As a parent, you probably know your child pretty well, even if you gloss over some of his less endearing qualities when you write the holiday newsletter. If he's irresponsible and a mooch, you're justified in being more forceful in your approach to cutting off aid or housing than if he's a recent college grad with poor employment prospects (and enormous student loan debt) who's making an effort to help out. In both cases, though, if your child doesn't manage to get established on his own, you may need to provide a push. These guidelines will help:
- Take steps ahead of time - Before the day you tackle the subject of having your child move out of the house, start laying the groundwork. Ask him to pay some of the household expenses, and expect him to perform regular chores. This isn't a polite request for a volunteer to take out the garbage, it's an agreement that your child will help carry the load. Once he realizes that living at home isn't a vacation from responsibility, he may start making other arrangements without further prompting.
- Present a united front - Parents can have a difference of opinion about how long to provide housing for an adult child, or even about how long to leave a child's bedroom ready and waiting after he's moved out. If the decision to encourage your child to leave isn't unanimous, it's still important to appear united. It will give your child a sense that one chapter is definitely closing. That way, he can focus his energies on the challenges ahead instead of devising strategies designed to make you change your mind.
- Have a candid chat - It may be one of the hardest things you do as a parent, but sitting down with your child to explain your feelings and plans is the most adult approach. Chances are, he isn't unaware of your feelings or the fact that his position in the household has changed. Finally addressing the topic could turn out to be a relief for both of you.
- Establish a deadline - Give your child time to prepare for a change of residence by choosing a future moving out date or asking him to come up with a realistic timeframe. Evicting your child on the spot after an altercation isn't fair, and if you threaten to oust him and back down, it causes confusion and weakens your position. Once you have a deadline in place, though, stick to it.
- Expect resistance - You worked decades to establish yourself, and your home and its conveniences are the rewards of your hard labor. Adult children have access to those amenities without working for them, and leaving those things behind can be an unpleasant prospect. If your grown daughter doesn't like the idea of having a roommate or two or settling for a studio apartment when the old homestead boasts a pool and plenty of space, let her know you believe moving out isn't just about resources -- it's about building character and earning respect.
Watching your baby head off to face the future carrying everything he owns in a backpack can be hard to take, but he'll never own a frying pan, or much else, until he stops thinking of family assets as his for the taking. It's natural for you to have misgivings, but you've actually been through this before: He learned to walk after you stopped carrying him. He'll do it again.