If you are actually supporting your adult children who are over 50 years old and perceive that support to be co-dependence, I encourage you to do a few things:
- Consider what you are getting out of this support – what is your motivation and are their other more positive ways you could get those needs met?
- Reflect on any ways that your own childhood may be influencing these behaviors and work with a trusted friend, family member, faith leader or therapist to identify those issues and address them.
- Apologize to your kids for treating them like they are incapable if indeed there are no mental or physical deficits that justify this continued financial support.
- Consider using Al-Anon or other support groups to examine your tendency toward co-dependence. A sponsor can be a big help and you might find that your co-dependence is not only in relation to your children.
- Ask for support from loved ones and other trusted people in your life to make a plan to reduce and finally eliminate this support if you don’t believe it is the right thing for you and your children. Make a plan with dollar amounts diminishing over a planned period of time until the support ends if that is your goal.
- Be kind to yourself in this process. You started this arrangement out of love for your kids and you likely didn’t recognize the ways this dependence might not actually be supportive to them. None of us are perfect parents and almost all of us are always trying to do our best.
This is challenging when you have an ex-spouse situation wherein the ex provides unlimited funds without any expectations and you, as the other parent, are trying to instill some sort of financial responsibility
You are absolutely right about that but you can make a difference if you can make a financial arrangement with your child that is both firm and friendly. Set up your agreement and keep it. You are powerless over your ex-spouse but you can model a relationship with your adult child that is empowering and respectful. Refrain from lecturing or commenting about your child’s other parents in any negative ways. Your willingness to treat your adult child like he or she is capable and competent can be impactful in the long run even if it doesn’t look like it right now.
There is a lot of conflict with my daughter and husband/father and they triangulate through me on all these issues. I think we should see a family counselor together
Well, you could see a counselor together but you might try talking with your daughter and her husband and let them know that you want to support them both and will encourage your daughter to go back to her husband when she has issues with him. Express your confidence in their ability to work things out and their wisdom to know when to seek a counselor to help. I think that relationship between your daughter and her husband should take priority. If her father wants to meet with a counselor to help him improve his relationship with his daughter, you can certainly suggest that idea. If you and your husband and daughter want to see a counselor, that might help. But it is entirely your job to step out of that triangulation. You can tell your daughter and husband that you will listen to their concerns but you don’t want to be the go-between in any way and trust them to work it out, even if you don’t like how they do it! You can’t really be triangulated with your participation, so send them loving energy and step back and get support for yourself while you watch them struggle and hope they can find their way out of these conflicts. Accepting your own powerlessness with adult children is, from my point of view, one of our biggest challenges.
My daughter is postponing payment of her student loans. I’m concerned about the interest accumulating. I’m also concerned with her job choice – she makes money as an online burlesque dancer. I feel like she could do so much better.
I can certainly understand your concerns and because your daughter is an adult, your work will be to accept your powerlessness for now. I started the online class with a story about a famous writer who went in a lot of different directions before he found his way. This may be a temporary direction for your daughter. Try to understand her goals in doing this work and help her think about other ways she can accomplish those goals. Ask if she would like to think together with you about a spending and savings plan for the future. Use an I-statement and get support from friends and family to accept your powerlessness, step back and maintain a positive relationship with your daughter even though you don’t approve of her current approach to life.
My daughter has a full time job, but because of loans can’t afford to move out of our home. It’s so hard not to make comments on what she’s spending money on and her decisions. Any advise?
Hopefully you got some ideas about how to structure your agreements with your child about finances. I believe that adult children should make a contribution to room and board while living at home and that you develop the contract we mentioned during the class. However, once you have a financial agreement, I would refrain from comment unless she gives you permission to express your point of view. You could certainly offer to help her develop a budget or saving and spending plan to assist her with reaching her goals. And it is important that you recognize it is she who has to come up with those goals. I think we mentioned in our conversation that it is important to plan a time frame for your child living at home if that is important to you. But just commenting on her spending will likely not be productive nor help her improve her finances… and those comments could easily lead to conflict or distance between you.