Advice From the Trenches

Advice from the Trenches: Aimless Kid

Dear C and Dr. B;

My daughter is 23. In high school she was very rebellious and saw my strictness as “you never want me to have any fun!” She moved out when she graduated and went to community college for a while,  but dropped out. She couldn’t afford her apartment because she couldn’t get a decent paying job.

Now she’s back home in her old room and slightly less rebellious. She says that she needs the breathing space to figure out what she wants to do. But I don’t really see her as doing much but glancing at the want ads every morning, then wasting the rest of the day on her computer or hanging out with friends. She got a part-time job at a nearby pizza place so she’d have something to spend, but she doesn’t contribute to the monthly bills. Every once in a while, she makes dinner. I have to bug her constantly to do her own dishes.

Her boyfriend, Hans, asked her to move in with him, but they seem to have no plans for the future and I think I’d rather she stayed here than move there. She’s not in my way that much, but I sense she is on her way to wasting her life. I’d like to encourage her to spread her own wings, but if I kick her out, she’ll just move in with Hans.

Any ideas?

Betty Crockpot

Dear Betty,

Parenting is never easy and the most influence we have on our kids is when they are very young. By the time they are teens it is a lot more difficult to change the direction in which they are heading. By the time they become a young adult, it could take years before they hear or incorporate anything new you have to say. However, humans learn through role modeling so you should continue to display the characteristics of the person you want your daughter to become. Hopefully, that means clear consistent boundaries and respect for others. It is reasonable to expect anyone in the house to participate fully as a team member. Anything less, in the long run, will be of little use to her.

But simply enabling her as you are now, won’t make either of your lives better. This may mean she will leave and go live with her boyfriend, but this relationship may not last. She seems a hands-on learner so will need some failed relationships before she is open to asking the right questions or working as a family team member. When and if she comes back it should be on the condition of clear and consistent expectations and boundaries. 

I would encourage her to have therapy, and I would try to talk to her about birth control or soon you will be raising a grandchild. I would also state your expectations should one come along or your dependent child will continue her dependence game indefinitely. 

Dr. B

Living at home isn’t the real issue. In Taiwan, where my family lives, it is the norm for students in their 20s to be living with their parents. The difference here is that your daughter isn’t in school anymore and she is establishing a lifestyle that will stick if you don’t give her a good swift kick in the ass.

This is pretty normal stuff. Not everyone is charging down the Big Career Path out of high school, some people take a while to get their footing. But your daughter is 23, not 40. She isn’t strung out on drugs or pregnant. She’s living at home and doesn’t have a sense of direction. It’s not really a psychiatric disorder. If you want to help her, give her some motivation. Your daughter needs to get back in college or technical school and figure out how she is going to support herself. You are making it too easy for her to relax while she is determining what to do with her life. Just consider this.

Often, the difference between people who succeed and those who don’t is that some people have no options. You want to help your daughter and then let go with a clear conscience? Give her some options. Option #1: If she gets herself back to school or into a training program for a job she’s interested in, and is a respectful member of the house, she has your blessing to stay until she’s gotten the education she needs. Option #2: If she wants to drift, she has to do it somewhere else.

If your daughter decides on Option #2, then you’ll know there’s a real problem.

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