As you watch your children grow up and have families of their own, sometimes there are challenges and struggles for all of you. You may wonder if you should help.
When is it appropriate to step in and “bail them out”? When should you let consequences be consequences? And how can you help your adult children be more independent?
I am not yet a parent of adult children, but I am an adult child of parents. So I cannot say what I've done, only what I have seen others do.
There are no one-size-fits-all answers to these questions. Each family has its own dynamics and issues, so as you look over these suggestions and ideas, remember that these are a starting point from the viewpoint of an adult child, to get you thinking and to help you make your own decision.
Thoughts on Helping Adult Children
1. Be Responsive
Experts who deal with parents trying to make a decision on whether or not to help their adult children generally agree that you need to be responsive. However, that response does not have to be the financial or other help your adult kids are asking for.
The point is to listen, and to express genuine concern and consideration of their quandary. Your final decision will likely be more respected by your kids if you have shown you really do understand the situation and are concerned for their welfare.
2. Lead Them to Other Help
Sometimes, helping your kids means directing them to other resources. Perhaps your married adult kids need a marriage counselor, or perhaps they could apply for some sort of financial assistance besides you.
There's nothing wrong with directing them to other resources; you don't have to be the only one who can help.
3. Say No
There's no doubt that it can be very hard to say no. Your adult children may be very angry with you, and so might other members of your family. They may try to make you feel guilty. But if you are sure that “no” is the right answer, then stick to it.
4. Affirm Them
And while you say no, (or yes) affirm them in the process. I can't tell you how many times my parents have told me that yes, there is a decision to make, and no they will not make it for me.
Their words: you are adults, and as such, you (my husband and I) need to decide together the best thing to do and do it and we will love you regardless of the decision.
That kind of help, hearing someone's belief in you and reaffirming their love, has been a tremendous boost to us in our adult life.
5. Say Yes
Only you know your unique family situation, so if you agree to give your kids help, there's no need to feel guilty. However, experts suggest placing limitations and/or conditions on the help you offer.
You need to set limitations and boundaries with your help, so you don't feel taken advantage of and so your kids still learn some problem-solving. I will do this, but not this. Or I will do this until this date and not longer.
Ultimately, only you can decide how to best help your adult children. Seek God's wisdom. He will give it (James 4). And above all, let them know you love them and believe in them regardless of whether the help you offer was what they had expected to get.