As a result, parents are starting to feel a mix of frustration and fear ― not just for their adult children‘s future, but for theirs as well. (According to a recent Bankrate survey, 50% of American parents said they are sacrificing their own retirement savings in order to help their children.)
Parents who struggle with their adult kids being too dependent on them need to start teaching their children the coping skills that will help them get through the realities and challenges of adulthood.
1. Stop making it easy
The “Varsity Blues” scandal from earlier this year put a huge spotlight on excessive parenting behaviors. Whether or not we choose to admit it, we’re all somewhat guilty of snow-plowing, lawn-mowing and bulldozing obstacles out of our children‘s way.
My husband and I have an 11-year-old son who suffers from anxiety. Despite having extensive knowledge about anxiety as a therapist, I still have the instinctual need to swoop in and rescue him. This is the same mindset I see in my parent patients.
If your millennial child is living at home, for example, consider why they’re there and how long you’re willing to allow them to stay with you. Many parents allow their children to return home because they want to help. Some may enjoy the company, and that’s OK, too.
But it’s important to create what I call a “home contract,” in which you set a deadline for when they need to move out, and what you do expect and don’t expect from them so long as they’re there. If they’re employed, encourage them to save a certain amount of their monthly paycheck for future expenses.
Parents of millennial children need to start changing their priorities and make choices for themselves. Maybe you have a 30-year-old son who wants to move back home ― but for whatever reason, you don’t want him to.
Instead of welcoming him with open arms, understand that it’s OK to say no. You could start your response with, “That might feel like the easiest solution, but let’s talk about other ways we can help you.”
Then, work with him to figure out how he can secure a place of his own, even if it means providing him with a little bit of financial support. While that may sound harsh, research has shown that young adults who are given financial help, rather than living rent-free at home, tend to have more successful careers.
3. Stop giving answers, start asking questions
Parents of millennials often tell me their children call them almost daily seeking their help ― not just about financial issues, but with everyday or career challenges. They want their parents to tell them exactly what they need to do.
The first step to empowering your child to solve their own problems is to stop providing all the answers. Instead, start asking questions. This can be tough, especially if you know the answers. But if you don’t take a step back, your adult child may never stop relying on you for answers.
So the next time your kid comes to you and says, “Tell me what to do,” ask them, “Well, what do you think you should do?” Flipping the script empowers them because it shows you respect them and genuinely care about what they have to say.
I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t help them with anything at all. If they truly end up needing money for rent, lending support isn’t a crime. But challenge them to get creative in coming up with a repayment plan.
Ask them about what kinds of jobs align with their skills. Perhaps they can earn extra cash as an Uber driver or signing up for TaskRabbit. Given how tight money is for them, ask what they’re willing to give up temporarily, such as their gym membership or weekend nights out.
4. Allow them to fail
Technically, there’s no such thing as failure, provided that you learn from your mistakes. I often tell my patients that failure is simply one’s perception of a situation.
By not allowing your child to fail, or by telling them what you believe is “right” and “wrong,” you prevent them from learning how to get through life’s most important challenges (e.g., reaching financial independence).
In 2016, two psychologists studied how parents‘ view of failure influenced their children‘s beliefs as adults. Based on their findings, they suggested that instead of trying to stop or prevent children from failing, parents should allow them to fail, and then encourage them to figure out why they failed in the first place and what they can do differently next time.
If you want your child to learn how to manage their money so they stop relying on you, the best place to start is helping them learn from their past money mistakes. If you swoop in and pay their rent or get them out of debt, they’ll not only see it as the only solution to their problems, they’ll see it as the best solution.
5. Stop blaming yourself
No matter what your situation is right now with your millennial child, shaming yourself (or them) won’t solve any problems or make things better. Embrace the discomfort of setting limits, put your own wants and ne first and recognize that failure is a good thing ― for you and your child.
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