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How to Stop Enabling Your Adult Children

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Gone are the days when most young men and women graduated college in four years, bought a home by age 25 and started their own financially independent family before age 30. Blame it on the rigged economy, mounting debt, or just plain ignorance, but today’s “grown youth” are not prepared for adulthood. According to a study by The Society of Grownups, over 30 percent of people ages 21-45 still receive financial support from their parents. And if you are an aging parent who is still providing this support, you may be asking yourself: how do I stop enabling my adult children?

Some of you may be entering your twilight years, a time when your parents had easily separated themselves from you with no hesitation or worry. For you, however, this same separation from your own grown children may be wrought with guilt, anxiety and fear. Many twenty-somethings (and yes, even thirty-somethings) are still living comfortably inside of their parents’ nest with no plan or financial self-control. These are the grown-kids who are living paycheck to paycheck while still wasting money partying on the weekends and getting their daily $4.00 Starbucks fix. They might have no problem shelling out 20 percent of their paycheck for a new pair of Nike trainers or a weekend getaway, but an unexpected rent issue or expensive car emergency has them running to Mom or Dad to cover the costs.

Cutting the cord is hard but necessary. If they don’t learn to fend for themselves, what will they do when you’re gone? Consider these suggestions on how you can stop enabling your adult children, while still being a good parent.

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Say No

Saying no to people you love is hard. You want to help, and can’t stand seeing your child uncomfortable or struggling. But if you find yourself bailing your grown children out time and time again, you are enabling and not helping. If you never say no, they will never learn the full ramifications of their financial decisions.

Don’t Answer the Phone

It’s great if your grown child still calls you when they need advice or want someone to turn to. However, if you are consistently their one-phone-call-from-jail (figuratively or literally), then perhaps it’s time to ignore that call once in a while. Without you at their beckon call, they will be forced to deal with whatever financial emergency they find themselves in.

Give Logical Financial Incentives

If you are the type of parent who will never fully detach yourself financially from your children, then make logical decisions about when and why you are giving them money. Instead of just giving them money for Christmas, take that money and pay off some of their student loan. The average college graduate owes over $22,000 in debt, according to the New York Times, and according to Health Affairs young people are more likely to have medical debt. Putting money toward these types of expenses will help alleviate financial burdens that they should be prioritizing anyway.

“Nearly 30 percent [of millennials] have overdrawn their bank account in the last year and about 20 percent of those with a retirement account either took a loan or made a hardship withdrawal in the past 12 months” – Jessica Dickler

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Relate instead of React

When your grown child has another sad excuse why he or she can’t afford something important, relate instead of react. If you react, you respond with action. This could mean helping, paying, fixing- or, perhaps just getting worried and arguing. Instead, try relating their experience with one you have faced in the past, and suggesting a solution that worked for you. Drop small hints reminding them that you were resolute and didn’t have help, and you believe that they too have the capacity to overcome the issue.

Educate

For many young adults, ignorance about finances is an underlying cause of their financial irresponsibility and apathy. Millennials were raised in a time of rapidly changing technologies and financial institutions, and the internet has only complicated things further. The fine print, interest, taxes, scams, loans….these can all be overwhelming factors that exacerbate their financial anxiety. It would benefit them greatly if you sat down with them and explained the process of saving, investing and budgeting.


Generous and supportive parents should be applauded, but they also deserve a break. By the time well-adjusted children reach adulthood, they need to be able to stand on their own two-financially independent-feet.

Want to read stories from other parents? Check out our Parenting section at Daily Mom!

Pin-Adult Children (307×460)Sources: Axios, CNBC

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I am a father of three and my wife is a registered nurse specialized in children.

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