We all love our children and would do anything for them. We raise them so they can be decent and productive citizens, and we teach them about money as they are growing up. Whether we succeed in all of this or not, at some point, our children need to live their own lives and be responsible for themselves and their own families. There’s a point when all little birdies get kicked out of the nest. They don’t get kicked out because the mama bird is mean. It’s because that’s the only way they will learn to fly. We can teach them how to fly before they leave the nest, so when they do leave, they already have a good start on how to live their lives.
Sometimes we do everything right as parents, and our children still end up in bad situations. They get behind on their bills, they get behind on their mortgage payment, or they end up not having enough money for food. As parents and grandparents, we feel for them and want to help them. The problem is, we get so guilt driven that we think it’s our responsibility to get them out of the situation they are in. It is our responsibility to help others, but we don’t necessarily help them by just giving them money. There are many ways in which we can help our adult children and our grandkids without giving them money. Help them by not enabling them and help them by supporting them.
Do Not Enable Bad Behavior
Giving your adult children money could possibly be the worst way to help them. Your children who are in bad financial situations need to change their direction. Giving them money can cause them to keep moving in the same direction that they are already heading. This is enabling! Do not enable bad behavior. You do not give a drunk a drink. When they are moving in the wrong direction and you enable them, they will continue to move in the wrong direction. When your children are spending their money on car payments and cable TV, for example, and it’s causing them to get behind on their house payment, you don’t pay their mortgage bill for them.
Support Good Behavior
You can support good behavior by helping your children determine how they got themselves into their situation, by helping them set goals to get out of their situation, and by getting them to manage their finances going forward. Your children need to do these things, but you can help them if they ask.
When your adult children ask you to help them, this gives you an opportunity to help. As mentioned above, you don’t just throw money at the situation. You start helping them by having them determine how they got into that situation. If they are behind on their house payment, have them determine how they got into that situation. When they say their kids are not getting enough to eat because they did not have enough money to feed them, have them determine how they are in that situation*. If they got themselves into a situation where they are losing their house, it’s quite possible that they cannot afford the house they are in. It is not your responsibility to keep making payments on a house that they cannot afford. After they are clear on how they got themselves into that situation, then help them set expectations and goals in order to get themselves out of the situation they put themselves in.
*You can also tell them anytime they need food they can come over to your house and you will gladly cook them a meal.
Have Expectations and Set Goals
Your adult child needs to have expectations and goals if they are asking you for money or still living with you when they should be on their own. They need to set the expectations and create the goals, but if they refuse to, then you need to be clear on your expectations. They cannot live in your house if they are going to be lazy.
If they cannot make their mortgage payment, they need to have a goal of selling their house and finding a house they can afford. They cannot continue their lifestyle because they cannot afford it. If they do not have the money to buy a different house they can afford, they might need to rent. If they do not have enough for their security deposit to sign a lease, they better be working 80 hours a week until they have enough money to afford to rent. A goal in this situation would be that they work extremely hard for a few weeks in order to save 75 to 90% of the security down payment that is required for a lease. You can provide additional funds to complete the security deposit as an incentive or reward if you want to help them.
When you can tell they are on track to complete a goal, you can offer them additional assistance as an incentive. Another incentive could be that you will watch the kids a few days each week for no cost.
The bottom line is they need to have dignity. If they’re not going to school, they should be working two or three jobs in order to support themselves.
Another way to help them is to get them to manage their finances. If they are willing to work with a financial coach, consider paying for some of it while your child pays for most of it. Talk with the coach to see if you can join in their sessions so you can help hold them accountable. Consider putting them through a financial class like Financial Peace University and consider taking it with them just so you can be an accountability partner for them. Again, consider paying for half of it, or consider reimbursing them for all of it once they have completed the class and have a plan for their financial life.
In All Cases Show Love
People say this is tough love. It’s just love. As mentioned before, you do not give a drunk a drink, and you don’t give a drug addict money for their drugs. No one considers that tough love. It’s just love.
It is not your responsibility to take care of your adult children who are able to take care of themselves or their kids. You have a responsibility to show your children and grandchildren love. This responsibility will never end for you, but don’t put yourself under so much guilt because of your children’s actions that you keep enabling your adult children. Enabling is not love. It’s quite the opposite.
Love your children. You love them by helping them. You help them by getting them to help themselves.