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Adult Children—When to Help and When to Let Them Learn

Updated on March 6, 2017
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Knowing When to Help Adult Children

We have a standing joke in our home: because I am working toward a doctoral degree, my sons occasionally start spending money in their heads. The standing joke is that I tell them that they have to make their own way in the world because I am leaving my money to the dolphins. On some level, like all jokes, there is some truth to what I say. I expect them to make their own money, work hard, and find their own way in life. This article is about handling your adult children.

Immediately the words tough love comes to mind. I have counseled tons of parents who have given away their retirement and life savings to bail their children out of every manner of predicament. This article is for those parents who always say they wished they met me first.

There is a distinction between helping your child fix a problem they created and helping an adult child in a life crisis. An adult child who makes a poor decision should learn from that decision. Such as an adult child who buys a coach purse instead of paying bills. Then there are times of family crisis. A family crisis is an auto accident, cancer, layoffs, house fire, and the list goes on. Do not misunderstand, in a time of family crisis families should work together.

What to Do When an Adult Child Calls From Jail

We are starting pretty extreme. You get the call at 1 am that your adult child is in jail. After hearing their sob story about drunken driving, drug possession, or other involvement in illegal activity many parents rush to bail their child out of jail. I have maintained that if one of my children does something illegal they better not call me (they know I will not bail them out). I have completed loans for parents who have stated that they are using the money to get an adult child out of jail. Why?

Your child is an adult, they should be responsible for their actions, when you bail them out of jail and put yourself in financial dire straits, you are teaching that child that you will fix their mistakes. A friend of mine repeatedly hocked his vehicles and spent his own money to keep his son out of jail for possession of illegal substance. Even though he knows he is enabling this child he refuses to stop and let his son feel the consequences of his actions.

There is another very good reason to NOT hock the farm to bail an adult child out of jail; chances are that adult child is going to continue the behavior that put him/her in jail. Sure when you talk to the child on the phone they will swear it will never happen again, and you want to believe them. Every parent wants to believe the best about their child. There is what you believe, and then there is reality. If your child is headed down a dark path you can be a light and an example, but do not save them from their consequences. Saving the child from their own mistakes means that you do not trust them to handle the situation on their own. If that is what you believe then you did not raise your child properly.

What to Do When a Child Asks for Money

Young adults today seem to have an unyielding idea that mom and dad are made of money. If your child has a job and is responsible with their money then chances are they will not come to you for money. There are adult children who constantly spend their money carelessly and then call you to pay for things like rent. You will know these children by the comments preceding the part where they ask for money. This is the child who gets a new tattoo, new phone, buys a fancy part for a vehicle, buys new clothes, purchases frivolous items for their apartment, or worse gets a brand new vehicle they can not afford.

Learning to handle money never killed anyone. If your child’s vehicle gets repossessed because, that child can not pay, it will only hurt their credit. These types of lessons are important. If you rob your children of these lessons they will never learn what is important when it comes to money. They will continue to lean on you for help.

Case in point; My oldest son earned his first vehicle. He learned to fix the old Bronco himself and he took care of it (you could have eaten of the floors in that thing). I was very proud of him in this respect. Finally the Bronco needed work that would be too costly and my son decided to trade the vehicle in for another car. He called me after the dealer informed him that he would need a co-signer. My deal with him was that I would co-sign but, if he couldn’t make the payments on the vehicle, I was going to take it. I am sure that he never imagined that he would not be able to make the payments. Eventually he lost his job and he called me to tell me he could no longer make the payments on the vehicle, so I came and got it. It doesn’t matter that I don’t drive a stick shift or that I did not like the vehicle, I took it on principle. He was not mad because I made it clear from the beginning that I was not going to buy him a car.

As your children grow up they drift away for short spells. This is a natural process of them becoming adults. Too many parents use money as a basis for their relationship out of FEAR that their child will not have anything to do with them. That’s right, your actions are not out of love, and they are driven by fear. This is a trap for everyone involved. If you have been a good and loving parent you need not worry about your adult children never calling. They will call, and you can have great conversations about their kids and life.

What if Parents Have the Money to Help

Every parent wants their children to become a happy adult. We strive to teach our children important lessons that will forward their character. What happens when you have money and your children never have to work for anything? Well, I will tell you what happens; they become useless conceited brats who have no concept of real work. I have never met a spoiled child who was not a brat and I have never met a spoiled adult that had any concept of the real world. Make your children work for something let them help the homeless and do charity work even if you have money.

As adults your children should earn their own money. Most children of wealthy people do not want to take over the family business. Chances are they have their own dreams. Let your children have their own dreams and let them work for those dreams. When you rob your child of life experience, then they never learn to make it on their own. Eventually you will die and I am going to be honest about what happens when a wealthy person dies; the kids waste the money on stupid things until its gone then they have no idea how to function.

Case in point: A forty-four year old woman came into my office one day. She was beside herself in tears. Her father had been a famous heart surgeon. He had so much money that even until the day he died he was sending her checks. When he died all the money went to his twenty-eight year old trophy wife. That was the end of the money tree. His daughter admitted during her session that her father ruined her. She said “Michelle, he never made me do anything, so I never learned to live”. Even she realized that she would have been better off without the help of her father.

The Importance of the Sacrifice

When a person works hard for something they appreciate it. When a person is given something they do not feel a sense of responsibility for it. This is even true with college. Most of the students who worked hard in part-time jobs and worked for scholarships will appreciate their education whereas students whose parents pay for their school are twice as likely to drop out. Let them work for it.

Some parents function under the idea that they want their children to have better things than they had, well why would you want that when you turned out so well? Children need to have hardships, they need to know the world is not fair, and sometimes life sucks. Why?

Until you know pain you do not appreciate health, until you know poverty you can not appreciate wealth, until you know failure you can not appreciate an accomplishment, and until you work for something you can not take pride in owning it.

Do not rob other people of these experiences. Be there for your children with love and moral support, not to fix their mistakes and/or hand them your checkbook.

Case in point:

Years ago I had a coworker who was inappropriately emotional. She would cry uncontrollably over dogs that died twenty years ago, and tell customer intimate details of her relationships without solicitation. Her whole life, her parents had taken care of her every need including any money problems. The world revolved around her. At the age of 45 she moved back in with her parents. She didn't understand being told "No". I can't tell you what happened to her, I can tell you that I had to let her go from a part-time job.

How You Can Help an Adult Child

When your adult child calls, talk them through the problem. Discuss their resources and options. Reinforce your child's intelligence with affirming statements such as "you are smart I'm sure you will figure this out" and "you are strong enough to handle this". Let your child decide what their best option is based on the resources available. It's tempting to send money. Who doesn't want to help the people around them? You are not here to fix the lives of your children, you are here to teach them to stand on their own and think for themselves.

What if You Always Help Them

When an adult child is dependent, it creates a negative relationship between the child and parent. The child resents the parent rather than respecting the parent. If you had to rely on someone else for everything, you might start to resent them as well. The adult child starts to expect the parent to fix their life, thus creating stress for the parent. Eventually life situations implode from this scenario.

Case in point:

Years ago I knew a family where the daughter was constantly in and out of the parents house. The adult daughter wasn't on drugs but, she refused to take responsibility for herself or her own children. The adult daughter left her kids for days at a time with her parents until she finally stopped coming home. By taking on the daughters responsibilities the parents took over all the responsibilities for the grand kids.

Case in point:

An elderly couple is currently in a court battle with the husbands adult children who want half of everything the man worked during his life. Essentially, these adult children are trying to take their inheritance before their father has passed away. All their lives the father has given them everything, now they believe they are entitled to more. The man is having to fight a costly legal battle to keep his own money.

When You Should Help Your Adult Child

Most adult children will return to your house at least once. Usually this happens after college. By that time the kid no longer wants to be at home, they have tasted freedom. Our deal with our kids is they get a year after high school/college before they have to start paying rent to us for being in our house. In that year they should save money for an apartment and a car. I would never let my children starve. Short of that, all life experience is for their good. . Let your adult child live their own life. Do not try to save them. Let them save themselves. I guarantee when your children are older they will appreciate the values you taught them and be better people if you teach them to handle things themselves.

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      Vanessa 16 hours ago

      This is helping me put things into perspective. My son 32 n daughter 27 we been paying there way through every life event. Whether its rent, bail for jail for not having licence, because he wont pay his tickets, and i tell you this has happened so many times I've lost count, my daughter 2 children supporting them in more ways then other rent, clothes ect. They feel an entitlement, even if they never say those words. When we try to talk to discuss what mistakes there making and how they can change for the better they get very rude n disrespectful which my husband and I get very upset with them for. We still have boundaries, but because of her children we feel we cant let them suffer due to her mess. Our son has away of making me feel bad for his life growing up. He was always getting himself into things we didn't believe a child should talk back to aduts, and he feel since he never had a voice then, now hes an adult he can say whatever he wants to us, but his anger is directed at me. But when he gets in trouble he comes running to me, and yes i have bailed him out several times. But, this article has brought me a better understanding. Our life suffer because were still trying to take care of grown children n its not our responsibility. And long as we continue to do it they will always depend on us to get them out of stuff, and we will spend the rest of our lives in bondage to our children. Any advice would be greatly appreciated, Thanks!

    • michelleonly3 profile image
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      MD Jackson MSIOP 6 days ago from Arizona

      An adult 29 years old is well beyond the age to move out. Baring mental illness it seems a little strange that she is still living at home. There are times of hardship in a persons life where their circumstances dictate the need for help, however, she should be saving the money for her own place. What often happens is that these adult children get comfortable living with their parents and forget what it was like to stand in their own kitchen and make a sandwich from bread they bought with money they earned. There are three types of people who allow their adult children to stay at home way past a reasonable time, the first is people who know that if their kids figure out how to be independent they are never coming back (or at least that is the fear), second is people who feel guilty about parental mistakes, and are over compensating. The third type is a person who in general is a pushover. The person who is a pushover likes to keep the peace and allows all the people in their life to use them to an extreme. After me explaining those three you probably know which one your husband is in this case. Tread lightly, this may be a sore subject with him, or maybe he is at a loss for how to approach this situation. If your husband is on the same page about your daughter finding her own place then you two should give her a reasonable deadline for moving out. Good luck!

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      Tanesha Spruilll 6 days ago

      My husband and I been together for 12years married for 2 we have a 11year old together and his adult daughter who is 29 still lives with us I'm trying to get my husband to cut the cord because she is a grown adult with a son who who he lives with her mother shouldn't she be out finding her own place by now? Answers please HELP

    • michelleonly3 profile image
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      MD Jackson MSIOP 8 days ago from Arizona

      @Kristi068

      Your guilt is real, you are realizing you may have made some mistakes in the past in regard to your son. You need to know that we all do (myself included). There are no perfect parents. Sometimes you live and learn. That is just a part of being human. Don't beat yourself up too badly. I am sure you did the best you could with what you knew at the time. I hope the counseling helps.

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      KristiO68 9 days ago

      Thank you and you are correct, I keep going back and forth. One minute I'm strong and starting to set healthy boundaries and taking care of myself...and the next, I want to go back in and fix everything. I am going to start counseling ASAP because I need to work on me so I can be healthy. I know my son feels bad about himself inside and that is where it tugs at my heart, however, I need to realize that just because he feels bad doesn't mean I need to fix or "save" him. I can still love him without enabling him. I've got to let him grow up. Even he stated that he made this mess and he needs to clean it up. Thank you for your comments.

    • michelleonly3 profile image
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      MD Jackson MSIOP 10 days ago from Arizona

      @Kristi068

      Being an adult means being responsible for ones self. Your statements do not make sense. A wonderful 19 year old son would not be in jail. You also state you are not helping him anymore yet it sounds like you are trying to talk yourself out of helping him. You can’t change what you did (letting the dad raise him). However, you can establish a positive relationship with your son without rushing in to save him. The true problem you are having is that you have a broken relationship with your child and you have been trying to fix it by being the parent who saves him from adult realities. I’m recommending that you get counseling. You can’t fix your son, but you can fix yourself. The unhealthy dynamics you have created have to start with you changing. Your sons bad choices belong to your son, they are not your decisions. You most likely are guilty of not establishing a healthy relationship in adolescence with your son, however he is still responsible for his actions. No one can fix your son, he has to make good decisions to change his own life. If you are still falling for the guilt trip then that means you are not ok with yourself. Go to counseling, if you think it will help get your son get him counseling.

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      KristiO68 11 days ago

      I am so lost and hurt. I have a wonderful 19 year old son who started smoking pot when he was 16. It became serious to where that was all he did. I have enabled him out of the guilt from feeling his dad who raised him was too hard on him even though he was trying to teach him how to be a respectful young man. His biological dad was never a part of his life. Instead of having him face consequences, I over-compensated with trying to fix everything. I helped him with his school, never stuck to consequences, gave in time and time again. I put him in counseling, took him to church...you name it, I did it. He is a loving young man who is insecure and I know he loves God, but the drugs changed him. I see his biological dad's traits in him though with his bad temper, drugs, etc. My son got caught with a small marijuana blunt in his car and got arrested a year ago. I thought it would have been a wake-up call and he was put on a diversion program, but he screwed that up and went back to smoking pot. In the meanwhile, his behavior was horrible. He would yell at me if I didn't give him the car or money to the point I'd give in out of fear because he would get in my face or throw things. I then even had him baker-acted when his behavior became very bad and he almost died from doing drugs. I had no idea he was trying other things like pills, coccaine and acid. When he got out after 72 hours, he was a mess and felt so incredibly bad. he cried day in and out and wanted to truly get his life together. For a few weeks, he was on the right path, but soon he started going around the same "friends" who I knew were no good for him. It all started again. He was put on probation and violated it. He left the state to live with his biological dad who was abusive to him. It really hurt him. He came back and faced things like a man and wanted to get his life together. I got an attorney and he was in jail for 2 weeks. He got out and was on house arrest for 3 months. He started realizing what a mess he had made of his life and just wanted to get it together. In the meanwhile I had been paying for the attorney, random drug tests, probation and more. I truly thought that maybe this would finally be the turning point though. When they decided to give him one last chance with probation, he got taken off house arrest and I helped him to get his own apartment and I put a down payment on a vehicle so he could get to a job, counseling, etc. Well, he hasn't got a job and has trouble getting one due to his tattoos, but I helped him with a few jobs and he didn't show up for the interviews. I then found out he moved that same "friend" into his apartment and was smoking pot....again. He was passing drug tests by having someone else pee for him. I was always paying for his food, gas, cigarettes and rent. He has been financially ruining me. Each time I've allowed him to take my debit card to buy cigarettes or whatever and tell him not to spend any more than an amount, he always screws me over. Well, he made the choice to miss 2 random drug tests so he is going to be violated and is looking at 4-6 months in jail. He states he doesn't care anymore. He had no rent money for October and the apartment is in my name. He got mad at me and called me a couple of terrible names, to which his dad really let him have it for disrespecting me. My son's excuse is that "dad has called you names" so he uses that as his excuse. I have damaged my son by enabling him and he has never had any real consequences. I have since stopped giving him money but have so much guilt because I feel like it's my fault and now I need to fix it. If I had let him "fall" maybe he could take care of himself. The last straw was the other day when he had lost the $45 I gave him for the drug test and needed another $45, and while I was talking to his girlfriend, he said he wanted to run in and get cigarettes, so stupid me gave him my debit card again. He pulled out $30 from the ATM and never took the drug test. He also tried to manipulate my mom (his grandma) of $45 for the drug test. I try to believe him when he says he's spending money on gas, cigarettes or food....but I know in my heart what he's doing. I have put myself in financial trouble just to help him. I am depressed, scared, anxious and just cry all the time. I pray constantly and turn it over to God. This is not my son! I don't know why he just won't grow up and get his life together when I've tried to help him over and over again with enrolling him in college, finding him jobs, paying for everything, etc. I've done everything I can. I have since cut ties with him until he can get his life together, letting him know how much I do love him and that I know he can do it because he is smart, but that I have to focus on me and my life. He knows how to manipulate me though when he talks about how no one loves him and it's dad's fault for setting a bad example with calling me names, and it makes me feel like he's just this poor sad child that needs someone to just help him and fix him. I can't tell whether it's manipulation or if he really feels "broken" inside. I'm going to have to break the lease on the apartment because I'm not paying for it. I'm worried about where he'll go when he gets out. He can't live with me. I can't go through it anymore and I hope that doesn't make me a bad mom. I don't know if there are halfway houses or what. I know I can't fix him and it's up to him to make something out of his life by getting a job, staying sober, not hanging around the same friends, etc. I can't do it for him. I just feel like I'm abandoning him by not giving him money or making sure he has a place to go when he gets out. I really need some objective advice from people who have been there. It is killing me inside to where it's hard to focus on work and I'm so depressed.

    • michelleonly3 profile image
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      MD Jackson MSIOP 13 days ago from Arizona

      Hope and optimism are amazing traits that we as humans possess. We just never seem to correctly apply them. Coming to terms with your son’s behavior is difficult. That hope and optimism make you and your wife want to believe that AJ will turn his life around. Know that he may do that very thing, eventually. I will tell you that you shouldn’t discount the fact that he mowed the lawn to help you. Your son doesn’t like himself any more than you like him. This may have been a genuine act of love, he just tainted it by committing dishonest crimes against you in the process. The knife was a strange thing for him to attempt to take. I’m assuming he owns knives of his own? When we approach a problem in which we have exhausted our efforts, we have only two possible solutions 1. Learn a new skill or 2. Walk away. It might be helpful for you and your wife to get ahead of the learning curve on this and find a support group for parents. You are not alone as you can see by the posts on this article. If you know what the progression of this situation is, then you might be better equipped to handle the future of this situation. Remember that no matter what you are supposed to love your child, that doesn’t mean you allow them to walk all over you.

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      Jigggs 2 weeks ago

      I injured myself recently & today AJ showed up to cut the grass for us. My wife thought, "wow what a nice thing to do", while I thought, "wow I wonder what he wants".

      So while he was "cutting the grass" my wife went out to get some groceries and I went down to the basement to do my physio. All the while thinking well there's nothing for him to get in to besides we'll be done our little jobs before he gets the grass cut.

      So he stayed for supper and then left. It seemed to be a nice visit on the surface but my spidey senses were screaming otherwise. He told us he was making arrangements to finish high school etc etc using all the "right" words.

      Well afterwards we found that my wallet was missing cash and I found a hunting knife that I kept in my bedside dresser on the couch where he was lying down. Obviously it had fallen out of his pocket but more obvious and disturbing was the fact that he had also gone through our bedroom drawers. We're sure there's other things missing as there are a few other things out of place. I guess he came back into the house while we were busy.

      After everything we have gone through with him and everything we have helped him with he has proven once again that we cannot trust him. It was just one more punch in the gut, and an even bigger one for my wife who was holding on to that glimmer of hope that maybe just maybe he was changing.

      But you're right.

      He is on a path of self destruction. He is manipulative, a liar, and untrustworthy. Horrible horrible things to say about your own child but it's unfortunately the truth.

    • michelleonly3 profile image
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      MD Jackson MSIOP 3 weeks ago from Arizona

      @Veronica

      Normal is subjective. I think the problem here is that you did not realize what "my kids come first" meant. Obviously, the person you are with values her relationship with her kids above everything else. This person was honest with you about it. However, going forward what does that mean for you? I'm sure you have felt frustration, but consider why you love this person. Is this person a loving attentive individual? Often the reasons we love someone become the reasons we hate them as well. Maybe you can consider joining her in some of these overnight visits. During half the year my husband is so into football that I feel nonexistent. This year I decided to get into his fantasy football league, you know what, I'm having fun. I would never discourage a parent from spending time with their children. In this case, if you cant beat them, join them.

    • michelleonly3 profile image
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      MD Jackson MSIOP 3 weeks ago from Arizona

      @Ethel Tau,

      If that is your home then the 22 & 26 year old should leave not you. No one respects people they can walk all over. Serve these kids with eviction notices (in most states you would have to). They are too old to hang out at your house being disrespectful. The only exception to this is if one of them is mentally challenged or in college. Other than that, it's time for them to go.

    • michelleonly3 profile image
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      MD Jackson MSIOP 3 weeks ago from Arizona

      @serena,

      People say things in the anger of the moment both true and not true, we cannot take them back and it strains relationships. You sound like a good person. Do I think your stepfather is justified in his actions? No. We had a rule in our house about adults living at home. If they were in college they could stay rent free until they were done provided they keep their grades up OR within six months of high school graduation they could start paying rent. Each family works out the transition to adulthood in their own way. This article is about enabling adult children. You are not being enabled. It sounds like you have a good job and your focus is there. I'm sorry that your stepfather is not supportive of your education. Men tend to take offense to disrespectful behavior on a grander scale than women. Your mom probably does not want you to go. My suggestion is that you have a heart to heart with your stepdad. Take him to lunch, tell him you appreciate the support her has given you by allowing you to stay (and mean it). Men want to fix things for their wives, he sees that this fight has caused your mom pain and he thinks if he gets you out of the house it will fix it. It won't you just wont be there anymore. Know that he cares about your mom. Also, Be truly appreciative of this opportunity. Compassion is one of our greatest assets as humans. One day you will have children and they will say horrible things too, know they don't mean it either.

    • michelleonly3 profile image
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      MD Jackson MSIOP 3 weeks ago from Arizona

      @Yojam

      You have some very unhealthy dynamics at work here. Your life is not your son's life. Your life is whatever you build with your husband. I completely understand the intervention to protect grandkids, however it almost seems like you want your son to have to come back into your house. You admitted to spoiling this kid and that is a great disservice to him. Now you want to perpetuate that dynamic until the end of time. If your child loves you, they will not stop speaking to you. You don't have to give them things to have a relationship. This is something inside of you that says you were not a good enough parent. guess what we all feel that way sometimes. Unless you abused this child, you have nothing to feel guilty about. If that kid tells you it's your fault say "I did the best I could" because it sounds like you did. As for his child it sounds like he wont have them long. No, I wouldn't move him back in, I would focus on my relationship with my husband. Enjoy the years you have and stop trying to control that child with monetary compensation.

    • michelleonly3 profile image
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      MD Jackson MSIOP 3 weeks ago from Arizona

      @cindy,

      Let your son go down his road. Do not bail him out, let him figure this out alone. You can love someone and not be involved with their drug abuse. Accept that this is who he chooses to be and live your life. There is not a fix for drug addiction. Nothing you do is going to change him, he has to decide. So all you can do is live your life and let him live his. No bailing him out!!

    • michelleonly3 profile image
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      MD Jackson MSIOP 3 weeks ago from Arizona

      @sam,

      Your son is finding his way in the world. If he isn't asking for help, don't offer it. College isn't for everyone. I would initiate contact just to let him know you love him. Your intentions are good, but people with ADHD are very smart. You cant make your adult child do anything. So let him alone, he will come visit eventually. Consider your own life lessons, they didn't come because you were sheltered.

    • michelleonly3 profile image
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      MD Jackson MSIOP 3 weeks ago from Arizona

      @Jolene,

      Why would you turn your child into the police? What good can come of that? If it's your car then yes I would, otherwise let it alone.

    • michelleonly3 profile image
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      MD Jackson MSIOP 3 weeks ago from Arizona

      You are right, she is not good at making decisions. I would start by checking to see if your state has grandparents rights. I have known people who fought and won for grandparents rights to see their grand kids. It sounds to me like she is not responsible enough to have children. Moving your kids in with strangers is scary to me. I'm suspecting at this point that you may end up with her children at some point as they do not seem to be a priority for her. It is your choice to or not to take her in. I would let her spend some time at the shelter. It may be the rude awakening she needs. Or I would tell her that you will take the kids but she can go stay at the shelter. This sends a clear message that she needs to get it together. If you decide to let her into your house, there should be rules. Those rules should point her toward independence. Make sure that you are not the martyr in this situation. We tend to want to think we are "saving people" when we are really enabling their poor life decisions. The shelter won't kill her, it might make her consider her actions though. When she calls you trying to emotionally blackmail you (because that is what she is doing), let her know those kids are her responsibility and if she wants to keep them she better start making better decisions. There are programs to help her outside of your home. However, she is going to find it difficult to get a home after burning down the last one. Either way, you are not responsible for fixing this. She is an adult, treat her like an adult.

    • michelleonly3 profile image
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      MD Jackson MSIOP 3 weeks ago from Arizona

      First I am going to tell you what went wrong because from one parent to another this is my nightmare. Children are born with a disposition to either be conformists or rebellious in nature. It sounds like you provided a stable home and your son rebelled against it. You are way beyond a paragraph answer. There is so much damage done here. I want you to know that barring abuse, it's not your fault. The reality is that your son is slowly killing himself. If you were on a ship and someone was trying to put a hole in the ship to sink you and your family what would you do? You only have two options to save your family, bind that person (which isn't legal) or throw them over board. You have a responsibility to your family, and that responsibility didn't change because AJ decided to go off the deep end. He will most likely end up in prison or worse. You have done the best you can, it's time to let him alone. If he calls tell him you love him. Tell him you hope he gets his life together. I cannot tell you not to help him, that is a decision that is between you and your wife. I can tell you that by fixing his situations you are sending him the message that he is too stupid to do it himself. So maybe when he calls tell him "you are an adult and I believe you are smart enough to fix this problem on your own". And then you put your family in a life boat and try to live as happily as you can. Some people do come out of this, some do survive, but they do not survive it because of parental intervention. They survive because they hit rock bottom and they decide for themselves that something better has to be out there. My prayers are with you.

    • michelleonly3 profile image
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      MD Jackson MSIOP 3 weeks ago from Arizona

      What is your end goal with your son? Is it just to get him out of your home or for him to become a productive member of society? I always say "raise your kids right the first time or you will be doing it again". Here is your tough love answer; he wasn't raised right and you did not protect him from your ex. Now you have a broken human being on your hands who does not love himself. You cannot ever go back. Moving forward you need to be the example for him in every respect. You cannot fix what has been done by sending him away. You have to get close to him, get him to share his thoughts and confide both his dreams and fears. The goal should be for your son to live a good and happy life. If you had been there for him during his entire childhood, then my advice would be different, however now is your time to practice connected parenting. Your child has learned to survive abuse, he does not know how to live. He has been a victim for too long, that is all he knows. Teach him to live a good life and be proud of himself. This starts with being productive in small ways and moving on from there. The military can teach him discipline, they cannot teach him love and understanding.

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      ArmyMedic 3 weeks ago

      My son is 21 and he has been living and working with his dad since he was 13. His behavior throughout his life has been.... well, I'm not even sure the word to put on this. His dad and I divorced when he was only 2. His father is physically, emotionally and verbally abusive. His father has no boundaries and any chance to undermine my parenting, he took it. I took a divorce care class at my church and I learned to never say bad things to the kids about the other parent. I spent so much time lying to my son about his father, when dad would not show up to his baseball games, when he would not pick them up to spend time with him, etc. So, Since then, my son has been stealing from friends and family, smoking weed, lying, drinking and trying other drugs. He cuts himself and goes through violent bouts of depression. I didn't see him for a few years because his dad would make his life even more miserable if he came to see me. He called me back in March to tell me that he had joined the marines and that he was leaving in 2 weeks. I was thrilled. But when I started asking questions, he could not answer them, and I later discovered that it was a big lie.

      This past July, he came to visit and never left. One Saturday, mid July, I was going to put him on the train back to his dads house and he sat on my porch, under another umbrella of depression. We started talking about the Marines and that Saturday afternoon I took him to the USMC recruiting office. He was very excited and very motivated, working out with the group of recruits, showing real potential. I would let him stay at my house for the next month or two until he was on his way. That never happened. Things went downhill fast. He started up with the same old behavior again. I feel like I am being held hostage in my own home and he knows that his time is limited so he is never there when I am. I am giving him 2 days to get his things and leave. It breaks my heart, because I know he will play the suicide card, and sleeping on the streets. I don't know what to do.

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      Jigggs 4 weeks ago

      I forgot to mention that letting him back into our house is not an option. We are afraid of him and don't trust him {he was also stealing money from us and his little sister before he was kicked out}. Moving home just isn't an option.

      His grandparents are very elderly but they know what has been going on and wouldn't let him in either. Same with aunts and uncles.

      Before he got his apartment he couch surfed at his older sisters house but that only lasted a couple of weeks before she and her boyfriend asked him to leave. He refuses to take direction or advice from anyone. He refuses counselling or rehab, he won't work. Heck we even offered to help him finish High School or get his GED but he refused that. The only thing he readily accepts is our money and our rides, but that's coming to an end shortly.

      We are at a loss. Drugs have stolen our dear son from us and we have this dreaded feeling that it's not going to end well which will leave us guilt ridden for the rest of our lives.

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      Jigggs 4 weeks ago

      Well where do I start.

      Our youngest son, I'll refer to him as AJ has been our challenge. His 3 siblings are doing well, he however not so much.

      We caught him smoking weed in grade 9. We suspected it so I tore his room apart and found it. A lot of it. He was punished, had privileges removed etc etc. We made appointments with counsellors for him, encouraged him to do more positive activities etc etc. We also made the house rules very clear to him. No drugs, booze or smokes in the house, curfews, homework and school were his priorities.

      Well, fast forward to Grade 10 we get a call from his High School. They found a pipe in his locker and he was being kicked out for 10 days, zero tolerance. He "claimed" he was set up and someone else had put the pipe in his locker. Considering it didn't have a lock on it, it was remotely possible but zero tolerance was zero tolerance. I tore his room apart again but didn't find anything. Again we went over the "rules".

      Fast forward to Grade 11, 2 months into the school year, he's 17. We get a call that he has been escorted off school property as they had received info that he was dealing. On top of this he was skipping classes and his marks were abysmal. They are seeking to have him expelled permanently.

      So again I search everywhere. Nothing. He's still denying. Well no school its time to get a job and he does for 3 months until he gets fired.

      We see more changes in his personality, he's lazy, disrespectful and we suspect drug use other than weed. We go over the rules again including the part where he gets a job.

      Couple of months later no job but he comes into a sizeable insurance payout. He's now 18 and well things really go down hill quickly. My wife & I decide that he needs to go. We decide that we will sit down with him and give him a timeline to move out. His behaviour is not only impacting us but his little sister as well.

      Before this takes place I decide to go into his room as I would smell pot. His room looks like a crack den. I find empty liquor bottles hidden in his closet. I find drugs hidden everywhere. I check his phone and it appeared that he was also dealing. That was it.

      Before we could confront him he lost it because he knew I was in his room. He threatened to burn our house down with us in it so we had him removed by the Police.

      He's been out for 18 months. His mother found him an apartment but due to his age we had to cosign a years lease with him (big mistake). Well he burned through his money in 4 months doing every drug imaginable.

      So he goes on welfare, which doesn't provide enough for his rent so now we're on the hook for it for 8 months. I was retired but I had to go back to work in order to keep up with it. He still isn't working and has made little to no effort finding a job.

      Recently he developed some health problems that appeared to be quite serious. Needless to say Mom & Dad have been there for him, spending time with him and taking him to the Emergency Dept and various specialist appointments.

      Well today we got the diagnosis. Its all drug related and the doctor told him to quit doing them. 19 yrs old and he's sick from drug abuse, marvelous.

      He refuses to acknowledge or accept what the doctor has told him and I have no doubt that he will just continue on as he has been.

      We are off the lease next month at which time we are going to be telling him that we are no longer responsible for his rent nor will we be paying it. He needs to get a job or face the Consequences of being evicted and living on the street or at the Mens Mission.

      We've had it. We can't keep doing this. We've tried however nothing changes. We've loved him, supported him financially and emotionally (he's played the suicide card but refused counselling) We want him to change but he doesn't want to and that is the problem.

      We don't want to see him on the street and we are fearful as to what will become of him but my god we no longer have a choice. Its been heart breaking and gut wrenching for us but I don't think any of this bothers him in the least.

      We want to enjoy our retirement and our family however this has sucked the life out of us.

      Sorry for the ramble.

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      Jolene 5 weeks ago

      Should you alert the police about your adult child's approx whereabouts, vehicle info and known drug activity or let the cards fall as they may?

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      sam 5 weeks ago

      My 21-year-old son has been suspended for 1 semester at college (never the best student) but he wanted to continue living at his place around campus with his friends. We told him he could come home and work here but he didn't want that. We made it clear he should be in charge of his finances while out of college but so far (1 month already) he hasn't been able to find a job. As far as I know, he is a good "kid" (no drugs or illegal actions). It breaks my heart to think he may go hungry and that he's also dealing with ADD and anxiety (even 2 or 3 panic attacks). Not sure if staying away is the best, but I think it's time for him to learn. Oh, he doesn't ask for money or help, but he didn't call or text either. He's distanced himself from us. We just signed as guarantor for his lease and I'm worried he will not be able to pay his rent.

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      cindy 5 weeks ago

      My son is gonna be 33. He's been in and out of jail over last 10 or more years. He has addiction & that's all his focuses on. He can't keep a job or a relationship. This has been the cycle for way to long. We try to give him time to get it together when he gets out of jail but it goes nowhere. He is verbally abusive and disrespectful. My husband & I are beyond frustrated.

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      Yojam 5 weeks ago

      Hi! Reading this has been very imformative, however i have a 20 year old son that i must admit (spoiled) he's moved out my house a few times. He was living with his girlfriend and her family well i dont care for them because of there felony status. My son has a baby with the girl and she's 18 and pregnant again! I've had to contact dfacs twice because of neglect with the child. However after doing so my son got kicked out of the home and i knew he would because i contacted dfacs baby (dropped 3) times before a month old on concrete floor! Well to get to my question should I allow my son to move back in even though he's burned all of his bridges with EVERY family member? I've even heard him say to another family member "all i have to do is ask my mom she'll get me whatever I want "... My husband says he plays on my feelings all the time. My son will tell me I'm the reason for all of his problems...

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      Serena 6 weeks ago

      Hi I currently live with my mom, I'm 19 with no kids. After high school I moved to Tallahassee for college and stayed there for a semester with my boyfriend at the time. At December of 2016 I felt I was in over my head and I asked my mom if it would be okay if I moved back home. She agreed and I moved back in. The agreement I have with her is I could stay until I graduate or get myself together. Since I've been back, my mom and I have gotten into 1 heated argument where I said things I am not proud of and have since apologized for, this was during the first couple of months I was back at the house. Well now I am in school, I pay my own tuition, I work at a hospital as a CNA. I started a little less than a month ago, I was working 2 jobs, but I felt exhausted with all of those burdens on me, so I quit one so I would be able to focus on school. My mom has a procedure she is having done this week for her heart and we have been talking about the outcomes and how I wanted to take care of her and be there for her. Last night I was told I have 3 months to get out. My mother's husband says it was his decision because he wants to only raise his 1 child. I guess my question is, do you feel this is the right form of tough love? I don't ask my mom for money, or if I do I pay her back immediately on payday. I always pay my phone bill on time, I've been giving her money to save for me to get a car, and as I mentioned I've been paying my own tuition so I could be in school and get somewhere in life. They say it's because of the verbal altercation we've had in the past, but I feel that they're punishing me repeatedly for the same thing that I cannot do anything to change. Instead of repeat that mistake, I've tried to better myself. Nothing seems to be enough though, and now I'm wondering what to do because I don't have any family other than her. My siblings are living their own lives and I'm just trying to stabilize mysef enough before I leave their house so I won't put myself in a bad position. My mom told me I sound spoiled and ungrateful when I told her I couldn't handle everything at once, but it's because I'm grateful that I'm trying to get myself to where she doesn't have to worry about or support me. Currently she pays nothing for me, and I take her out to eat and give her money.

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      Ethel Tau 6 weeks ago

      I am a single mom of three kids 26,22,15, the first two have kids and working still leave with me, they don't respect me I buy food and cloths for them and their children but they don't respect me after all the sacrifice I made for them, but now I feel like enough is enough, will it be wrong or will I be the bad mom if I leave them in the house and find another place for me and the 15 year old son, frustrated perent

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      JadedMatriarch 6 weeks ago

      I am dealing with the repercussions of this now. I have an adult daughter (almost 26) who makes poor choices, refuses to be responsible for her actions and then gets very angry (to the point of threatening us with not seeing the grand kids if we don't help). I am just DONE! Since 2015 she has lived (landed at our house) 5x and I just learned again today that she is about to be homeless. Last year she "accidentally" (being irresponsible if you ask me) burned down her entire apartment complex displacing 15 families because she let my grand kids 3 & 4 use sparklers on the balcony of their third floor apartment. In the end she placed the blame the lady who lived below who restored old furniture and had rags with solvent on them. She received nearly $8k in donations ($4600 from her unions emergency fund) and spent it all frivolously before moving in with someone she didn't know who ended up being a heavy drinker. When she couldn't take it anymore she blamed his drinking. That was in December 2016. I am now finally the bad guy because I referred her to a shelter.

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      Veronica 7 weeks ago

      I got married to a person with young adult children whom are in relationships,have babies and have jobs...I was told that the children will always come 1st....Here's my problem...my spouse spends all day at least 2 to 3 times per week..while I am at my work...no problem there..but then my spouse comes home from her adult child's house around 6 p.m. because her child asked for help fixing atmt problem with her car or going to the doctors or just things that normal people problems everyone goes through....or my spouse. Will go as far as to stay the night or even entire weekends with her child...is this normal in marriages with people witwit adult children

    • michelleonly3 profile image
      Author

      MD Jackson MSIOP 2 months ago from Arizona

      In this situation, if she is underage you are still responsible for your daughter. If she is over 18 you have many options. You think she wants to live with you? Does that mean she asked to come live with you or that your first instinct is to go bail her by telling her she can move in? Those are two different things. If she asked to come into your home, rather or not you allow her to come into your home is up to you. If she has not asked, then let her be, let her do things on her own. Let her figure out life.

      You may want to rush in and save her thinking she will all of a sudden change who she is out of gratitude, I guarantee that her behavior toward you is cemented until she gets some life experience. If she is already at your house, then you already made your decision. While you cannot change her behavior, you can change your own. Sit down and write out what you fight about. Do the two of you fight when she won't clean up? Do you argue when you want her to pay rent? Oh yeah, if she stays at your house she should pay rent. What triggers these conversations? What do you want the rules to be in your house? Write out the rules of your house and tell her, these are my rules, if you sign this, you are bound by these rules, or you can go to Dad's, Grandma's, or the shelter. These are your choices being disrespectful to you is not an option. There are half way houses for pregnant teens, they also have rules. Such as lights out at 9pm. Here is the reality, 80% of teen moms end up on welfare. What is your goal in helping her? Is your goal to keep her off welfare help her get on her feet?

      Honestly, I think you should present your rules including chores and rent. If she gets an attitude I think you should tell her to gather her things. Have the address to the shelter handy, call her an uber and tell her good luck. Don't even drive her to the shelter yourself. Let her leave. Tough love is always tougher for the parent.

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      Kate 2 months ago

      my daughter just had a baby, but she doesn't have know where to go,i think she wants to live with me, but we don't get along, and she has been disrespectful in the past with me,she has live with her grandmother, and that didn't work out, and she has live with her father, and she has been disrespectful to him as well, should i take her in or send her to a shelter, i love my daughter but we don't get along.

    • michelleonly3 profile image
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      MD Jackson MSIOP 3 months ago from Arizona

      No, you shouldn't bail her out of jail. Although you didn't say, it sounds like your daughter is into drugs. Whether or not you take in her baby depends on what you can live with in your heart. Understand that her children are not your responsibility. We all love our grandchildren, however she is placing a life burden on you. Now if you have the means and want to take these children in, then that is your decision to make. If you are married then the decision should be made with a spouse.

      As soon as she has this baby I would take her down and have the five year birth control put in her arm. She is not taking care of these kids, she doesn't need more children. If you do take the baby and continue to raise her other children, I would cut ties with your daughter. She needs to have a serious consequence for her behavior, and sometimes that consequence is that you stop making life easy for her. Its easy to drop babies off at moms house when you know you can show up whenever you want. It sounds like she is using you to take care of her responsibilities.

      I personally could not let my grandchildren become wards of the state, that's me though.However, know that turning her children over to the state is an option. The children are a byproduct of her behavior. No one except your daughter is responsible for those kids, not you and not her sisters. Turning your daughter away doesn't mean you don't love her, it means you love yourself too much to be a doormat. Most people have to hit rock bottom before they come back up. It's likely to be a long time, if ever, before she turns her life around. You cannot control your daughters behavior, you can control her involvement in your life and the life of those children while she is being irresponsible.

    • michelleonly3 profile image
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      MD Jackson MSIOP 17 months ago from Arizona

      Willow,

      It sounds like you have worked very hard and your son for whatever reason is not taking responsibility for himself. You have choices. I would star by forcing him to pay you back. No more help, no more handouts.

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      Willow Rockson 17 months ago

      I wish I hadn't taken care of my 50+ year old son with his DUI Extreme. Paid for lawyer, court costs, etc. etc. One year later, looking back, I should never had done it. He wasn't working anyhow. It's not like he lost a job, wife or anything of importance - except for the fact that he didn't learn the full impact of responsibility. He actually turned around a week later and got into a bar brawl and got injured pretty bad. With no insurance, I paid for the doctor's bills as well. Here I am, 75 years old, worried about how I'm going to manage financially in my old age. I bet he's not going to be able to, let alone understanding he should.

    • michelleonly3 profile image
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      MD Jackson MSIOP 3 years ago from Arizona

      The decision to allow a child back into your home is completely up to you. I wouldn't allow my child to be homeless. However, I would consider making it conditional. If she is coming back then she has to live by your house rules. Those rules are set by you. She may be 20, yet her lack of responsibility shows she's not an adult. She obviously has a sense of adventure, maybe she should consider jobs on cruises or stewardess positions. Don't hold her hand. Expect her to be an adult and act like an adult. Also I wouldn't offer help. She may have an exit plan, if not then she we call you. Our gut instinct is to rush in and save our child. She might not need to be saved. If you set up a pattern of bailing her out, you will be doing it forever. Give her some space. When you talk to her say things like "what do you think is the best way to solve this problem" make her think it out. Just because you may have all the answers doesn't mean she will listen. Learning to fix her own problems is a big step in becoming an adult.

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      Lynn 3 years ago

      My daughter made a very stupid decision. She married a guy after knowing him for five days and then moved to New York to be with him. He is in the army. We live in Virginia. Long story short she wants a divorce and been to speak to a lawyer about this. They live in military housing and she works at Arby's. She is 21 and has never had a decent job just a lot of fast food jobs. My concern is that when they separate she will no way be able to support herself with living on her own. She has already shown us she is not responsible enough to do that. What do I do if she becomes homeless in New York with no place to go and cannot afford a place to live. Given the fact the military moved all her stuff there .

    • michelleonly3 profile image
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      MD Jackson MSIOP 3 years ago from Arizona

      Mama BeeJay,

      I would suggest to your son that he sell some things to make rent. We forget that many things we own are not necessities. Big screen TV's, sound systems and such are not needed. People who are struggling should forgo luxuries like cable TV, and cell phones. If he wants to make rent, he will. You can tell him that you trust him to be an adult and handle his own problems. Believe in your child's ability to make a decision. Saying No doesn't mean you don't love him. My son once sold his dirt bike to pay a bill rather than calling me for the money. While he loved the dirt bike he knew he had to be responsible. Stay strong.

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      Mama BeeJay 3 years ago

      Helpful advice. I am right in thick of it and my husband and I are determined to say 'NO' this time.

      I have four grown children. Only one of them is still at home and she's in college. Of the other three, two of them are stable and have never asked for money. My son and his family (wife, 2 yr old and 4 m old) moved in a year ago and lived with us for 6 months. They moved out and now once again, a year later, are facing homelessness. My son is trying to play catch-up at a $10/hr job after losing his job a few months ago. On top of they have yet to learn life lessons around money.

      We have given a LOT of money as their need arises - just call mom and dad. We are done. Tapped out. Ready to make the change towards letting them live their own lives with our rescue.

      BUT ITS HARD!!! I cry all the time when I think about their impending eviction in 2 weeks and can't imagine them and their babies in a shelter. At this point that seems like the only alternative to moving back in with us.

      The other siblings are angry and resentful that we help so much. And I'm angry too. Angry that they just don't seem to 'get it': Rent first, utilites, car pymt, THEN everything else.

      I fear I'll cave and take them back to start the cycle all over again from a year ago.

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      mommy dearest 4 years ago

      We got this .times the 10th power ...45is. A 17 year old,a27year old who is 15 .the money is there ,but some how,we need to make them think that the new will ,is going to the church or charity,they think mom is that crazy to do just that

    • michelleonly3 profile image
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      MD Jackson MSIOP 4 years ago from Arizona

      Some kids are home until they are 20, it depends on the situation. We are in tough economic times. Some families are pulling back together out of hardship. The reality is that there is always work somewhere. If you have a 19 year old who refuses to get a job, or go to college, I would say it is time to intervene. My husband always says you can stay as long as you are in school or have a job. Full time jobs are few and far between in some areas. However, if your 19 year old is playing video games all day, its time to put your foot down. Kicking him out may not be be the best option, it just depends on your situation.

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      Shell 4 years ago

      i needed reassuring that I have to stick to my boundaries of my rules. But what if your 19 year old has no where else to live if you kick him out?

    • michelleonly3 profile image
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      MD Jackson MSIOP 5 years ago from Arizona

      Leah,

      That would depend on the mental illness. I had a very good friend who's daughter was extremely bipolar. She would show up at his house and remove parts from his car or break into his house . She spent a lot of time in jail (she was not on illegal drugs). He tried for years to get her help. A psychiatrist would prescribe her medication and she would take it and function for a while, then she would stop taking it and have an episode. This cycle went rounds until she was 29 when she physically attacked him as he was leaving his home. The reality of these types of situations is that people with extreme disorders need to be institutionalized. I am talking about people who are a danger to themselves or others.

      That said I had an uncle with down syndrome. He was not dangerous but, was not functional enough to do a job. He lived his entire life with my great grandparents. They supported him without help from the state until he passed away at 56. When you love a child there is difference between responsibility and enabling that child.

      When it is to the detriment of the parent to continue to “fix” situations a child creates, then it’s time to walk away. Mental illness is a tough thing to live with as a parent. These disorders strain family relations and cause huge holes where a loving child once was. Every one of these situations is different. I think if you are unsure what needs to be done the best thing you can do is look at the limits of that child’s understanding and what your motives are for enabling the adult/child. As I said in cases of extreme mental disorder, an institution would be preferable to jail.

      If you need to you can email me as well.

      Michelle

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      Leah 5 years ago

      What about a child with a mental illness? Do all of these principles still apply?

    • michelleonly3 profile image
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      MD Jackson MSIOP 6 years ago from Arizona

      Susan,

      There are times when an adult child moves back in after losing a job, however, I do not think it is wise to bring adults who have shown they have drug, alcohol or gambling addictions back into your home. Chances are you will become a willing victim of their behavior. You know your children, if they work hard and need you that is one thing, if your children are ok with being on your basement couch playing video games, that is a whole other idea.

      Simone,

      I think that fear of your children not loving you drives so many adult parents to behave irrationally toward their adult children. Thank you for the comment.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Right on, michelleonly3! Many, many parents (my saintly mother and father included) are far too accommodating. I'm glad you're urging readers to protect their own lives and financial stability while also teaching their kids to take care of themselves :D

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      SUSANJK 6 years ago from Florida

      If they need to come home, we needto welcome them.

    • michelleonly3 profile image
      Author

      MD Jackson MSIOP 6 years ago from Arizona

      Thank you for your comment. Parents have the ability to affect the next generation. It's an important concept.

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      rebekahELLE 6 years ago from Tampa Bay

      There is so much wisdom in your words. It's not always easy, but adult children need to make their own way. Without hardship and life lessons, I think we miss the whole purpose of our human existence. Life is not about having everything. Thanks for sharing your helpful advice.

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      susanlang 6 years ago

      well mom you said it all, right there.