Advice about Parenting Young Adults

Parent Q&A

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  • Parents Getting "Canceled"

    (10 replies)

    Hi! I was recently "canceled" by my 19-year-old daughter. She is home from college for the summer, but only speaks to me in monosyllables. She finally told me this is because of "things that happened in her childhood" that she feels caused her life-long emotional damage that she can never recover from. She has not been more specific, other than to hint that I should have broken up with her father sooner. Are other parents having this experience? A friend of mine was also "cancelled" by his 21-year-old daughter, she has not communicated with him in months. I now she that "cancelling" parents is a trend online, recommended as a way to deal with conflict. Are other parents seeing this? Is it really a "thing"? Please tell me we are not alone!

    Hello there -

    My experience with this is from the kid side - I "cancelled" my parents also as a young adult for a few months. I think it was one of the best things I could have ever done, although I see now, as a parent, how painful this can be for the parents. I did it when I started therapy and needed a break from them, because too many intense feelings of anger were coming up. And it was the first time that *I set firm boundaries, asserting myself as an adult and no longer just their child. We did have some good conversations about these topics after I worked through them. But confronting my parents with my raw emotions would probably have caused a true, longlasting rift.
    o I hope you can be patient, and have faith that your child will "return" to you - with new insights about her childhood. And that you will be able to work through this together if you can stay open to her POV. I'd lighly recommend offering her family therapy at that point, just to create a safe space for all of you. My relationship with my mom (who was the one open to a dialogue) is today more loving than ever. Sending you hope and strength! 

    The tone and focus of your query is off.  First, "cancelling" is not some new phenomena.  Since the dawn of time people have distanced themselves from others who hurt them.  Focusing on whether it is this new "cancelling" trend does not go anywhere to resolve your problem.  Listen to what your daughter is saying.  She says you should have divorced your ex-husband earlier.  It is time to find out what that is about if you don't know already.  Speak with your daughter.  Offer to meet with her with a therapist who will give both of you to communicate in a constructive way.  You may or may not have done anything wrong in your upbringing.  But until you communicate with her in a safe space you will not be able to heal your relationship.

    I think it is very much a stage that young adults go through. I am 63, but I remember at age 20 I went home for the summer and I was very short and angry in all my interactions with my parents. They finally sat me down to say that they felt I acted like I hated them. I was very angry because I felt that they didn't appreciate me for who I was, their love and approval always felt conditional on whether I got good grades in college, did the things they wanted me to, and whether I was thin and pretty enough. I wanted them to spend more time listening to me, understand on an empathetic level how the things they did affected me, not always acting like they had all the answers for me, to help me to understand what was right for me in my life, and to show unconditional love regardless of my weight, accomplishments, compliance with their expectations. I recommend brushing up on reflective and empathetic listening skills, maybe try to understand how she felt about what she went through, let her know that you have confidence that she will make decisions that are right for her, and that you love her unconditionally. Every time I tried to bring up the things that happened to me that were difficult, my mom would get extremely defensive and act like a martyr. Our communication completely broke down. Maybe she would benefit from a therapist too.

    I'm sorry you are in such a painful situation. As a middle-aged person who cancelled my mother and father at 18, I can tell you it's been a thing for as long as there have been parents and children. Canceling is painful—for both parties involved. The person who cancels is suffering and dealing with the suffering in a mis-guided way. How very unfortunate that canceling as a way to deal with conflict is trending on social media.

    Since our daughter is living with you, I assume that she is financially dependent on you, at least to some extent. Have compassion for her, and find brief moments to engage with her—not pushing, prodding, or demanding she speak with you, just attempting to connect (a pleasant "Good Morning" even if met with a glare). Her behavior is harmful to both of you. You might consider validating her feelings, noting that this makes for a difficult living situation, and asking her to attend counseling, either individually or together to address the problems. It may take some time to establish a safe enough baseline where she feels she can trust you to be calm and open for her to share with you what she is trying to process on her own for now. Be patient and consider working with a therapist or counselor yourself—resentment can built when living with some who is hostile toward you.

    I recently divorced, later than I should have, but when I was able to. My daughter ghosted/canceled her father when she left for college last year. She has gone through periods of no communication with me. Fortunately, she and I both work intentionally on our relationship, and it continues to improve and grow as something really special. Her father does not. She has minimal contact, only as she feels necessary given that he is providing half of her financial support for the time being. She has done her best to tell him when she needs no contact for a specified time (e.g., 6 months), although he cannot seem to honor her needs. I don't know what the future holds for them, but I do think it will take him validating her feelings, owning his part in the situation, and engaging with her openly for their relationship to improve.

    I wish you well, and encourage you to not sit back and wait this out. She's letting you know she's suffering and doesn't know how to safely talk with you about it.

    Except in cases of genuine abuse, long-term conflict avoidance hardly seems like a good solution, although an adolescent might see it as a cool/easy answer. (I had to remind myself from time to time that kids are adolescents until roughly 27, since the brain isn't completely matured until then: Your daughter might or might not be right that you should have broken up sooner with her dad, but she's still too young to understand that not every life-changing decision is as simple as she might believe.

    While my situation was less serious, I remember those occasional outbursts and silences over real and perceived hurts. They were painful for everyone involved. I finally learned to either wait for it to blow over, or to calmly say that I loved her, wanted her to feel understood, and was willing to sit down and listen whenever she felt ready to talk, but for now was okay with distance. This worked, eventually, more often than not; mostly our girl just wanted me to acknowledge her emotions, and then she'd rant a bit about stuff--often stuff that really had nothing to do with our relationship--and clear her mind, and she felt safe doing so with me. You can always try the occasional text or voicemail to ask how she's getting along, or something like that, so she'll still feel loved. Our kids do love us, even when they're being mean or insensitive, and they do come back. Best wishes.

    I just heard a story about this on NPR - I'm so sorry this is happening to you! You may want to check out this book: Rules of Estrangement: Why Adult Children Cut Ties and How to Heal the Conflict by Joshua Coleman. I think he's local to the Bay Area and has a FB page and groups. This is my new parenting nightmare......wishing you all the best!!

    Hi, I was one of those young people that "canceled" my mom when I was around 19 years old. I broke contact with her (including financially) and didn't talk to her for about 6-9 months. It was probably the best thing I ever did for myself: I set boundaries, got a job, found a place to live, and tried to figure out who *I* was without having my mom sitting and staring at me, judging me for everything I did. I know my mom loved me but she was SO MUCH. We had a lot of emotional baggage together and it was really hard to filter that out, along with everything else I was going through (trying to go to college, figure out my sexuality, try to have romantic relationships, be an adult, etc) so I just set that boundary. It was a great lesson for all involved. I think this can be a good lesson for you too. Please consider respecting your daughter's boundaries and/or possibly consider going to therapy, with or without her, so you can better understand where she's coming from. 

    FWIW, my mom and I have a great relationship now, 30 years later. It's not perfect, but it's better. 

    I think that older teens/young adults need time and space to separate and become adults. Your daughter may have underlying issues from childhood to uncover and resolve, or she could be one of the entitled members of Gen Z who speak only in monosyllables for no justifiable reason. I would say give her space to separate. That's what we, as parents, want in the long run for our children, so that they can be responsible, mature, independent grownups. This takes time, so be patient. 

    For the past ten years or so I have spoken infrequently with my own mother, for many reasons that would take too long to enumerate here, and at age 90 she's not going to change. I sometimes think, "I don't ever want to be a mother like she is now to my own kids." And so, I am very careful when dealing with my own young-adult kids: to not pass judgment, to be supportive as much as possible, to listen, to be fair to each of them, to never get stuck in my own way of doing things, to be open-minded, and to try to see things from their perspective.

    I can speak from the kid side of this.  I on and off again asked for space in my early 20’s and my Mom couldn’t do it.  It starts in the teen years- when kids want to have their own ideas and try on different ways of life.  About having opinions about when to divorce and timing- it’s an immature comment but you have to take the high road.  She wants to process this time with you- so I’d just either listen and shake your head uhh huh…. Or validate the feelings and really see her point of view.  My situation turned out to be discovering out a past of tortuous emotional abuse- which I suspected all along- and major gaslighting to the point where I get treated as an outcast lots of other places cause I don't know how to be considered important.  The fact is kids are kids even while an adult- you will always have to take the high rode cause your kid counts on you to model this.  My mother never took the high road and I had to make some painful decisions in my 30’s- she never caught on.  Whatever you do- I would say be the person you want her to be as far as morals and values and she may mirror that back.  

    I'm so sorry you're going through this painful experience. My child is too young but I have experienced it from a child perspective. I know it doesn't make it better but the fact that your daughter can share with you why she is "ghosting" or "distancing" from you provides a sliver of hope and an opening for you to work through the issues together or for her to work through her issues and reconcile in the future. I recommend that you work with your own therapist as well. 

    I am at a point where there is zero hope for reconciliation and I have declared my father dead to me about 10 years ago. I send the obligatory birthday presents and make a brief phone call on a major holiday and his birthday. I don't want to know anything about his life and I don't want to share anything about my life with him. I say what he wants to hear from me and be done with it. I explored this with my therapist for many years and I have decided that the benefit I would gain would not outweigh the time, effort, work, and pain required to reconcile with my father. With my mother, I often wondered whether there would be a chance for reconciliation. But, every time I try to open up and talk about my issues with her, her words hurt me more. So, I am taking a similar approach now. I left home as a teenager and living away from my parents was one of the best and healthiest things I did that put me on a path of academic and social success. In my youth, I'd often go several weeks to a couple of months without talking with my parents. I was and am the happiest when I have a prolonged period of not speaking with my parents. I do feel bad that my parents were worried about my safety and I sure hope that my child won't disappear like I did. 

    I consider my parents narcissistic, verbally abusive, emotionally unstable, controlling, and they were physically abusive when I was little. However, the interesting thing is they do not think they are bad parents. They believe that they have gone above and beyond to be the best parents they could and made tremendous sacrifices for me. So, they don't understand why I am so cold to them. They just think I'm a very cold hearted person. (I'm actually a very extroverted, warm, and affectionate person who likes to smile and hug just about everyone I meet.)

    This dynamic makes me think, as parents, we all think we are doing our best and many of us are, but there will always be something that disappoints the child. My hope is that my child's disappointment in me will not be as catastrophic as mine was. 

    I hope your daughter will return to you and as adults, you and your daughter can have a mutually respectful friendship and mother - daughter relationship. 

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  • How can I help unmotivated 19 year old son?

    (7 replies)

    Our son is a very immature 19 year old. He dropped out of high school and  can't seem to hold a job, When not sleeping, he is on computer screens.  We rent a room in a house where he lives.  We also pay for his food and medical expenses.  We tell him that graduating high school should be his  highest priority. We have offered to pay for a tutor. He cannot manage money, He eats poorly and does not exercise.   He has extreme social anxiety.  He has no social life.  He rarely leaves his room. He has begun speaking about suicide.  He will not see a therapist (he was in therapy for years) or work with a life coach. He refuses all help.  I assure him that I love him and provide food and shelter.  But I don't want him to feel comfortable in his current state .I tell him that I wish he would let me help him make a plan for how to graduate high school. I tell him that at some point he will need to support himself. I don't know what more I can do. Legally, he is an adult.  Thank you for any ideas about how to help him and find support for myself.

    Although your son is legally an adult, he is not acting like an adult. Since you are supporting him, you can definitely impose some rules that go with your support. Have you considered a gap year program like SOAR? Has he been evaluated for ADHD or learning disabilities? My young adult son with ADHD would like nothing better than to sit in his room all day on screens, not eating, not exercising, and being generally unpleasant (he doesn't believe any of this). In exchange for our continued support, we are requiring him to travel and are enrolling him in supportive programs with minimal screen access. He has chosen these programs, though not without some drama. There are lots of gap year programs that might fit the bill for your son, and some of them come with college credit that he could apply towards high school. We've seen a remarkable difference after just a month or two of new experiences and no video games, and he seems to have no trouble fitting into these programs. Shockingly, we discovered that he even manages his money when out in the world. We're hoping that after a year or so of this he'll be able to come home and attempt college, but at the very least he's getting some time to grow up without screens. Good luck!

    I have a 19-year-old as well. In a similar situation but did manage to graduate high school. Honestly it sounds to me like your son is accepting plenty of help, but only from you. You are basically enabling his dysfunction by giving him everything he needs to exist on his own terms. Unfortunately that’s not the way the world works. I would suggest that if he does not want to get therapy or medication or in any way addressed his anxiety, you give him less help. For example you could give him notice and cut off his phone and/or Internet access. If you pay for it you don’t have to continue it. You can buy him only what it would take to physically sustain him – rice and beans and some kind of vegetable– carrots have a good shelf life. If he needs Internet, he can go to an Internet café. If he needs money, he needs to get a job. His housing and his food are paid for, so he would not need a particularly good job, and there are plenty of menial jobs out there, just something to get him through and that might get him started. My first job was scooping ice cream. My son currently works at a summer camp washing dishes and serving the kids dinner. Once summer is done, he will be having to look for a job and housing, but he knows the deal and while he has the money, he does not want to spend it on incidentals. He wants to save it . Our son has been given notice (he was living at home) that he cannot stay at home and I think/hope he has gotten used to that idea. We are waiting with bated breath to see what happens with him. We are very worried. But we know that the former situation of him living at home spending all his time on the computer or in bed (or both) and failing his classes at the JC and becoming increasingly toxic towards us, was not sustainable and not good for anybody, most especially him. I love my son too much to watch him waste time coasting downhill when there are so many opportunities and options open to him. I know that you do too. Toughlove is really tough.

    This is a difficult situation. In general I think it's a really bad idea to pay for an over-18 year old's expenses if they refuse to go to school or get a job. The more you financially support their choice to do nothing (paying for screens, wifi, rent, etc.) the less motivation your adult kid has to come up with some sort of plan of their own. But because your son is talking about suicide and he sounds really depressed, I can see how you might be afraid to start cutting back on all you are doing for him.

    In any case, I'm not sure focusing on high school is the most important thing right now. It sounds like the first priority is mental health help, and if he won't see a therapist, maybe he could at least agree to talk to a psychiatrist for a medication evaluation? And if he's threatening suicide he may need to be hospitalized. Also, though maybe you don't want him living in your house (completely understandable) I wonder if you renting him his own place is too comfortable and at the same time is increasing his isolating and loneliness. 

    First I want to say this is a very hard situation as a parent. I am sorry you and your son are going through this. It seems to me your son is in crisis. It is true he is an adult but you are paying all of his expenses, therefore you have some leverage. I believe your son would benefit from either a Wilderness Therapy or Residential Therapy for his depression. Did he have an IEP in school? That can help you until he graduates High School or until 21 I believe. There is a Facebook Group called WTRS Wilderness Therapy and Residential Search. There are many many folks on there with lots of experience on the group. They can help with advice, support and recommendations. Additionally there is a Parent/Guardian support group call Willows in the Wind that meets monthly (currently remotely) that also provides support, ideas, and resources. I wouldn't wait if he is having suicidal ideation. You can also use a 5150 and include Berkeley Mental Health Crisis in the call to have him admitted to a hospital if you believe he is a danger to himself. 

    My sympathy on this difficult situation.  I have a close friend in Georgia whose son also dropped out of high school.  Interestingly, she did NOT push him to finish high school.  She provided a place to live, health insurance, and maybe food in the home--but he was completely on his own for spending money.  There was not an issue with substance use.  Fast forward a few years--he came to her and said he wanted to take the high school equivalency exam, passed it, went to community college, then Georgia State, is now a documentary film maker and doing well.  Each situation is unique--I'm just suggesting it may help to step back and clarify what you are willing to do (and not do), maybe with the help of therapist for yourself...this stuff is hard.

    This sounds so hard! It’s good you’re asking for help & different points of view because it sounds like it’s difficult for you to get perspective. I agree with others that your continued support without expectations is a problem. You are being controlled by him & confirming some idea that he is still a baby while also allowing him to sleep & play computer games all day- not what you’d allow a baby to do!

    id stop paying for internet, and a smart phone. Just his rent & medical expenses & food until he agrees to a treatment program. If he threatens suicide take him seriously & call the police. you can set limits lovingly- assuring him you are doing this for his good- like you keep babies/toddlers safe.

    I am really sorry.  Lexapro did help my son with social anxiety and depression.  I would haul him in to a psychiatrist (in person or online) for an assessment if at all possible, but I get that it might not be possible.  For myself I went into individual therapy for support and also got an Ativan prescription, but I've heard NAMI has groups.  Maybe if you saw a psychiatrist once (if your son won't go) they could give you some advice.  I think psychiatrists just have broader knowledge in certain areas than psychologists/LCSW/therapists, having dealt with both.  I am very sorry that your son is speaking about suicide, that must be so sad for you to hear. 

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  • I'm looking for creative ideas to share with neurodiverse young adults who lack extensive social networks, to find community.

    Are there groups, associations that host social events locally?

    It's tough enough for neurotypicals to feel a sense of belonging in this area these days.


    Thank you for asking this. I was considering posting a similar question. I am also looking for some sort of social group/support group for an 18-year old who was recently diagnosed as 2e. I found some but they are for older adults or teens still in high school. She has graduated from high school but is not ready to take on college just yet and trying to figure out next steps. I would love to hear if you discover any resources or opportunities.

    If you find a group, I think my daughter would be interested, even with one friend.

    In case you don't find social networks that fill the need, might I suggest thinking about their strengths and activities they enjoy, and then figure out how to apply that to in-person volunteer work?  I know that in-person volunteer opportunities are harder to find right now, but it doesn't have to be with a formal organization.  A young adult to accompany an older person on walks, for example, could make that exercise safer and more enjoyable and benefit both.  And there are always creative ways to use one's own skills to help others, with opportunities for building community in the process.  Feeling needed as a volunteer or helping neighbors gives me a great sense of belonging. 

    I've really appreciated the postings on this topic regarding finding social opportunities for young adults who identify as neurodivergent.

    My realization through covid is that anything that will ease our sense of isolation will serve to open up our world again and prevent downstream ill-effects from it.

    I propose that another option for our young adults is to empower them to build community-perhaps starting with meeting just a few peers @ a time casually (vs joining special organizations which in our child's case will bring up more anxiety).

    So, the more organically get-togethers happen, the better. The increased perception of safety in a small, more manageable group, will avail them toward connection.  There's no substitute I've seen for getting together with other like-minded peers, whether for coffee, walking in the serenity of nature or whatever interests they may have. It's an uplifting experience & it may be a huge step for some, but it will be an empowered step forward into possibilities. 

    If anyone is interested, pls contact me, let's explore this further. 


    "The world is full of lonely people afraid to make the 1st move."

    The Green Book

  • 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.

    Dear Friend,

    I am horribly sorry about this stressful situation. I don't have any direct personal experience to share with you, but I do want to express that I think you are handling this just right. You demonstrated a great deal of insight into your daughter's behavior and underlying nature which are really at the heart of this painful matter. Yes, your attempt to use reason may, just possibly, not have been the "best" approach here, but truthfully, what would have been? I don't think there was any response you could have given which would have addressed her fear and anger. I think that the fact that your daughter is 1. abroad 2. in a training program 3. a single parent and most of all 4. a perfectionist, speak volumes. Perfectionism, in my observation, is often linked to a desire, rooted in fear, to control the situation. Her fear over your safety has triggered a desire to control you and your husband, and anger that she can't control you. She's taken a self-administered time-out; good. While she may be using it to "punish" you, she also really needs the time-out. Eventually, you will work through it, and hopefully, in time, she will develop self-insight. Best wishes to you - you are doing an amazing adult parenting job!

    Yes! I have a similar experience to share. Although, my daughter is 17 years old and living in the house with me, and I'm in my mid-50's. When I read "a perfectionist, hard on herself and others, and has always tended to take out her stress on me, her "safe" person...", I immediately related, as that describes my daughter perfectly. I am not in a high risk age group, yet my daughter grills me every time I leave the house (once a day for a walk, once a week for groceries, fully compliant with my county's strict health orders) and asks, "Is this something you are willing to die for!?" In my head I say, well, yes, I am willing to take the very slight risk of contracting COVID-19 by taking a socially distanced walk in my neighborhood with my friend.

    I take a deep breath and remind myself that she tends to be anxious, and these are anxiety producing times. It's just the two of us in the house, so we keep our distance for the most part, getting together over a brief dinner each evening and occasionally for an after dinner movie. My daughter is of the age when she needs to individuate from me, so I do my best to share just the information I feel essential she have - I'm sorry if you feel uncomfortable with me taking a walk with my friend. If you feel by doing this I am unduly risking my health or exposing you, I'd like to hear your concerns. I am following the county guidelines for exercising in the neighborhood while physically distancing from my friend. I wear a mask and wash my hands as soon as I get home. I don't bring up school related issues as that sends her over the edge. When she brings them up, I say something like: These are very uncertain times and we just don't know what next year (or the college application process or ...) will look like. I'm going to trust we'll all make the necessary adjustments to figure things out over time. She generally glares at me and sulks, or stomps to her room and slams the door. I do my best to ignore it. In the beginning, I was accused of being a horrible parent when I encouraged her to go for a walk with a friend, that "all my friends' parents actually care if they get sick and die!" She has now gone to a friend's house 3 times over the past 3 weeks, to sit outside 6ft apart with a total of 4 girls to celebrate birthdays. I keep my mouth shut as I watch it evolve (it helps that I trust the other parents to maintain protocol).

    I can't say anything like: This must be hard (or frustrating or scary or ...) for you. She explodes. I can say: I think these times are particularly difficult for young people like you and elders like your grandpa (isolated in a skilled nursing facility).

    Our interactions have generally not been pleasant, yet as the weeks go by, they are slowly becoming less unpleasant. I try to remember her burdens are not my burdens and work to keep my self emotionally level despite her moods. I'm glad we can "talk" about it. You're definitely not alone!

    Yes, I do have an adult child, and in the past, I have had communication problems similar to yours. I believe that communicating via email is the problem. Communication via telephone is so much better. Email can be taken in so many different ways. With the telephone, people can react in real time and sense each other's emotions.

    This is the original poster:  Thanks so much for your responses, especially those from parents who are having a similar experience or can imagine mine. After a few weeks of silence, our daughter e-mailed me with some family news, and suggested we might want to telephone. The three of us ended up having some longish, courteous conversations, talking about the grandkids, her course of study, work, politics, etc. I dodged her question about whether I was going to demonstrations, and she accepted this. 

    The subject of our painful e-mails arose: I mostly listened to her, saying at last that I did understand how worried she was about us, that I used to worry about my own mother. Her original e-mail had been even angrier, she told me; I admitted that I had written a furious response, but not sent it. (That e-mail was more than furious; it would have devastated her. Fortunately, I learned the value of keeping my temper when she was a teenager.)

    The other thing I volunteered was that the pandemic's course is quite unpredictable, and so we might not be able to see each other for a long time--it's been more than 7 months already--and therefore I intend to be all the more careful in my communications, since we've just seen how easy it is to misunderstand and hurt one another. Our daughter appeared to agree with this. 

    WOW! Thanks so much for sharing this result. I am one who responded to your original post and am grateful for your share. I can learn from you and continue to work on improving my communication and relationship with my soon-to-be-adult daughter. I'm so proud of you and your daughter!

    As an adult child I understand your daughter's worry and concern (and often share it) but strongly believe that my parents are adults and I have no right to tell them what to do or impose my will on them.  I do restrict their access to my kids since I do think it is risky for them to be around children who are not fully quarantined and I don't want my kids to live with the knowledge that they killed their grandparents if they turn out to give the virus to them.  But those are my children and my choice who they can see; otherwise I  don't tell my parents what to do the same way they don't tell me what to do anymore.  I think if your daughter feels strongly that she can tell you how to act and it ruins your relationship for you to choose to do the opposite, you will be totally justified in not telling her about your outings and maybe even going as far as lying and saying you never leave the house.  It is none of her business what you do, she is too far away to know, and retaining good relationship justifies the means of a few lies.  Just my opinion. 

  • 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.

    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!

    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.

    What about getting a restraining order against them?

    I wonder if you are looking at this through the correct lens.  Is it a landlord-tenant issue or a domestic violence issue?  Domestic violence is not just intimate partner violence; it can be child against parent as well.  If an adult child has been assaultive/abusive (even emotional/verbal abuse), a parent should consider looking at resources for victims of domestic violence, including restraining order clinics.  There are many local resources (STAND, Bay Area Legal, the Family Justice Center, and the Alameda and Contra Costa Superior Court websites).  The Domestic Violence Restraining Order forms are pretty user friendly, and the courts have trained facilitators who can help people who are self-represented (as most people seeking restraining orders are). If a person has grounds for a restraining order, a court may order the restrained party to immediately move out of the home.  

    You do not need to feel unsafe in your own home.  

    Just exactly how you handle this may depend on the city you are in. Different cities have different rent control laws which may pertain. I would suggest that even if you cannot hire an attorney for the eviction, you hire an attorney who helps property owners with similar problems in your city for a consult. If there is no rent control in your city, it may be a little bit easier. 

    You are correct that adult children (and their friends) living in your home have rights, even if they have never paid any rent and do nothing but eat your food, leave dirty dishes all over the house, and lie around smoking weed and playing video games.

    However, these rights do not extend to being able to remain in the home after assaulting you. The law is very clear on this. The documented violence and any threats of violence is where you should put your focus. The "tenants" may be able to explain away the fire as "an accident" and if their drug use is primarily marijuana and alcohol, they may be able to claim this is "a lifestyle choice" -- but the one thing that cannot be waved away is violence.

    You need to file a restraining order (RO). Download the forms from the Alameda County website and follow the instructions. Include the dates when the police came out (and the police report numbers, if possible). Describe any injuries and if you have any photos of bruises, etc, attach these as an exhibit. You do not need a lawyer for this or any other stage of the process. You will need to have the restraining order personally served (handed to) your adult child by someone over 18. This does not have to be a professional server but it cannot be you or anyone directly involved in the restraining order.

    If your adult child's partner has been threatening or violent to you, file two separate ROs. If that person has not been abusive to you but has simply sat back and watched you being abused, I think your best bet is to hope she/he moves out with your adult child rather than trying to do an RO without sufficient cause which could backfire on you. Likely this person will not wish to remain living in a home which your child cannot come near.

    Once your RO has been granted, it is important that you make use of it consistently and do not start to feel sorry for your adult child and let him/her back until a significant time has passed and the behaviors which led to the abuse (substance abuse, inability or unwillingness to control anger, a sense of entitlement) have been addressed and overcome. Remember that allowing a situation to continue in which your child is assaulting you is not actually protecting your child. This behavior practiced outside the home could lead to your adult child getting shot or sent to jail. 

    Once you have the RO, keep it handy and call the police every time your adult child shows up at your home. The police will then take your adult child to jail. (By law, they must.) This process will lack any of the stress-release your adult child may be getting from bullying you and will instead convey in no uncertain terms that mistreating you is unacceptable and illegal and has immediate unpleasant consequences.

    As far as having your adult child get his/her belongings out of the house after the RO has been served, they will have to arrange for a neutral third party to come and collect the stuff. Stay strong and remember: whatever problems your adult child may have, even if this includes mental health problems and drug addiction, this does not give your child a free pass to abuse you. Violence tends to escalate so you need to make use of the court system and the police to stop it before it gets worse. You have the right to peace and safety in your own home and tenant laws do not grant a tenant the right to assault or threaten you. 

    Also, you can contact the Family Violence Law Center in Oakland:

    They were very helpful to me when I had to file a RO against an ex.  

  • 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! 

    It's a lot of pressure having very successful academically accomplished parents. Your daughter is very young and it is common to flounder for a while after college, or at least not to know immediately what you want to do - especially if your parents have been supporting you and you did not have a specific passion or career goal. She needs time to find out who she is and what she wants to do. You don't describe the nature of the post grad service but that seems a good opportunity exp. given the cost of housing right now. Paying for her therapy and health needs aside, I don't see why you would continue to support her if she has housing, a $600 a month stipend plus money in the bank! I don't think you should push her to go to grad school until she has spent some time working and supporting herself or mostly supporting herself and is sure what she wants to study. I doubt it is all that common these days to go straight through from college to grad school.

    I have a 21 year old who is in her final year of college, suffers from depression, three (3) different forms of anxiety is on lots of meds, etc..  So on that level I understand what you are going through.  She lives at home, goes to therapy.  We also have paid for her education so again, I get it.  While my family is not as financially well off as it sound as you might be, we love our child and give her the best we can.  However, we put ground rules in place about what she wants and desires.  She is required to have employment and does some simple chores in order live in our house.  We want to teach her to value money and what it takes to earn money.  My best suggestion to you is to cut her off past paying for her education and car insurance, health insurance.  If she remains a full time student, she can be on your work insurance until she is 26.  She must have a job to pay for her personal needs.  If you continue to pay for her, she will never learn to survive on her own.  If you do decide to keep paying for her personal needs, you should have her provide you proof that she is taking classes.   I would also suggest some family therapy for you, dad and her to discuss your concerns.   I know you love her and you are a good mom, now you have to find courage to push her to the edge of nest so she can fly.  Last, comparing two kids does not get anyone anywhere.  Kids are different even raised in the same home.  Mine were and there is a vast age difference between them.  Best of luck and take care.  

    My son is young so this comes from introspection of my youth rather than experience as a parent: I would write her a letter explicitly defining how your roles have changed now that she has graduated. You as a parent will treat her as a peer and responsible adult capable of making her own decisions. You won’t nag her or try to control her life or express disappointment in her decisions. She as an adult will pay her own way and wont assume that you will bail her out or pay for her daily living expenses. 

    I would also encourage her to take a gap year either traveling or peace Corp or volunteering in another part of the USA or other country. Get out and see the world and find herself when she is on her own. Encourage her to write about her experiences and see if she does in fact love writing as a career. $11k is enough money to do so. When she comes back she can find a “regular” job that pays her rent and pursue whatever direction she likes but I definitely get the sense that she needs some time on her own. This is what I did at that age (with much less money and no family money as a backup) and it really helped me transition into adulthood with more sense of myself. 

    I think supporting her mental health is great. She is fortunate to have some financial backup. I think you should help her learn to take care of herself by making her be responsible for everything except healthcare until she has a job that can support her in that too. As long as you pay, she will rely on it and not learn, then she will think you think she can't do it. Learned helplessness would be a detriment to her self esteem. Good luck. ( I grew up very poor and know what it is like to not have money for food or to do laundry, etc. and I am a responsible money manager as a result.)

    I'm sorry you are feeling so distraught and guilty! It sounds to me llke you have been a responsive parent, helping a child whose path hasn't been clear and who has some real challenges with her mental health. She sounds like she has some resilience too, graduating college in four years, finding the internship and finding a job for the summer and going to therapy, even if it's with your support are all real accomplishments! Since you can afford it why not get some therapy/counseling yourself to alleviate your guilt and figure out a plan that feels right for your family? I have done that while parenting an anxious and depressed child and found it very helpful. It's stressful to parent a more complicated kid (my other one is much more secure like yours). There really is no one right way or magic perfect thing to do to create a happy, independent adult. You sound like a loving mom who is putting too much pressure on herself. I'm rooting for you!

    I'm so sorry for all of you as this is a multi-layered and complicated issue.  My gut feeling is that she should use her savings because it gives her a "buy in" and incentive to earn money.  We also paid for our son's education and I regret not having required him to earn $4-5000. total for his education as a buy in.    My 25 y/o son has launched but, for example, we subsidize specific items such as gym membership (which I see as part of mental and physical healthcare), therapy, and the cost of a montly card for public transportation. (He lives abroad right now).   I think she will feel proud of herself if she's paying for certain things like rent and food.   I want to encourage you to see a therapist to help you through this without judgement!   my sympathies; parenting can be so challenging.  

    You have my sympathies.

    My recommendation is that whatever help you give her must be completely defined: exactly what you will pay for and for how long. Include parameters: we will pay for x for this amount of time; after that, we expect you to take care of it. And then: make good on that! If you keep letting the deadline slip, you will reinforce the message that it's not a solid requirement. 

    You are absolutely correct: you are not helping her become independent if you give indefinite support, AND you are giving her the message that you don't believe she is capable of supporting herself. I have sat by and watched a tremendous amount of enabling done by some of my family members towards their adult children; it is clear that it does not help the child, and it devastates the parents.

    Best of luck.

    I say you should be very proud of your daughter, and actually feel blessed that you both had had so many opportunities. Obviously you love your daughter and she respect you and listen to your advices. The US culture is really hard on family and this fascination with independence. It is cultural, I'm 57 years old, lived with my parents until I was 27, had free education ( public school in my country ) My parents help me so much including helping with a down payment for a home.It is all good, I'm a successful independent women. Thank you to my Dad I'm in a better situation than other friends. I did not abused my parents, they help me and I appreciated it. Now, actually is my turn to help them out :) 

    Just be there for your daughter, help her, help her invest her money, help her grow, trust in her. She is privilege, and so are you. Maybe do something together to help the people around you. If she says she needs a little extra money and you have it, why not? She is doing the right thing, why make her life more difficult? You will "cut the cord" meantime, give her a break.

    My son suffers similarly with ADD, anxiety, depression and low self esteem. For him this means that he is emotionally immature and a couple of years behind his peers. He keeps up academically but often cannot cope emotionally. Your daughter might need extra time to mature. There is nothing wrong with this. Just because some kids are independent upon finishing college doesn’t mean they all are. 

    It sounds to me like you have provided her an appropriate amount of scaffolding and support and are fortunate enough to be able to afford to do so. I hear what you’re saying about wanting her to take responsibility. Perhaps you can carve out areas for her to take responsibility while still providing a safety net. But maybe you are being too hard on yourself and on her for the help you have given her. My advice is to keep guiding here and gently encouraging her to take on more responsibility. It will happen in time. 

    I am personally against the idea of withdrawing financial support based on the idea that this teaches independence. It feels cruel and unnecessary. I'm from a cultural background where it's not unusual for young adults to depend on family to get by. The idea of "launching" or "cutting the cord" at 18 or at the end of college graduation isn't as common, and parents help out the child if/when they can without the child being labeled as a failure. What I will tell my son when he is older is "I will help you do anything, but I will not help you do nothing". If he has a plan, even if it's hair-brained, I'll do my best to be supportive. Good luck to you.

    Hello! I'm an adult with ADHD. 25 years ago I easily could have been your daughter. I'm a very successful commercial artist but have learned much the hard way. Here's what I've learned about myself, my parents and money. Use what's useful. :D

    I thrive with budgets, plans and structure around money and finances. Anyone who can help me with this is greatly appreciated. And it sounds like your daughter already knows this about herself which is remarkable. (It took me years of running out of money to figure out that I have a hard time, in my head, of keeping track of bank accounts etc.) I WISH my parents hadn't taken such a hard line around financial help earlier in my adult life but instead offered to help with budgeting, investing etc. (Not giving me money per se, but instead offering to help with planning, book keeping etc.) This is a higher level organizing issue on my part, not a lack of interest in success.

    I have always been much more successful at work than at school. I found it liberating to go to work every day instead of class. I like work and I'm hard working. AND having said that, transitions are hard (ie looking for a job) and staying organized (I was always terrible at jobs that didn't have a set schedule as I could never remember when I needed to get to work.) It took me years to figure this out. Now I'm almost OCD about my paper planner and my routine. And again, anyone who can help me with this is greatly appreciated and again, this is a higher level organizing issue, not a lack of interest.

    Doing something creative every day is essential to my mental health. There's a relationship for me between time in my creative flow and depression. My mind physically needs to get lost in creating. The good news is that I'm very productive in my work and can therefore support myself doing it. When I was younger (and less tired!) I would work for hours and hours, in my flow, and nothing really made me happier. (It's still this way but with family, kids etc, I have to carve out specific time to do creative work.)

    Over the years my relationship with my parents have been best when they are able to help me with organization and planning, and knowing they have my back, without judgement, when my ADHD takes over. (Especially with my kids, but that's another story.) It's been the most tested when they've taken a hard line, hoping I'll learn a lesson, etc. I know they've done a bunch of their own therapy and while I can't speak to what's happened in that therapy, my perception is that it really helped them understand my mind a bit more and take a more supportive role.

    Finally, my 20's were incredibly hard. I wasn't diagnosed with ADHD until I was 31 and I made so many mistakes, looking back. Your daughter is so lucky that you already know about the ADD and have supports around it. Writing can be a remarkable career for someone with ADD, as it offers commercial copywriting work as well as a creative outlet.

    Hope that helps!

    I'm not sure why you are feeling "wrought with guilt"? You are trying to help your daughter become independent, financially and emotionally. You've supported her through college, getting her the psych help she needs. Nothing wrong with having encouraged her to pursue college majors with good job prospects. She found out these did not work for her, she made changes and graduated. You are continuing to encourage her to find out what she can do for herself. She has some ideas; hard to know if those will allow her to become financially independent right away. Luckily she has resources, saved money, a supportive family. Sounds like she has options for pursuing a post grad service, which may work out for her.

    My advice would be to offer a tiered approach and taper her financial dependence as she has success with her career. Be very clear of your goals, acceptable timeline, how much you expect her to contribute. It's easy to be worried that it won't work out because you may not see the motivation you hope, have to push her, and since she didn't get the STEM degree, there is uncertainty whether a future career will offer the same financial security. When I was growing up with depression era parents in the '70s, there was definitely an attitude of "cutting the cord", and sink or swim. If parents don't have resources, then they need to draw the line. But if parents have financial resources, then I think it is reasonable to help your kids as long as they are showing independence over time.

    I could have written your story from my own family 45 years ago. I was the secure, confident younger child who pursued a STEM degree at my parents recommendation, but also because I was good at it. I had a secure job right after college, never again lived at home, and did quite well financially. However, my older sister, who was not academically focused, dropped out of college, worked lower paying jobs, lived at home with my parents for years before getting married. It was very hard for my PhD physicist father and biochem mom to accept. It was almost as though I absorbed all the complaints and worry they had of my sister and made them about me and so followed their advice. Eventually my sister started a business doing something she loved, was financially sable and happy. Even though my parents pushed her, they enjoyed her company while she lived at home, especially as they got older. She had a more loving relationship with them than I ever did. My parents are long gone, but I still have issues with feeling that their approval of me was based on whether I was successful by their standards (academically & financially). My sister said she never felt that way. I remained angry, had a "I'll show 'em" attitude and moved across the country and rarely visited because I was too busy pursuing with my career and life.

    I have kids who are still in high school and college. In a few years I will probably be facing this same dilemma with them, helping them become successful, happy, independent people, hopefully while maintaining a good relationship and without making them feel question their self worth based on their academic success and financial prospects.

    I get a really good impression of your daughter from the information you provided. She finished college in four years in spite of setbacks. You told her to get a summer job and she did. You told her she had to support herself and she found a way to support herself while pursuing her goals. All good! Now, she is a bit worried about money and asking for help. You are thinking she has enough money. Since you are financially secure, I suggest you give a yearly gift to both of your kids Ask them to save it. Maybe it is an emergency fund. Or to buy a house someday. You can set parameters. That way they will not be depending on you, but you are still helping. Of course, once you gift the money, they can spend it however they like, but they seem to do as you ask, so it seems like a good bet. 

    I have two kids in their early 30's and a third who is just starting college, so I have been in your place. It's expensive to live in the Bay Area.  Gone are the days when a recent college grad could get a small apartment with a low-paying starter job and get by just fine. Even kids coming out of college now with an engineering degree are struggling to afford the basics that an English major in the 1970's had no problem affording. I recently met a young doctor who moved to Reno because she could not afford to live in the Bay Area and have kids and a house. A doctor!  

    I want to reassure you that most parents of 20-somethings and 30-somethings here in the Bay Area are in the exact same situation that you are. My kids grew up in Berkeley. They and all their friends, now in their early 30', had and continue to have, some sort of financial support from their parents over the years. My friends and I have paid rent stipends, gifted used cars, paid for phones and the health insurance, paid the therapist bills. We've funded trips for job interviews and paid for interview clothes, covered living expenses for low-pay or no-pay internships in another state, and now that these kids are in their 30's and getting married and having babies, they are helping their young adults with down payments on a house, or adding cottages to the backyard for their adult kids to live in. The kids who couldn't get financial help from their parents have mostly moved out of state to more affordable areas. I don't want my kids to leave!  I like having them around!

    Your daughter sounds like she is doing great - she finished college and has goals. Not every parent of a 20-something can say that!   I urge you to help her in whatever way you can, and support her to the extent you can. Rich families have always done this - provided their kids with jobs in the family business, bought houses for them, trust funds, etc. Now we middle class parents are figuring out how to do that for our kids. Personally I really like the idea of a multi-generational family situation and I'm figuring out how to make my house bigger so my kids will move back in when they have kids!

    We are in different financial circumstances, which our daughter, a recent grad, knows. We did help her get through college debt-free. She also wants to work in the arts, and is unclear about what her long-term work will be. We pay for a few things like cell-phone and health insurance. She's mostly self-supporting in terms of her day-to-day expenses, doing various "gig" type jobs. The good thing about this year of difficulty finding steady work is she sees the need to return to grad school for a better way to support herself. Given your daughter's mental-health needs, I would advise patience, and maybe some compromises about what she pays and what you pay. Friends who have more income than we do, often seem to be paying for rent while their children do unpaid or poorly paid internships. (One way the economy has radically changed is that entry-level jobs in the arts that my generation did, are now internships.)

    I have a college student child and am also the stepparent to several kids in their mid to late 30s.  They all had quite a bit of financial support at your daughter's age, and while the two oldest are now fully financially independent; the youngest still gets some support.  If your daughter is responsible with money, and working (whether paid or unpaid) or in school, I don't see any danger in continuing to help her.  I tend to think it's better to pay rent, or pay cell phone bills, and/or car insurance, than give an "allowance," because cash can be spent on anything and I think people naturally tend to get more dependent on a monthly payment.  If you are paying the rent, the cell phone, and the car expenses, that leaves plenty for her to worry about - food, entertainment, clothing.  She'll get there.  The fact that she has a sizeable bank balance at such a young age shows she is responsible.  It will be OK. 

  • 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.

    Sorry I do not have any simple answers for you; this must be so frustrating!    If your child has a mental illness, NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) has support groups for families, as does DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance).  There is a monthly parent support group in San Francisco that recently divided into 2 groups, parents of 18-25 Y.O. and 13-17.  Have been attending for several years and find it extremely helpful in support and insights.  It does not focus specifically on "failure to launch," but several parents have similar issues.   If you want to private message me I can email you information on it.  Hopefully someone knows of a similar group in the East Bay.

  • 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

    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.

    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"

    From the history you describe, it's likely your son is suffering from PTSD. Though therapy can be helpful, it does not deal with the underlying trauma and so does not resolve the original state. An approach that deals effectively with PTSD and its resulting depression is classical homeopathy. Homeopathy is effective because it treats the person holistically at all levels - mentally, emotionally and physically. I would strongly recommend that you take your son for a homeopathic consultation with Wanda Smith-Schick ( and Wanda is especially skilled in treating PTSD and depression. She has treated hundreds of people, including numerous veterans and hardcore homeless populations, with amazing results. Please give it a try - you are likely to be amazed as well. 

    He sounds like he is dealing with depression and some PTSD.  Have you considered a Wilderness Program?  Talked with an educational consultant?  Not cheap by any means but immensely helpful.  Our son also crashed and burned after HS, very depressed and doing many of the same things you mentioned.  We ended up sending him to Wilderness Program (Evoke Therapy in Utah) and a residential program in Oregon ( Dragonfly in Klamath Falls)  Saved his life and ours too.  You should call and speak to someone at a program for some ideas.  SO overwhelming as a parent.  Also check out Brad Reedy's book "the Heroic Parent"  Our son is now in his twenties, living independenlty, has a loving relationship and is back at school.  You will get through this but you must get help and be ready to play hardball.   These are critical years and he needs you and he needs you to be involved in his healing and well being.  Going away on vacation for two months is interesting but not very practical in my option.  Running away and hoping that it will get better is not realistic.  This is his young life you are talking about.

    You have the right to have rules to live by in your home.  You do not have to go away for 2 months to get your son to change.  Your son is currently crippled by a seemingly very treatable mental health issue.  But it is a huge plus that you & he know that he has had success in the work world in the past.  

    Something that I noticed in your post was that you said "(i've tried a lot)."  It is past time for him to start trying, even if it means that he has to leave his comfort zone.

    You can give him choices & support, in order for him to continue living in your home.  Such as he must start psychiatric treatment & therapy immediately.  You can give him reasonable deadlines (two or three weeks) for him to change to a more normal schedule that fits your lifestyle; to start a job program; to contribute to the family workload (chores, making meals, etc.); personal hygiene.  

    Otherwise, he may need the wake-up call of having to leave home.  He probably doesn't get it that Mom is not just going to (and shouldn't for his sake) take care of him indefinitely without him putting in the work to "grow up."  Parents have had to evict their abusive adult children in order to end situations such as yours, that is just starting.  You do not want to look back, when he is 30 years old, and realize that you have been putting up with an outrageous situation because you were not able to set boundaries in your own home.  

    He is not going to like you forcing change.  He will push back.  But it is your home, and your life.  Your happiness & peace is very important.  More important than allowing him to continue to live a dysfunctional lifestyle.

    Wishing you the best in a difficult situation.

    Thanks for the replies.  

    As for kicking him out, this has been suggested by friends.  But kick him out WHERE?  Telegraph Av.?  E. 14th St?  A homeless woman was just found dead by Berkeley High.  This happens all the time.  This is your solution?  No thanks.  

    Youth from program to help youth texting him but he won't respond.  They make appTs. with me to come talk to him but he sleeps days so they haven't been able to come since he is sleeping at the time.

    Soc. Worker for Berkeley says she can't do anything.  She covers whole city of Berkeley by herself--imagine--has no time.  The guy at Kaiser would work with him.  I'll see if he can advise me.

    Good News:  He got PT job.  I heard him call in sick and say "Tell YouthWorks", so i know it's good job.  He walks w. umbrella, then comes back & eats the food i set out (usually).   He glues himself to  computer the minute he gets in the door. Looks like 20 hrs. a week.  

     First day he came back with big fat sandwich from Sandwich Shop and devoured it.  On weekends he reverts to nightowl schedule, glued to computer all night.  

    YES i'm glad he's working!  

    He will cook ravioli or heat frozen dinner (very small amount of food) and eat just that, one meal a day.  He eats ice cream, cookies, scones etc. i get/make.  He's not starving but not getting enough to eat. 

    This was posted 1/9/17  and varying responses and opinions were received.  Some said kick him out, try homeopathy, get him into therapy, have him 5150ed, etc.   Thanks for the responses. There was some good insight there.

     My solution was to leave the country on vacation for 2 months and let him fend for himself.  

    In spite of being dependent on me for food, roof over head, and virtually all other needs, he would not express gratitude or even speak to me.  This had been going on for years and only getting worse.  It was heartbreaking.  Dozens of things i tried failed. He would not go to therapy.

      Well i have just returned from vacation, over 2 months gone.  Guess what?  It worked.  He is happy to see me and eats with me, talks to me, helps me with computer and putting away groceries, all the things he refused to do for so long.  

      He's been in a computer program since about Sept. and has part time job as well, so life is 100 times better.  He used to up all night on  computer and in bed all day before that.  

      I'm so glad i made this decision.  It's true, abscense makes the heart grow fonder.  He had to come to grips with reality, going out shopping, taking out trash, doing dishes, cooking or at least getting frozen food & seeing how expensive that is and how to manage  limited money. It was hard, i can see.  Sadly, there was hardly anything to eat in the house when i got back & he's just as skinny as ever (or worse), but maybe that's part of the reason he now is willing to talk to me, like he used to do all his life before he got so traumatized.    He knows i love him, and there’s no need to be boycotting Mom.

  • 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? 

    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.


    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!!

    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! 

    In their they both became established in their adult lives. Until then, distance and autonomy helped. My kids were perhaps less acrimonious than yours are, but there were similarities. Older son straight thru college, career, marriage. Younger daughter drop out, in debt, car accidents. He was righteous. She was irresponsible. Now she a degree, great marriage, kids. They still don't have much in common, but they work at it. Our best shared times are vacations that don't require lockstep activities or other in-laws. Too much accomodating isn't fun. Can you skip the next big family event and take the two of them to a cabin, or casino, or whatever?  Keep in mind that the most important thing is for YOU to have a good relationship with each of them independently of each other... I'll bet they co e around in another ten years.

    I suggest family therapy, as quickly as you possibly can.

    My older sister and I never got along. In our childhood, she bullied me and put me down constantly, and no one ever wanted to see it or make her stop. I fought back, stubbornly, and we had horrible fights. I grieved for years about losing my only sibling, but in adulthood it has only gotten worse. Our mother is heartbroken, and it is really sad that I could never be a proper auntie to her children, or she to mine, because of all the tension and hurt feelings. Nip this in the bud and try to get healing now.

    When they are thirty, with established, independent adult lives. My two were not overtly hostile, but there are lots of similarities. Older son went straight thru college, then career, marriage and home ownership. Younger one dropped out, ran up debts and did scary stuff for years. They did not get along. But by their thirties they were working it out, finding a few common interests and some mutual respect. Give them space, don't force family ties, don't carry tales, and maintain a good relationship with them independently. It will get much better, but it may take another ten years.

    So sorry to hear about your situation. Growing up, my brother and I were never close. We fought as kids and were at boarding school as teens (separate places). As young adults, we lived on different coasts and never saw each other. I was the successful older sibling, making a career, saving money, getting married and having kids. He was a college dropout, under-employed, married and divorced, not building a career, former drug addict, unstable housing, couch surfing, etc.

    We are now in our 40s and have recently become close. We are business partners now. Essentially, my husband and I have invested in a company that is managed by my brother. We are both happy with this arrangement and have enjoyed being close for the first time. It took him settling down with a very responsible and stable second wife and his admitting to himself and me that he "wasted 15 years of his life". He regrets being behind his peers in nearly every way. He's now sober, mature, talented, contributing member of society. Sadly, what brought us back together is our ailing parents who have declined mentally and physically and needed our help.

    Unfortunately, I see a lot of parallels in my kids too. They are at each other all the time and are walking very different paths. One driven, successful and going places. The other struggling, resentful and jealous. I can only hope that they too will patch things up one day, even if it takes decades.

    My brother and I are now in our 40s and have always struggled to get along. I'm a "bleeding heart liberal" (his words) and he's a "realist" (his words) to short-cut the summary of our 20s and 30s. After many years of him floundering, he's now a very successful engineer with a family and a house and the whole deal. We still fight during the holidays about all sorts of political issues, but now we hug afterwards.

    I'm writing cause I really wish my parents had tried to actively help us stay in contact and get along better earlier. I grew up not understanding how my parents could live so far away from their numerous siblings and have so little contact. I've watched my sister work really hard at getting her kids (in their teens still) to see what is valuable about their relationship with each other and they have maintained a very close relationship and a super close family. I am left feeling like I wish my parents had done that for us AND struggling to figure out how to do that for my own to kids. I think it's worth trying to figure out how to get your kids to talk to each other about what is important to them about each other and their relationship. I realize that sometimes families feel like little groups of strangers but that is not my ideal. It seems worth working for something better. 

    There are a million reasons for siblings to hate each other, and I have a friend who is a sociologist who researches the topic and tells me that it is extremely common for adult siblings to totally break off contact with each other. 

    But how sad. Right?
    My sister and I did not get along well for much of our early adult lives. We get along very well now (in our 50s!). Our conflicts were fueled by competitiveness for our parents' attention and approval, and I think my mother fed the fire (unknowingly) by comparing us, talking about one with the other, and generally being too much between us. I am not in any way saying this is the case in your family, as every dynamic is different and again, I think there are lots of reasons siblings can have conflicts. Plus, my mother's a piece of work, there is no way you could compare. But I bring it up to encourage you to stay out of it and let them work it out. Maybe it is competition. Maybe they are just very different people. Who knows? But I think talking to them about each other--even if you do it to 'help' them with these conflicts--will fuel the fire. 

    Focus on your relationship with each of them and let them battle their own stuff out. 

    Hope Christmas is peaceful!

    Sorry to say - my older sis and I never got along and we still don't as thirty-something adults. We're a year apart. Our personalities are so different, there are many resentments about the past and what we each contribute to the bigger family, and bad communication. However, we're still really involved in each others' lives, because we have children who love one another and we live in neighboring towns. The resentments usually simmer beneath the surface and only pop to the surface now and then. We're also involved for our parents' sake, and despite it all, we love one another.

  • 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

    (6 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!!!

    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. 

    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".

    It sounds like a very difficult situation for all. I wonder if you ever had children of your own?  It is much harder than it appears to be a parent and especially of a kid - yes I said kid- who is difficult or confused or depressed or ?  Please try to be more of a team with your husband- and the ex wife too. Being supportive and kind is the hardest thing to do right now but it is what is needed most

    This young man has an Internet game addiction. It's a real thing. Like gambling or drugs. Is relatively new, so it's hard to approach about for the families & the kids. There are resources out there.  My kid does best out in nature, away from  electronics  where he has to apply himself, create new bonds, between real people. Talk it over with his dad offsite over dinner and have some creative ideas ready and try not to argue. Look into  working organic farming  internships.  Your whole group is a combination of enablers.  But try to be kind to each other about it, and find creative solutions.  No one person is really to blame. 

    Being a stepmom is a challenge. It's also pretty difficult to "stay out of it" when you are dealing with someone in common spaces in your house who hasn't fully "launched" yet and you don't have the usual suite of options that you would have with a regular tenant roommate to manage their behavior and contributions. I don't know the solution to your issues but I found when I became the stepmom to a stepson I hadn't previously known and hadn't expected to have living with me, I gained some comfort from reading books such as "The Enlightened Stepmother"; "Stepcoupling" and "A Career Girl's Guide to Becoming a Stepmom". The quotes in the last one in particular at least gave me a sense that I wasn't alone in being in this situation. I also found this list helpful, particularly since there were few people at my workplace and in my circles who were dealing with offspring who were older teens/young adults and their challenges and I learned a ton about how other people faced their challenges and wondered what the right thing was to do. It would be good to root around in your network of friends and colleagues and find somebody somewhere with a similar experience you can relate with and chat to. I also found it helpful to go to a therapist and focus on my interaction with the young person in those discussions. Good luck and best wishes to you.

    I was in exactly your shoes about 7 years ago! It was really uncomfortable. My stepson, then 20-21 years old, was kicked out by his mom, then came to live with us. My husband was on the road a lot for work. I was pregnant. The "kid" would wake up at 3pm, make a mess in the kitchen, and then go out to play guitar in clubs. My husband had similar guilt, too: He had had a bad time with his son during his own divorce and felt he had done a bad job, and now wanted to make it up to him. Only I was the one making it up to him! He was on the road all the time!

    It caused a huge rift in our marriage actually. Eventually, after the baby came and I got tired of having to change her diaper in the living room because he was in the only other bedroom in the house, I put my foot down and asked him directly to figure out what he was going to do for a living. Free rent for 18 months while you "figure things out" is quite enough, IMO. My husband was furious. The kid bounced around to a friend's apartment and then back to his mom's, and then his mom put HER foot down and said he could join the army or be homeless. He went into the army for 2 years and came out much more well-adjusted. If nothing else, it at least gave him a sense of how to be a roommate and clean up after himself. 

    These days I enjoy his company very much and he has a good relationship with his sisters. Adorable, actually. He still hasn't quite finished college but he's on the road towards it anyway.

    What strikes me about our similar situations is that - people are saying your stepson is "addicted to games," but then mine was "addicted to guitar." I really don't see a difference. The core problem is not having the ability to move out / pay bills / be social / have manners. There are many reasons this might be the case - blaming technology seems weird and stupid IMO. 

    I wish I could offer you a helpful answer; all I have is empathy and a suggestion that you focus less on the games and more on his social skills. How, I dunno. Best of luck tho. I've left my username visible so you can contact me if you need to. <3

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