I wanted to ask how you suggest we help our daughter move out on her own. She is in her last semester of grade 12 but not putting forward any effort, in fact skipped school all day today I found out. She has life way to easy here at home and I am sick and tired of the way she acts. I feel that she should be out on her own now. She needs a huge reality check. I had hoped to be able to continue with her at home until the end of June at which time she would have hopefully graduated. Unfortunately, with the way things are going, I don't think we can do it. I know this means she will probably quit school as she will need to earn some money to live, but maybe she will appreciate things if she has to do it on her own.
If you've decided it's time for your daughter to leave the nest, but she refuses to spread her wings, here's what to do:
1. Assess the situation as objectively as possible. As a mother, you might have mixed feelings about encouraging your daughter to move out. On one hand, you might enjoy the company, or you don't want her to struggle on her own, or you don't want to feel like you're "kicking" anyone out. On the other hand, perhaps you sense that your daughter is not pulling her own weight, and if you don't take action she might never become self-sufficient. It's important to sort through all of these feelings before you talk to your daughter.
- 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 daughter towards independence, you've got to be on the same page.
- Consider whether there is a real reason your daughter can’t live out in the real world. Sometimes a parent 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 daughter to stay, you're catering to her comfort, not to real circumstances.
- Make a list of the reasons you want your daughter to move out. Be honest-- confront any ways in which having your daughter 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 daughter blatantly disrespects your privacy or belongings. Some reasons are subtle and somewhat personal and embarrassing, like overhearing your daughter with her lover(s), or the fact that you seem to be the one who ends up doing her laundry.
2. Ask your daughter if she 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 daughter hasn't verbalized, such as that she enjoys having you to do her 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 can't afford a place." Is it that your daughter can't afford a place, or that she can't afford a place as comfortable as your place? Maybe she 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 people live? Does your daughter feel like she's "too good" to live there? Do you feel like she'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 daughter 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 her 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 her, 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.
- "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 her 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?
3. Treat your daughter like an individual who is renting a room. It may be hard to remember sometimes, but adult kids living at home are still grown-ups. 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 teens do. 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 mother and treat your daughter as if she were a stranger renting a room in your home. Not only will this make your daughter less comfortable with living in your home, but it will also prepare her for renting a room somewhere else.
- Collect rent. Check the local classifieds to see what renters are charging for rooms in your area. Set a monthly deadline and enforce it. If your daughter 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.
- Consider not providing meals. Would you feed and clean up after someone renting a room? Probably not! Most people simply allow the renter access to their kitchen. The renter still has to buy and cook their own food. Your daughter may complain that she can't cook, or doesn't have time to cook, but many young adults throughout modern civilization have 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.
- 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 alone. 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 daughter 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 her living space.
- 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.
- Set standards for cleanliness. Since this is an adult you're dealing with, let her 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 she is responsible for cleaning after 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 lying 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 her to enter and exit the room.
4. 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 daughter's stuff, put it on the front lawn, hand 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 daughter will live with you on her terms, not yours.
- You're not the only one struggling with this issue. There are moms and dads across the world that will identify with your struggle to give “tough love.” Seek their support and advice.
- Scrutinize your daughter's excuses, and understand her motivations. Instead of listening to what your daughter is saying, pay attention to her actions. There is the clarity. For example, your daughter 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 daughter, because it keeps you satisfied. However, once there, she is not doing her 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).
- Remember that sheltering your daughter from the harsh reality of life isn't helping her. Your job as a mother is to teach her how to become an independent adult who can survive and thrive on her own. Your love and sympathy won't help her 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 daughter, you are robbing your daughter of the sense of pride and accomplishment she 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 daughter. You can always lend a hand with a little extra cash, plus sympathy, love and understanding, if times get too rough and she can’t seem to keep her head above the water. But letting her struggle a bit is great for building character and helping her learn to be strong on her own.
My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents