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Helping Older Teens to Move Out

"We are trying to make sure we have a plan in place now in case our daughter decides not to go back to school (Gr. 12). At first we had thought we would tell her if she wasn't going to school, she would have to work more hours so she can pay us rent. We have now decided that probably wouldn't work as we would never be able to get the $$ out of her and it would be a real hassle. We like your idea of "helping" her to move out. We just want to know how to go about that. Obviously, she doesn't have any $$ to move out as she would need rent $$, damage deposit, etc. She can never save enough to come up with that....could take months and we are not willing to wait that long if she is not attending school. She has absolutely no clue as to what it would mean to live on her own. We do worry about that as we don't want anything to happen to her. We do want to get this process started though as soon as possible because we do feel she will not follow through with school. We need her to realize if she wants to be independent, she has to accept the responsibility that comes along with that."

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First…

Assess the situation as objectively as possible. As a parent, you might have mixed feelings about encouraging your youngster to move out. On one hand, you might enjoy the company, or you don't want him to struggle on his or her own, or you don't want to feel like you're "kicking" anyone out. On the other hand, perhaps you sense that your youngster is not pulling his own weight, and if you don't take action he might never become self-sufficient. It's important to sort through all of these feelings before you talk to your youngster.

Make a list of the reasons you want your youngster to move out. Be honest-- confront any ways in which having your youngster live at home makes you feel uncomfortable, and don't allow guilt to make you bite your tongue. Some reasons are obvious, such as if your youngster blatantly disrespects your privacy or belongings. Some reasons are subtle and somewhat personal and embarrassing, like overhearing your youngster with his lover(s), or the fact that you seem to be the one who ends up doing his laundry.

Consider whether there is a real reason your youngster cannot live on his own. Sometimes a mom/dad is reluctant to push a youngster out of the house if they believe the youngster simply doesn't have the resources to live independently. In most cases, however, the youngster is perfectly capable of being independent, but it will require some downgrading -- like moving from a house to a barebones apartment with roommates. If you determine this is the case, recognize that by allowing your youngster to stay, you're catering to his comfort, not to real circumstances.

Show a united front. It's very common for one parent to want a youngster to move out and the other parent to be resistant to the idea. But before you can nudge your youngster towards independence, you've got to be on the same page.

Second…

Ask your youngster if he wants to move out. This is a simple question, but will reveal a lot about why the youngster is still living at home. Usually the answer will be something like "Yeah, of course, but..." followed by a list of reasons why it just can't happen at the moment. Evaluate those reasons objectively, keeping in mind that there are probably other reasons --real reasons - that your youngster hasn't verbalized, such as that she enjoys having you to do his laundry, or being able to use your car without having to make car or insurance payments, etc. What you want to do is address the verbalized reasons (which, in many cases - but not all - are excuses) one by one, with facts:

"I'm looking for a job." Is that true, really? How often is she checking classifieds and job sites? In the meantime, is she volunteering so that she can make contacts, and can account for any gaps in his resume? Is she looking for "a" job or "the" (perfect) job? Is she unwilling to work a minimum wage job until she finds something better?

"I can't afford a place." Is it that your youngster can't afford a place, or that he can't afford a place as comfortable as your place? Maybe he can't afford a place in your neighborhood and there's a reason for that; living in a nice neighborhood is one of the rewards of having a successful career. Look around: Where do other young adults live? Does your youngster feel like he's "too good" to live there? Do you feel like he's "too good" to live there?

"I want to save up for a house, car, grad school, etc." This is probably the most legitimate reason to stick around at home, but only if your youngster is accountable to it. How much does she actually have saved up? What is the ultimate goal? Is she consistently putting money away, or do his savings patterns depend on how many good movies or video games are out that week? If she can prove that saving money is a priority for him, it's all good. But don't just take your kid's word for it. If that's the reason for staying home and getting a free ride, you're entitled to see pay stubs and bank statements, just like financial aid offices are entitled to see tax forms before they provide financial assistance.

Third…

Treat your youngster like a person renting a room. It may be hard to remember sometimes, but adult kids living at home are still adults. A sure way to set yourself up for conflict is to over-parent your adult kids (removing video game consoles, preventing them from having guests in their room, asking them to do chores). Adult kids living at home who are over-parented and over-supervised will rebel as quickly as teenagers. Not only that, but by continuing to attempt to parent them as if they were still kids, you are infantilizing them - they will not develop the skills needed in the outside world. So you need to develop some strategies to establish a new adult-to-adult relationship. Step outside of your role as a mom/dad and treat your youngster as if he were a stranger renting a room in your home. Not only will this make your youngster less comfortable with living in your home, but it will also prepare him for renting a room somewhere else.

Collect rent. Check the local classifieds to see what people are charging for rooms in your area. Set a monthly deadline and enforce it. If your youngster is late with payment, there will be a late fee. If the rent is not paid, you must firmly insist that the youngster may no longer live there.

Lay down rules about noise. Most apartments have "quiet times" that begin around 11pm and end around 7am. Make it very clear that you don't want to hear any noise from them during these times - no loud TV or music, no audible laughing, talking, or guests, etc. Lay out the consequences for "noise violations" such as more than 2 noise violations a month results in a rent hike.

Consider not providing meals. Would you feed and clean up after someone renting a room? Most people simply allow the renter access to their kitchen. The renter still has to buy and cook their own food. Your youngster may complain that he can't cook, or doesn't have time to cook, but many a young adult throughout modern civilization has gotten by on TV dinners and Ramen noodles for a few years in their lives. If you're concerned about nutrition, give your kid a bottle of multivitamins.

Set standards for cleanliness. Since this is an adult you're dealing with, let his room be a private domain. Generally, if you can't smell it from the hallway, it's none of your business. But, make it clear that he is responsible for cleaning after him/herself throughout the rest of the house - cleaning dishes, doing laundry, putting garbage in the garbage can, etc. This is a difficult standard to enforce, but there are ways. For example, if laundry or garbage is left laying around, pick it up and put it right in front of the kid's door, so that it builds up and makes it difficult for him to enter and exit the room.

Grant her some privacy. Do not go into that room unless the smell is unacceptable. If it's messy, shut the door and leave it be. That room belongs to another adult, and it's none of your business what's going on in there. If you're asking for rent and it's being paid, as long as reasonable quiet time and cleanliness rules are being followed, you really should not intrude. If you are granting the room, and your youngster is following your rules for living in your home, you should not be picking at her, and you should not be sticking your nose into his living space.

Fourth…

Be firm. This is the most difficult part. If you've done a comprehensive job of laying out the rules and specifying consequences, it's essential to follow through. You have to know under what circumstances you'd be ready to pack up your youngster's stuff, put it on the front lawn, hand him or her a list of local rooms for rent, and change the locks. If you can't imagine yourself doing this under any circumstances, you should accept that your youngster will live with you on his or her terms, not yours.

Remember that sheltering your adult kids from the harsh reality of life isn't helping her. Your job as a mom/dad is to teach your kids how to become independent adults who can survive and thrive on their own. Your love and sympathy won't help them when you're gone. Remember the Chinese proverb: "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." And remember that, far from helping your youngster, you are robbing your youngster of the sense of pride and accomplishment he will get from navigating the difficulties of life without your help. Getting a job and living independent of you doesn't only benefit you - it benefits your kid. You can always lend a hand with a little extra cash, plus sympathy, love and understanding, if times get too rough and your kid cannot seem to keep his head above the water. But letting her struggle a bit is great for building character and helping her learn to be strong on his own.

Scrutinize your youngster's excuses, and understand his motivations. Instead of listening to what your youngster is saying, pay attention to his actions. There is the clarity. For example, your youngster may be arranging lots of job interviews, but not getting hired. What could be happening here is that setting up interviews may be the end goal to your youngster, because it keeps you satisfied. However, once there, she is not doing his very best at interviews because she doesn't feel pressured to actually get the job. She has the luxury of waiting for the "perfect" job opportunity to roll around, and that may never happen (or by the time it does, she'll have so little experience that she won't have a shot!).

You're not the only one struggling with these issues. Kids who come back home as adults are called "mammoni", or "mama's boys" in Italy; "parasaito shinguru", or "parasite singles" in Japan; "boomerangs" or "twixters" in the US; "KIPPERS" (short for "kids in parents' pockets eroding retirement savings") in the UK; and "Hotel Mama" in Germany. There are moms and dads across the world who will identify with your struggle to give tough love. Seek their support and advice.

Additional Tips—

• If you can afford it, a very nice thing that some moms and dads do is to collect rent from their adult kids, take a small portion to help with household expenses, but put the great majority of the money in a special account. When the youngster either volunteers to move, or the parent asks him to move out, the moms and dads present the adult youngster with the money stockpiled from rent payments. This helps with down payments/move-in fees like first and last month's rent, and the like. Generally this is most successful if the youngster has no idea that the moms and dads plan to do this until the gift of the cash is presented. It's really best if the youngster believes that rent money is simply his obligation to pay and that you expect it on time each month - any landlord expects the same.

• A more extreme measure is to move. Some moms and dads retire to a more remote, relaxed location where their adult kids won't have much fun, or where people under retiring age aren't allowed. You could also downsize your home, and explain to your youngster that you need to save money for retirement, that there's not enough room for them in the smaller home/apartment.

• Before deciding to kick your adult kids out of the house, listen to your adult kids's point of view and let them know the reasons for your opinions. Real adults are willing to listen to other adults to solve problems. Perhaps you and your kids can work something out.

• On the other hand, remember that your home was bought with your efforts and your money. You are under no obligation to "work something out" with your adult kids. If you simply want to enjoy your home without your kids in it, that is your right, of course. It is simply suggested that all parties show some compassion to the others involved in the interest of maintaining a good family relationship.

Warnings—

• Be sure that your youngster is not suffering from some mental illness, such as depression. These illnesses can be debilitating. You may need to help them get them help. Although once a youngster reaches the age of majority (is no longer a minor), you have no obligation to him or her, denying that there is an actual illness working in this type of situation is irresponsible and potentially harmful to your youngster.

• Before going so far as to change locks, remove belongings, etc, understand your local laws regarding the eviction of tenants. Even though they are family and may not be paying rent, many places have eviction laws that may apply and must be followed.

• If your youngster is stubborn and used to being babied, things will get worse before they get better.

• Remember that the economy is very difficult right now. Jobs can be scarce and low paying, but housing and living expenses are high. Be reasonable in your expectations.

Online Parent Support: Help for Parents with Defiant Teens

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