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How To Help Your Older Teen Move Out


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.

Here’s how:
  • 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


Anonymous said...

Thanks Mark,

We contacted Danielle & asked her to come home to discuss the next steps, again we’ve told her she’s always welcome at home as long as she’s prepared to live by the rules & sign off on a house rules contract.

She told us to f*$ off J

So we’ve packed all her stuff up & repeated the same message as above but left all of her stuff in the front garden to pick up & told her she needs to find alternative housing – we’ll see how that goes! We do honestly finally feel empowered.

In addition I’ve sought some local counselling with a teen youth worker to help us through this journey – in addition to your wise words & support.

Many thanks Mark, we have to believe that what will be will be.



Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,

Our son is 18. We have implemented 4 weeks your program but are still having difficulty, particularly in the communication area. Our son has completely shut us out even though we are trying to engage him in a positive, loving way. We agree with all of your program philosophies are trying hard to to work on the assignments however he avoids speaking to us, is usually sullen and replies with one word or not at all. He seems very angry and unhappy and we can't seem to communicate with him at all. He has almost completely detatched from our family life. We discovered that he has been using marijuana and now are thinking that he may have a substance abuse problem, although we are not completely sure, we are currently trying to determine what the degree of his involvement is. We are franctically trying to educate ourselves and after several weeks of trying we have finally been able to get into a program for parents which supports and educates loved ones of those with substance abuse issues. We know from your quiz that we have been over-indulgent parents and missed many opportunities along the way to foster his self reliance. We have started chores, with limited success, and because he is a young adult we are thinking that we need strategies other than taking things away and imposing curfews. He has a part time job and has been accepted into a community college electrical program. (He started university but quit at christmas) He is living home now but he goes back to college in 6 months time and he will be living on his own in an apartment. We are very worried about the drug use and he shuts down or refuses to speak to us when we bring up the subjects such as finding more employment, saving money for living expenses for next year etc. We will be paying for his apartment and tuition but at this stage are very worried about his lack of motivation, attitude, possible drug abuse, and our inability to even seem to crack through the barrier that he has put up between us. On days that he does not work he stays out late, does not tell us were he is going, and then sleeps till 1 or 2 the next day. Should an almost 19 year old have a curfew? If we impose one and he doesn't follow it should we put him out, or should we be working more right now on just trying to re-establish communication.This is very scary to us as parents as we love him very much and are so worried about him. (I am crying right now as I am typing this). Do you have any specific strategies that might help us to re-establish the lines of communication with our son who has become a complete stranger to us.We know that our son is very unhappy and this is also the most difficult and scary period of our entire parenting experience. Thank you in advance for any advice that you might offer.


Mark said...

I have an article on this issue here:

Don't worry about getting him to "open up" ...rather, spend your time and energy on preparing him for moving out!

Re: Should an almost 19 year old have a curfew?

Yes. But perhaps a later one. I would suggest 11:30 ...maybe midnight on the weekends.


Anonymous said...

For two years our recently turned 18 year old daughter has been involved with a boy 2 years older. We have heard nothing good about this boy (he barely graduated high school, telling us that he doesn't feel grades are important and didn't go on to college) and have had numerous run-ins with him. His parents, however, are very nice people, but he is their youngest child, is over 18 and they have been a bit more open about this situation than we have. After 1 1/2 years of fighting this relationship, which involved numerous arguments, her sneaking/lying constantly about her whereabouts, and family disruption (we have two other daughters now 12 and almost 15) we decided to allow her to date this boy. We had fairly strict rules, but not out of the ordinary, one date night per week, no visits to his apartment, talking on the phone allowed, nothing past 10 p.m. on weeknights. (of course, they have never really adhered to these rules as when I check the phone bill they talk often and late, but we really didn't have a huge problem with it as long as it wasn't a school night - we tried to pick and choose our battles) They were both happy with this arrangement. We've had a little bit of issue with him being controlling and have noticed that she doesn't do anything with her friends any more, but we figure that is something she needs to learn on her own.

The problem is that since she turned 18 (1 month ago!) she is thinking that she can just go and do what she wants at anytime, with this boy. We have never demanded that she work because of her school/sports schedule, but have always told her that once sports are over she will need to get a part time job for some spending money. Well, now, sports are over, she has a very light class schedule (as do most seniors, though she gets very good grades) she is refusing to get a job (the boyfriend works construction with his dad and they have not worked since before Christmas), wants to run around with the boy all the time and has very little respect for us. She has taken to lying again and sneaking around and when confronted about it becomes defensive and contemptible.

Last night she waltzed in around 6 p.m. after being told that she needed to go home after school. We spoke to her in civil tones about the rules and that she wasn't going to be running around 3-4 nights during the school week and that she needed to get a job. She proceeded to tell us that we had made her life miserable, we were the reason that she lies all the time and that we were bad parents. I told her that I was ready for her to go to college and find out what it is like to have to be responsible for yourself and not blame others for your actions. I told her that she was visibly unhappy whenever she was home and it was evident that she wanted nothing to do with us and her sisters, it's all about waiting for date night and the next text from him to come in. In the end (again, no voices were ever raised), she decided that she was leaving our house and had her boyfriend pick her up and she did not return, she ended up spending the night with him at his parents' house as he does not currently have an apartment (thank God).

I am so upset with this turn of events. I want her to come home, but am not willing to allow her to dictate what she wants to do. Plus, what type of example does it set for her sisters who have witnessed this turmoil for two years and basically understand as well that this boy is a loser and that their sister is completely disrespectful and out of control? I need advice on where to proceed from here!! My husband and I love our kids, they have always come first in our lives, and have sacrificed to make sure they have a good home and educational funds for the future, we rarely miss anything they are in and try to spend a great deal of time with them. We are sick about this whole thing. Help!

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark

I have been on your on line parenting blog . I'm Nancy B on there you mentioned my daughter having some self reliance . which bit told you she had some self reliance. I've come a long way since she left our family. I wanted to know if keeping it brief and to the point like she does with no emotion or even politeness in her txts is the right thing to do. Having gone through the grieving process and now at acceptance stage, coupled with all the horrible things she is still saying I'm not sure now if I really want her back.Although I dont think she will ever come back home to live with us . The family has settled into a life without horrible arguments and have moved on,although it was very hard to do . So far it has been me keeping the lines of communication open with her and through her txts I still am getting blamed for everything and she doesn't still accept that she had any part to play in her leaving. I am now finding her txts so hurtful and actually sometimes feel like stopping altogether. All I say is that we love her and hope she is ok and we are here if you need us and i made the mistake of saying I missed her well all i got back well thats what you get for kicking some-one out. Do i keep txting ?. She is supposed to come for a meal on Sunday but she has already not turned up once and am sure she might do it again. What do I do if she does it again??.My daughter has said she never wants to discuss what happened . I'm sure she doesn't as she would have to face a lot of truths and I dont think she is ready for that. If she comes for the meal we have all decided that if she kicks off and starts her horrible comments or starts arguing my husband and I and our son have agreed not to retaliate not to argue and say nothing except that we dont want to engage in this behaviour. Is that the right thing to do???

Mark said...

Hi Nettie,

I think you are trying harder than she is.

Let her take ownership of where she lives and the resultant quality of her life.

As long as you take more responsibility for her welfare than she does, she will continue to play you like a puppet.

This relationship should be 50/50 -- not 95/5.


Anonymous said...

Thankyou Mark
you have given me permission that it is ok to stop the give give give that you do as a parent i have been a puppet as you say but no more .I have gone throught the grieving process (7 months for me) and am at the acceptance phase now. She is supposedly coming for tea (1st time cancelled without explanation with no apology) but i stayed cool adn just said ok just et me know when you can make another time never thought i'd hear from her but the next day sent a " can we make it nest sunday " i very cooly txt yeh same time ok c u then we will see if she turns up it will be a challenge to keep it all cool and non argumentative but if she doesn't turn up I'm not sure now whether i'llbe that bothered because i'm finished with being that puppet
thankyou for making me see

Anonymous said...

I've have implemented some of the rules you stated above and have given my 19yr old daugther 3weeks to find a place to live or she will find her stuff on the front street. She is working on a restaurant. She is not saving money for college and wasting it on alchohol and cigarettes and God know what else. She continues to violate the curfew (12:30am) or 30minutes after getting off work if after 12:30 am.

If she can't find a place to live on August 1st, what do I do? Should I proceed with putting her stuff outside? Where is she gonna go? That worries me. Please advise.

Anonymous said...

In response to 5.31AM:
I am 25 years old and I was in your daughter's situation once - I was sixteen years old and dating a twenty one year old man behind my parent's back. I now teach kids and so I honestly feel like I'm qualified to give you advice on how to deal with this.

You need to pick your battles. This boy is eighteen, he's only two years older - it's not like he's five years older than her like my first boyfriend was. I can remember how extremely upset my mother was when she found out I was dating my boyfriend at the time, and how much older than me he was. If I had come home with an eighteen year old, she would have been thrilled.
Look at the other reasons why their relationship is a bad idea - I see a few. You mention grades, the fact that she doesn't have a job, the fact that he's manipulative and controlling, the fact that she doesn't follow house rules and the fact that he's monopolizing her free time and not allowing her to spend any of it with her other friends. Ok. So, now that she's eighteen, she should get some more freedom. Being allowed to come home at six or seven at night is not unreasonable, BUT... there should be a trade off for that. You need to know where she is and who she's with, she needs to get her assignments done on time and to a reasonable standard, and she needs to get a job. The job doesn't have to be a paid job to start with, it could just be something like cleaning some animal cages at the local shelter for a few hours a week, OR, she could pick up a hosting gig one day a week or something. The thing is, she needs to be doing something. If not, you need to withdraw your support. Don't make a fight out of it, just stop giving her spending money and if she throws a fit, just say, "Hey don't get mad at me, I said that you're eighteen now and you need to get a job now you don't have so many classes if you want more spending money, especially since we are letting you stay out later now." If she's borrowing your vehicle, be very careful about how it is used. I would be concerned about controlling boyfriend: You probably won't be able to break them up, but watch her for signs of abuse.

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