very concerned about the fact that he has a warrant out for his arrest for his unpaid DUI fine. If he is now out of state, I'm not sure if he can be picked up by the police on the warrant in a different state, but it certainly is a possibility. And what if he comes back to California for a visit? So as a mother, I would focus on this problem first and put some effort into helping him figure out how to solve it. If you can help him sort out the next steps, that may allow some of the depression to lift and help him move forward.

Try to help your son devise a plan to pay the fine and get rid of the warrant. He may need to take on a second job on the weekend. Help him figure out what type of second job he could get (waiter, warehouse, sales?). Maybe put his music career on hold until the fine is paid off. Tough, but that's life. Whatever way, he needs to earn extra money to pay the fine and clear his records. Lay it out to him in words--that you see this as a top priority. Also get him to be sure that he has fulfilled the other elements of the DUI (such as DUI classes) so he can clear his records completely.

The sad thing about getting a DUI is that most young people don't realize that it comes with a host of other costly items and problems. Definitely adds to the depression. He needs to get out from under it all.

He is also facing many problematic practical and existential issues. It is tough for young folks today, starting out. And always has been tough for people who want to enter creative artistic fields. Many live in poverty for years while trying to get a break. It is a struggle, but he can give it a fair shot and try to accomplish his goals.

Help him see that because of the trouble with the DUI and owing money, he may need to consider other alternatives for the moment. Alternatives such as working more hours, applying for a higher-paying job, putting his music career on hold, coming home to cut costs and save some money. Laying out alternatives may help him get a broader perspective and realize that it doesn't all have to happen now and that he can get back on his feet. This might give him some hope and help alleviate some of the depression or motivate him to work harder to stay where he is.

Good luck! Anonymous

Thank you to the two replies to my questions. To the Friend of a Friend of Bill, your reply definitely got my attention and gave me food for thought. To the mom who wrote the second one, I really appreciate the time you took to think about and respond so kindly and offer me a different perspective!! A Mom

I was hoping that more people would respond to the issue of how much to do for this son. We also have an adult son, 18ys, with a history of drug abuse and ADD. He still lives at home. He is taking one class at the local JC and has a part-time job and has no outstanding warrants, so I guess he's in a better place than ''young adult son''. However, we are always waiting for the other shoe to drop. He has a history of making risky choices, frequently overdraws his bank account and doesn't want advice from us. We want him to get to a place where he can survive on his own but don't know how to get there. Like ''adult son'''s mom we struggle with guilt for not doing enough and irritation at being asked to do too much and also never really knowing when we are being realistic about his capabilities and when we are being co-dependents. Anyone with useful hindsight about walking this line? uncertain

Rent for young adult living at home

Aug 2003

My 20 year-old has held an above-average paying job for over one year now and I was hoping that he would have socked away some of the money in a savings account. However, he spends his paycheck as soon as he gets it on car parts. I would like to help him become more responsible and start charging him rent, placing the money in an account for a later date. What would be the going rate these days? Anonymous

In most places rent is supposed to be one fourth of a person's income, although I think that in the bay area it is often one half (or more, especially for young people).

Although I don't know your personal situation, here are some ideas that I had. I think that if your son is making an income that would give him sufficient funds to pay for his essentials plus enough to feel rewarded for working hard, then you should charge him whatever would be left over.

You could use this all as a positive learning experience for him by including him in your plans to save his rent money. Perhaps say to him that you are really happy for him that he is doing so well in his work and it seems like he's at a point in his life in which he is capable (in the sense that he is making enough money to save, at least) of starting to make wise financial choices for the future. Then you could say that you would like for him to start paying rent, and in helping him to be able to prepare for his future you will assist him in choosing an avenue in which to save/invest his rent money. You could help him come up with a budget by having him first budget the way he has already been spending his money and then looking at how he might alter his budget to allow for the cost of rent without feeling resentful about paying rent, but happy about the future gains of saving money.

I think it is really commendable that you want to save the money that your son will pay in rent. Anon