Recently, I read a post on the Matt Walsh blog titled, “My child is gifted. He’s also 29, unemployed, and living in my basement.” Someone had responded to a radio broadcast by Matt Walsh about parenting. This parent berated him for teaching his children values, for teaching them to do chores and work and for wanting adult children to move out of their parents' homes. He seemed to think that a parent’s job was to financially support their children indefinitely while doing nothing to gain independence. What an eye opener to how some parents in today’s society are willing to allow their children to remain dependent on them.
Part of being a parent is raising children to become independent, responsible adults. While some children naturally seem eager to move forward with their lives and enter the adult world, others seem more reluctant to leave the nest.
To help your children leave the nest, you need to begin teaching them the skills necessary to do so when they are young.
As children grow we teach them to dress themselves, brush their teeth and bathe. Each skill is taught at an age appropriate level and gives the child confidence and independence with each skill gained.
For instance, as our son entered high school, he was finding it difficult to budget his time between music lessons, theater rehearsals and homework. I suggested he create a schedule. Instead of me creating one for him, I simply guided him in how to make one, but explained that for it to work he needed to "own" it. And so he got on the computer and made a spread with time slots which enabled him to record what activity he needed to do at that time.
Also as children get older they can take more responsibility for preparing their own meals at breakfast and lunch. Teach them how to make toast, pour cereal and milk and eventually how to scramble eggs and mix muffins to bake. Kids love to help in the kitchen and learn to do something themselves.
When preparing lunches involve your children in filling baggies with individual portions of veggies or fruits. As they get older you can teach them to make their own sandwiches. By high school age your children should be able to prepare their own breakfast and lunches.
Children should be taught at a young age to care for their living environment and their belongings. This means they are taught to make beds, wash dishes, clean a house and wash clothes. It may seem easier to do these chores for them, but in the long run it is beneficial for them to know how to do things on their own.
Children need to be taught to manage their money by having allowances (or means to earn money through extra jobs done at home) and getting a job when old enough to work outside the home. Teach them how to save and budget the money they earn.
Sometimes parents teach all of these life skills to their children and they still seem reluctant to leave and take responsibility for themselves. How then can you as a parent help them learn to fly on their own?
Introduce them to the adult world
Start with making them pay bills — even if they remain in your home. For example, my oldest brother returned home after college. He had a full-time job and was planning to attend graduate school. While he lived at home my parents asked him to pay a portion of certain bills. They wanted him to understand he was old enough to take responsibility for himself.
Depending on the circumstances adult children in these situations can pay room and board, portions of the utility bills, their own cell phone bill and insurance premiums. All such agreements should be put into writing. Create a contract which you both agree on and then sign it.
Ease the transition
Different families have different ways of doing this. Some families tell their children they are responsible for all the costs of higher education. They encourage their children to work all through high school, to save and to earn scholarships.
Our family has created a plan where teenagers are expected to earn and save money throughout high school for their college years. We have agreed to cover tuition for an undergraduate degree, but each successive year of college we expect them to take on more responsibility for their own living costs. As freshmen we ask that they pay for their books and any extras. The next year we ask them to cover rent and groceries as well. We help when needed, but hope they have learned to budget, shop wisely and realize the value of money.
Others have their children pay for tuition and then reimburse them. This allows their children to value their education as they witness the cost.
If your children opt to go to trade school or straight into the work force, it is important for them to ease into the adult world as well.
All good things must come to an end
At some point you need to establish when the apron strings will be cut as well as the financial ones. If your child lives at home while attending school or as he first enters the workforce, set a date for which he will move out or start paying rent to you.
The average age of children moving out and moving on is nearing 30 years old. Letting your children remain at home with no responsibility for themselves does them a disservice. Part of being a parent is giving our children the skills to live on their own, in order for them to feel the thrill of flying solo.