As an LDS marriage counselor, I know that children can put a strain on a relationship when parents don’t agree about how they should be reared. What may be surprising is that it isn’t just minor children who can trigger conflicts between parents – adult children can have the same adverse effects on a marriage as younger ones. That’s why it’s important to clearly define your relationship with your adult children, especially with those children who seem to need or want the same kind of dependent relationship they had as small children.
When Your Adult Children Don’t Act Their Age
Whether your adult child lives with you or not, he or she can display behaviors that indicate that they haven’t learned how to act their age. If your 30-year-old son sits in your basement (or in his apartment) playing video games instead of looking for a full-time job, then he doesn’t understand what it means to be an adult who takes responsibility for his own welfare. If your children ask to live with you or they constantly borrow money, they haven’t grown up mentally or emotionally.
Enabling Is A Two-Way Street
When you give your adult children money or allow them to live in your home for an extended period of time or give in to some other demand that inconveniences you or makes your life more difficult, you are enabling them or giving them the power to do nothing for themselves. Though this may seem like a situation in which children are taking advantage of their parents, it is often the case that parents who are empty-nesters want to feel needed by their children, even as adults. Adult children who crawl back into the nest are enabling their parents to perform the same kinds of functions for their children as they did when they were young.
You And Your Spouse Must Work Together
Though it’s typical that one spouse will be more likely than the other to “help” their adult child, it is imperative that you both recognize the damage you are doing to your marriage when you don’t agree on how to handle a dependent child. You must make a plan that sets boundaries and stick to it. Don’t make unilateral decisions about giving help or money to a child; always talk it over and allow yourself a cooling-off period of 24 hours before you give your child a decision. If your child is already living with you, agree to give him or her a deadline for moving out. Though you may feel that your child will hate you, they never do. Eventually, they will realize that pushing them away is as beneficial for them as it is painful for you.
Get Professional Help
If you can’t agree on what to do with your children and you feel that your marriage is teetering on the brink because of it, get the professional help of an LDS marriage counselor. A marriage counselor can assist you in working together on being supportive without enabling your children. Counseling can help you to keep your marriage together and can help you to develop a healthier relationship with your adult children.
Learn how to deal with the problems some adult children can bring to your marriage by working with an LDS marriage counselor. Call me, Jody VanDrimmelen at Insight Child & Family Counseling, at (972) 426-9500 to schedule an appointment. You can also visit www.j9n.83e.myftpupload.com to find out more about my services.