When to help our adult children?

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by goldenguru, Nov 5, 2007.

  1. goldenguru

    goldenguru Active Member

    Another post in this forum got me thinking this morning.

    My husband and I are both from families whose parenting ideology went something like: "once you leave home - you've made your bed, now you sleep in it".

    We would have NEVER dared to ask for money or help of any kind. And there were times when we could have used the help. I specifically remember a time when there was one small can of tuna fish in our cupboard. Period. And a few condiments in the fridge. We did experience some hunger. We were responsible. We both worked. We just had a bad few months.

    We, on the other hand, do help our kids on occasion. We help with college tuition. We help with groceries sometimes. I will buy my granddaughter used clothes at garage sales.

    My parents (due to obviously differing views of 'correct' ways to parent adult kids) often criticize us. They point out that they never paid for my college tuition, or bought us groceries, or never babysat our kids.

    I don't think I'm crippling my kids. They are working hard. They just need a hand every now and then. They are very appreciative.

    How much do you help your adult kids. How much should we help our kids - or not for that matter?
  2. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member

    Well I think I have told my story on here before but here goes.

    My mom would have enabled me into homelessness, drug addiction and an early grave. She lived to see me in that shape. It made her feel better than me.

    My father on the other hand put his foot down and tough loved me. The divorced when I was 18 by the way. He shut the door on me and told me that when I wasnt acting the fool he would be more than happy to deal with me again. Now he did come see my first son in the hospital, and he took him out from time to time to make sure he had things, but I never got one red cent.

    Then when I turned my life around...and showed him I had turned my life around...he was there for me in my corner cheering all the way. I dont go to him often but if there is an emergency, he is there. If a kid wanted to go to summer camp and we really couldnt afford it and had to say no, Papa came through. If my washer broke down and I was going to have to go to the laundry mat for awhile, Papa came through. Now we always paid him back but those checks mysteriously got sent back in the mail...lol.
  3. Fran

    Fran Former desparate mom

    GG, just because you parent differently than your parents doesn't make it wrong.
    I know you struggled early on. I did too. Not a red cent from the time I graduated h.s. If I wanted to go on to school, it was on me.
    If I wanted a car it was up to me. No intervention when I had to take the bus into the scarier parts of the city to go to work at 11PM. It would have been good to have someone concerned with my safety.

    I think the secret is gratitude. If the kids are grateful and know this is a gift, then I don't have much of a problem with some help. My son's are both fairly dependent yet but I have a sister and brother who are considerably younger than me. They were sort of my first kids.
    I send nephews things I think they will need to help the strain on my sister's budget. It isn't bailing them out of the their two new cars but it limits the collateral damage. We are a bit of security net for when they are in a difficult situation. It is not habit or routine by any means. They also must pay back loans on a monthly basis. No paying, no further help. We haven't ever had a problem because there is gratitude.

    There were times when we were in our first little house and husband went to school at night that a bag of groceries or a 20.00 to pay the electric bill would have been a big relief. Never happened. Neither set of parents even thought to help out. I shouldn't say that, my mom helped me clean and set up the kitchen. She brought cooking implements. :rofl:(good wives cook)

    If helping the grandchildren suits you, then do it. I wouldn't enable by having the adult kids look to you every time they are squeezed as they go out to buy the next thing they think they need.

    I would rather pay to give them things that aren't in their budgets. A chance to go to a cabin on a lake with the kids and grandparents. It gives the grandkids shared memories with the family and it may not be something they would be able to do on their own. I wouldn't make a routine of car payments or mortgage payments. They have to stand up and live up to the responsibilities they signed on for.

    I'm of the thinking that independence is a goal but family helps family. We all need someone or something to make getting through this life a little less scary or lonely. The secret seems to be balance and when to know that helping is a negative and not a positive.
    In the meantime, enjoy your retirement and don't worry about them. Do what suits your personality.
    You don't answer to your parents and don't tell them your business in regards to the kids. They had their chance. Now it's yours.
    You answer to your God, your husband and yourself. Everyone else is not part of the process.
  4. WhymeMom?

    WhymeMom? No real answers to life..

    When you become an "adult" you get to make your own decisions. YOU decide if buying a bag of groceries for your kids makes you happy.... YOU decide that maybe your parents didn't help you because they thought it would make you stronger......YOU are not your parents and can decide how YOU want to handle situations.....Every parent/child relationship is different and the fun part is YOU get to decide how to handle things (at least on YOUR side of the relationship).....

    So toss out ANY guilt you think your parents are trying to put on you for giving stuff to YOUR kids.....

    My feeling is that if your kids show appreciation and are not adding up totals between siblings and it makes you happy, an occasional gift is totally appropriate....
  5. Sunlight

    Sunlight Active Member

    I was raised like you GG and married at 18 and was scared, hungry and pinched for funds most of the time.
    when my sons were small I never lavished things on them but wanted them to feel the pride of earning their way.
    I did give them whatever they wanted for Christmas and birthdays.

    today my son Nick is totally independent. I never give him anything because he doesnt need it. he did ask me to co-sign a car loan and I did. I knew it would not be a problem.

    If he asks, it is his for the asking. I know he would never abuse the privilege. truly he spends more on me for most occasions and I tell him it is too much.

    with Tony I give what he NEEDS not what he wants. of course I want him to have housing and food. I will give a leg up for that.

    I babysit Kaleb a lot because I love him and want him in my world. it is no burden. I want grandkids and want to be a part of their lives, same for Nick's if he ever has them. I love children.
  6. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    Like you GG, I was pretty much on my own at 18, and alone. I paid my own rent, car insurance, food bills, gas, car loan and worked full time, sometimes picking up extra hours to make ends meet. But that was better than moving 3000 miles away to where my parents retired at the time. I still had money to go out with friends on the weekends. It was hard and I know if I asked my mom probably would have given me a little something, but I had pride and didn't EVER ask. When I divorced from exh, I went on public assistance for a brief period of time. Public assistance is great (albeit extremely humiliating at times) but it was always about $100 short to meet my needs in caring for my children. My mom sent me $100 a month to help cover that difference. I even told her not to, but she insisted. Every day I am grateful for her help and I have in turn been afforded the opportunity to help her in kind. After her H died, she was neck high in debt and my siblings and I all kicked her a few bucks each month until she got back on her feet. She didn't want to take it, but she had to. It's what family does.

    There is a HUGE difference between enabling someone and simply being family and doing as family does. When my daughters are fully grown adults and if they are working hard to make a life for themselves, are responsible in every way and need help, I will help them. I don't see anything wrong with that. I can't wait to babysit my grandkids when I can, hopeful that they will live close by.

    I don't think you're enabling your kids nor do I think you're hovering, helicopter parenting, or crippling them. If they were constantly getting themselves into jams and you were constantly rescuing them, then yes, I'd say that was not the healthiest thing, but that's not the case, is it? ♥
  7. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    I grew up under the "You're an adult -at 18-, if you make your bed lie in it" philosophy.

    husband's Dad had that philosophy, but his mother didn't.

    We have had some rough years. Plenty of times the cupboards were bare and the frig empty. Couldn't tell you how many times utilities were shut off.

    I wouldn't dare ask my Mom for a dime. I knew the answer. mother in law saved our fannies I can't tell you how many many times over the years. While I most certainly appreciate what she did, it also hurt us in the long run. husband never worried about paying bills ect cuz he knew his Mom would bail him out. He never worried about losing a job cuz Mom would pay the rent and bills and buy the food. She'd even let us move in if necessary.

    I'm sticking with the "you make your bed" philosophy for the most part. Oh, I'm not as rigid as my Mom about it. I have no real problem helping out with daycare when it's truely needed. I've been known to offer a huge homecooked meal when I knew easy child and sister in law were having a tough time. Also been known to give them a bag of food, or let them shop in my pantry.

    But I don't pay for college. I don't pay bills. I don't loan money.
  8. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    <div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: Daisylover</div><div class="ubbcode-body">We have had some rough years. Plenty of times the cupboards were bare and the frig empty. Couldn't tell you how many times utilities were shut off.

    This made me think back to when I was married to exh and easy child was just under 2, difficult child was JUST born and we ran out of heating gas and the company would not refill unless it was a prepay. Exh went to his mom and she lent us the $300 deposit but only after he signed a peice of paper saying that upon the sale of our ONLY car within the next 2 weeks we would pay it directly back to her, with 2% interest! So, we sold our car, gave her the money and used exh's work vehicle for everything. My friend had to drive me in her school bus (with my kids in carseats on the bus) over 15 miles to hand mother in law the $300 cash only repayment. Another time, we were homeless for 3 weeks and while exh went and stayed at his friend's loft (probably doing cocaine 24/7), I stayed with my brother's family of 5 for a few days, then to sister in law's family for a few days. I asked exh's mom if I could stay with her (she had a 4 bedroom home and it was only her and father in law) for a few days and she said, "No". And every year she demanded our presence for Christmas dinner at her house and we had to bring something as well as pay $15/family.

    That must be the other extreme, because I would NEVER allow my kids to be homeless, especially if they had my grandkids, and I would not be charging them for Christmas dinner. However, that said, I can now see that my mother in law was the mother of an obvious difficult child and I just didn't know it yet, so maybe that's why she was the way she was with exh. ??
  9. Kathy813

    Kathy813 Well-Known Member Staff Member

    What good timing, GG. I was wrestling with this same dilemma and had considered starting a thread on the subject.

    As some of you may remember, my difficult child seems to be doing remarkably well. She is living on her own, delivering pizza for a living, and going to school fulltime at a local commmunity college.

    We are also getting along great. I actually like spending time with her and she gives me hugs and tells me that she loves me when she leaves. I never thought I would be saying that a couple of years ago.

    So what's the problem? As our relationship has gotten better, difficult child is expecting more and more material things. She will call me and say, "mom, I need some new jeans, can we go shopping?" and then expect me to pay for them. Or she will be short $25 for the rent and asks for help.

    The more we help, the more she asks for. The thing is, delivering pizza barely pays her bills plus she was sick for a week and couldn't work so she was short the money for the rent. So we did help out. Her car has also needed major work and she couldn't afford to fix it so we had to pay for it. Not getting it fixed was not an option because she needs the car to work. Luckily, financially, it was not a problem for us but I do worry about her becoming too dependent on us.

    One one hand, I'm thinking "do to get" and she is doing all the right things right now. On the other hand, the more we help the more she expects from us and the less independent she is.

    So it's a real dilemma. I wish I had an answer for you but I am in the same place right now.

  10. Irene_J

    Irene_J Member

    I help my difficult child more than I would like to, and see it continuing for awhile. She attends community college and works part time and generally takes care of her expenses (cell phone, car, insurance). I pay for tuition and books.

    But she has Executive Function issues and I really don't think I could let her sink or swim now, even though she's 19. She depends on me to sort of interpret her world, not just for money. Actually, money is a very small part of my assistance to her.

    My difficult child needs help negotiating the world. But, my relationship with her is now good and I enjoy having her around. With her classes and job, we don't really see each other that much.

    Still, I worry about what she will do once she finishes school and works full time. I really don't think she could handle bills and an apartment on her own. At least not now.
  11. Terryforvols

    Terryforvols Member


    We have two adult children, a son and daughter (who was the MAIN difficult child, although both were there at times!). Daughter is recently married and pregnant and in college. Her husband is a former addict, also, who has a terrific work ethic. He apparently got addicted early, in H.S., and never graduated or got his GED, but works for a business that sells and installs skylights and is doing well. Unfortunately, he is a terrible $$ manager and his mom takes his paycheck and pays bills out of it (their house and utility pmts, he has just now been able to open a bank acct because of his past). We do a different type of thing for difficult child (who also has just been able to open a bank acct), her student loan $$ is here and she figures out what bills she has to pay and we send her a month of $$ and she pays things. Our son is an excellent $$ manager, better than his parents!! He very rarely, if ever, asks for $$ and you can count on being repaid exactly when he says he will. husband and I were TERRIBLE $$ managers when our kids were growing up and, sadly, are just now coming out of it. When I think back where we could be now if we had only been responsible 27 years ago it makes me sick!! That is embarassing to admit to!!

    We have helped daughter in the past to the point of our own financial security. As I have said in the past, we drained every dime from our retirement to send her to long term Residential Treatment Center (RTC), which was cash only, but it saved her life and we would do it again; I really don't count that as "giving" her $$, it literally saved her. We are now 50 years old with only a small amount in 401(K) when we had close to $90,000 3 years ago!! Due to drugs, she was in so deep financially that it has taken her and us two years to get out (we agreed to help her if she stayed in rehab, complete the program x 8 months and stay clean, which she did). Now she is more stable and for the past 6-12 months, she has cut down on needing $$. Now that she is pregnant, I have bought her two shirts off E-Bay recently. When using drugs, she had more of a "deserve it" mentality, but now she is so grateful for everything. She would have never gone to a consignment store in the past, but being out on her own has opened her eyes.

    ANYWAY, I would never let either child be hungry or homeless, but the time has gone by for just giving them $$ to go have fun with like an allowance. I am sure once the baby comes that I will buy a lot of clothes, but on E-Bay or consignment mostly. difficult child's husband's family is loaded with $$ and difficult child said last year that she had never seen a Christmas like they have. We will help them in times of need (no vacations, cars, etc.) as long as they are helping themselves as best as possible, but my daughter has 3+ years before she gets her education degree and it will be rough.
  12. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    I think it's important for your parents to remember that they are not you, and these are not their children. If you are not harming them or your children, what's it to them? Some families pay for college. Others don't. Some families buy their kids their first house. Others don't. I don't think any of us can point at any one of these things and say "That's what made my child a (failure) (success)."

    I help in a way that I hope will encourage them to help themselves. Get an apartment? Maybe I have some things around the house for you. Maybe I'll get you some basic necessities. Hungry? Maybe I'll buy you groceries, or feed you. Lose your job? I'll keep my ears open for something else and let you decide if you want to pursue it.
  13. fedup

    fedup New Member

    What a timely subject! This kind of came up at my counseling session last week. It was more to do with boandaries (or not having any) than it had to do with money. All in all, it can blend in.

    I have helped all of our children out at one time or another. One is completely paid off, one is almost paid off, and two have a ways to go yet. In fact, the one that is paid off just loaned Dad money for a beater car, because his gave out, anad we didn't have any money saved to replace it. I don't give cash out, but I have paid for clothes, food, car, gas, and utilities. Though I paid at least 3 utility bills for one, the house still was lost. The cell phones and other phone were lost. One has paid me off once, but borrowed more, and owes the house a bill, too. Also, I have paid for cat food and litter. That, I usually get reimbursed for very quickly.

    I think the trick is to know when the need is valid and when you are going to be taken for a ride. I have been taken for a ride once by some"friends", and once by a family member.

    While my folks weren't certain they could loan me some money when I needed it, my oldest brother would just ask How much and how do I need it. I have paid my parents back, but my brother didn't ever want it back- what we borrowed was closing costs on our house and tuition for school one time. We are barely to the plces (I'm sad to say) where I could pay him back. However, I just have the gut feeling something serious would come up as soon as I paid it, and then we would be in a jam again.

    Hubby is not good at waiting to geet what he wants, so his credit is blown. Mine is getting better, because I am not using it much, and am paying extra.
  14. hearthope

    hearthope New Member

    Reading all these post have made me think deeper about my post question on helping my son..

    My parents spent almost all the money they had to rescue my difficult child brother, when I came along it was you made your bed lie in it!

    I have been homeless, I have been in battered woman shelters and I have lived in public housing. I would not have asked my parents for a dime. I think it was pride and proving to them I didn't need them. But, those feelings came from the hurt of being disowned because of my choice to keep my bi-racial children.

    Fast - forward to the past 8 yrs, they have tried to make up for the lost time. As they have aged, they have given each of us siblings money and helped at times without asking and would not accept any payback. This is only after seeing each of us working hard and being responsible.

    I know how hard I struggled and how it feels to be unloved and hungry and I have a hard time imagining sitting back and letting my own children experience it. I think it only made me bitter and it has taking me years to change my outlook.

    Our parents grew up in different times, they know mostly just what their parents did to them, or that is what I seem to get from mine.

    I think the world is harder now, I think that a hand up is different than a hand out.

    Thanks for the thread, It is helping me search deeper for the answers to helping my son. I hadn't put my past into my thoughts before reading this and now I have a better understanding of why I feel such a need to give him the hand up.

  15. goldenguru

    goldenguru Active Member

    <div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body"> I think the world is harder now</div></div>

    I think you make a very, very valid point hearthope.

    It seems that when my parents were starting out, my dad's factory job was sufficient for them to buy a home, have health insurance and enough groceries to keep the body alive.

    Fast forward two generations. My sister in law (a high school grad) works full time without the benefit of insurance or any type of benefits for that matter. daughter has to work part time. They can barely afford rent and food money is very tight. Even with help from Angel Food Ministries.

    Times are different. Making a living wage is more difficult (especially in our fine state). Working 40 hours a week no longer qualifies an employee for health insurance. The number of working poor has to have increased in the past years.

    The world IS harder now.
  16. Penta

    Penta New Member

    This is interesting. My girl will be 19 this week and she has made a remarkable turnaround in the past few years. She is a student and she has 2 jobs at different retail stores. She pays for her car insurance, cell phone and personal needs. I provide shelter, food, and occasional dinners out. When she is in a bind, I have loaned her money for a car repair because I was concerned for her safety. She has paid me back in a timely manner.

    I often wish I could offer her more because I am so impressed with her maturity, but I still have a majorly huge educational loan I am paying back for the Residential Treatment Center (RTC) where she spent 17 months. So, I am limited in my financial resources.

    Neither she, my son or his wife ever ask me for money. I am proud of them for being able to make their way in the world.
  17. Chele

    Chele New Member

    I think you have gotten some great replies.
    Here is what hits me- your signature.

    (Veteran of parenting a trouble teen. She is doing very well.
    My family is living proof that there is light at the end of long dark tunnels.)

    Sorry I don't know how to quote something yet.

    I think this says it all. She is going very well. If she is and you do not feel you are enabling her, then go for it. I think the key is to insure that your SO and you are on the same page in what and how you decide to help.

    I ,too, had one parent that I would never consider asking for a thing and then my Mom was there to help anytime. I guess I have a lot of pride that keeps me from asking but it has always been nice to know that if I lost my job or got a divorce that I had someone to turn for help.

    I don't have any kids out of the house yet but I know that I have been saving old furniture, sheets, towels etc. to give to them. I can't wait to help them set up their first dorm or apartment, it is so fun to go shopping. But, I certainly won't help my difficult child son, if he doesn't start helping himself and changing his ways. I will just save it all for my daughter.

    One last thing- At 45 years old, I have sure learned how to tune my parents out when needed also. They have different views on some things than we do, so I just say, Oh- ok and let it go when they criticize. Or, I will just give a little dig like- Well, you never did it for me and that is exactly why I want to help her some, she's a good or responsible person now.
  18. goldenguru

    goldenguru Active Member

    Thanks for the thoughts ladies. It is a fine line we walk.

    Last night my daughter called and was asking for advise on how to deal with her mother in law. It occurred to me that just as we can give too much in material terms ... we can also give too much in advise terms. I really think she wanted me to say "Do this. Don't do this. And for heaven's sake - whatever you do - don't do that".

    I'm afraid I disappointed her. I listened. And I kept telling her to talk to her husband and to pray for God's wisdom.

    It was really difficult because I wanted to give her my two cents.

    I'm good at giving free advise - ask my hubby. LOL.

    This post just has me rethinking in new terms of 'helping our adult kids'. Just as we need to be cautious in not over giving materials - we need to be just as cautious to not over give advise - even when they ask for it.

    Oh the lessons I'm learning - :faint:
  19. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I will always help my autistic son. He will need me and, after I'm gone, his siblings. I don't expect him to live in complete independence. Other than that, I do help my grown kids the little that I can (I don't have big bucks) once in a while. I had no help at all and was thrown out at eighteen with bipolar disorder and a severe NonVerbal Learning Disorder (NVLD). I knew I'd be homeless if I didn't get married fast, so I did. And I wasn't on drugs or disobedient--I just got thrown out because my parents felt I was "lazy." I lost job after job even when I tried very hard to keep them. I think it depends on what's wrong with your child. If the child is a drug addict, I wouldn't help one bit. If the child has a disability, in my opinion, that is a whole different story. JMO
  20. Fran

    Fran Former desparate mom

    GG, I disagree with not giving the children the benefit of your wisdom learned. It is the way life was learned from the beginning of time. From mother to daughter and so on. It's why families that have multiple generations living together function better.
    If they ask, you make suggestions of what you would do and what seems reasonable to them. I always ask "what should you do about that? It triggers some thinking in the child.
    I definitely present the opposite viewpoint often times. When there is a complaint about m i l, boss, husband, I ask them what they would think if they were in those same shoes. I ask the questions that make them think about a purchase before they do it.

    If they don't listen, so be it. I don't intrude but I absolutely believe it is in their best interest to learn when they want to hear it.

    We learn on the shoulders of those who go before us. Always have and always will. The tough job is not making decisions for them.