When an Unemployed Adult Son or Daughter Lives at Home

As your child grows, the template needs to shift from parent-child to adult-adult. They’re not your adult child; they are your adult son or adult daughter. They’ve become your peer.

But breaking the once-a-parent-always-a-parent mindset is difficult and can strain the relationship between a husband and wife. A common reason for this tension? When capable adult offspring live at (or move back) home and refuse to get a job.

Even though your son’s or daughter’s presence likely is hurting your financial bottom line and causing emotional wear and tear, you and your spouse might not agree on the best way to handle the situation.

The key is to balance love and limits. This is true of good parenting no matter the age of your son or daughter — and it starts with mom and dad.

Get on the same page with your spouse

A strong and healthy marriage is critical to effectively respond to life challenges. Connect with a trained therapist for counseling. They can help you understand the dynamics of your circumstances as well as how to minimize unhealthy conflict and maximize opportunities to strengthen family bonds.

Once you and your spouse are ready to present a united front with agreed-on ground rules for your son or daughter, it’s time for some necessary tough love.

Talk with your son or daughter

Your adult son or daughter is using your love against you. They’ve taken advantage of your generosity. They’ve turned your love into a resentful obligation that shields them from responsibility.

So, set a time to tell them where you stand, what changes you expect them to make, and the consequences if they choose not to follow through. For example:

· We love you, and you will always be our son. But now that you’re an adult, you need to get a job and become all that God made you to be. God created you for good work and to be responsible.

· We will no longer pay any of your bills. You are now responsible for personal expenses, laundry, phone, internet, and transportation (including fuel and insurance if there’s a vehicle).

· You will pay us rent and contribute to the grocery budget.

· If you choose not to get a job, you’ll have to find another place to live, and you’ll be responsible for late payments or bill collectors.

Stay the course

If your son or daughter doesn’t choose positive change, you might be tempted to give them a second (third, fourth … or tenth) chance.

But even though enforcing the consequence to find another place to live may be painful, hold fast to the boundaries you’ve set. Trust God with your fears and frustration — and with the outcome. He loves your son or daughter more than you ever could. For more insight into relating well to your adult son or daughter, read Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children, and listen to our broadcast “Healing Parent and Adult Child Relationships.”