Ideas, tips, and information about parenting adult children

Published: Sunday, Sept. 9 2012 3:00 p.m. MDT

As an example, if an adult child is moving home, the interview could involve discussing the amount of rent and a payment schedule, food plans, baby-sitting expectations, yard work and follow-up interviews to evaluate the arrangement.

“Don’t forget the most important question,” Hanson said, “When do you plan to move out?”

To make living arrangements as tolerable or enjoyable as possible, Hanson also recommends the following:

Be clear about expectations from the start.

Remind them they are living in your house, not theirs.

Be able to say “no.”

Remind them they have the option of going elsewhere.

Hanson illustrated his point by telling about a 33-year-old woman with three kids whose husband had died in an accident. She had no insurance and needed to complete her college degree to get a quality job. The woman went to her parents, who lived in a modest home, and they had an “interview.” She asked to live in their basement for two or three years, offered to pay as much rent as she could, requested minimal baby sitting and promised to give them plenty of space to live their lives.

“They worked out an entire plan and it worked beautifully,” Hanson said. “She did all she could on her own, raised her own children and worked through it. That was a successful experience.”

Christina Newberry, author of "The Hands-On Guide to Surviving Adult Children Living at Home," supports Hanson's idea of a living-together agreement.

"You may not be both on the same page," Newberry said in a New York Times article last March. "The adult child may be expecting the best of both worlds — the same freedom as when he was living away, but the perks of having Mom doing the laundry. If there are no rules, it’s chaotic.”

Newberry believes parents should require their adult child to contribute something for the privilege of living in their home.

"I would encourage parents to charge rent, or at least a token amount — not necessarily the market rate — in recognition that the adult child is adding to the household expenses," she said. "It’s good for the adult child’s self-esteem to know he’s not a moocher, and that he gets in the habit of paying a monthly amount."

To give or not to give

Some parents need to realize there is a difference between abandonment and allowing consequences, Hanson said.

“Protecting adult children from the consequences of bad decisions may bring more harm than good. Taking yourself down will probably not help the child and could ruin you,” Hanson said. “Most of our adult children will survive their crises without us, perhaps even better than with us in the long run.”

Hanson recommends not loaning money to children when:

The money will be used to keep the child from experiencing the consequences of bad decisions.

The parents will be hurt significantly if the money is not paid back.

The money is being used to “buy” a better relationship with the adult child.

The adult child has other acceptable options.

One mother told Hanson about helping her oldest son start a business. He talked her into loaning him tens of thousands of dollars — her life savings — and within six months, the money was gone.

“Unwise lending or giving of money is probably one of the biggest causes of problems in parent-adult child relationships,” Hanson said. “I would like to loan them money or help them, and they promise to pay back, but most don’t. The truth is that if the adult child could borrow money from banks or credit unions, they would do it. But they can borrow money from parents and not pay any interest and miss payments whenever they want, without any penalty.”

Don McNay, a financial columnist and author, knows how parents can avoid financial heartache and contention with adult children — "Cut them off."

"I'm seeing a lot of elderly people lose their houses, savings and often their lives (financial pressure is a key trigger for suicide) because children 'borrowed' money and never paid it back," he wrote for the Huffington Post. "It's time to cut them off. The kids will pout and cry. They will try to make you feel guilty. Immature people do that. ... Just say 'No.' Your own survival is at stake."

Email: ttoone@desnews.com Twitter: tbtoone

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