Ask Kari: How Can I Help my (Adult) Child?

Dear Kari,

How do you deal with an adult child (age 24) who refuses to get a job because of COVID and refuses to pay the rent we asked him to contribute, even though he has plenty of money to do so? We would like him to get out on his own, but he is not taking the necessary steps to do so and defiantly walks away from us when we try to talk about our desired changes for him. How can we help him change?

– Frustrated Parent

Dear Frustrated Parent,

I am sorry your family system is struggling. It is reasonable to have established agreements with an adult child who lives with you, especially around contributions to the household. Such contributions could be labor/help around the house, guidelines for visitors or a curfew (like arriving home at a reasonable hour so as not to disturb others), and a financial commitment. To rework your system, you and your partner need to review exactly what you want and map it out on paper. Follow that up with a family meeting with your son when you share the new agreement/rules with him. Make sure you give him a clear start date for the new agreement.

On the start date, prepare for success versus failure, remain calm, and allow the new system and agreement to shape itself out. If the new system has an 80-90% success rate, then you have succeeded overall. If your son chooses not to participate in the changes and agreements, notify him he will need to move out and provide him with the exact date by which he will need to move from your home. (Three months out is the longest I would offer since someone could secure a job and housing within that amount of time.)

Follow through with your plan – this is your best shot at having your son make changes in his behavior. Scrapping your plan and giving up on your stated desires will model that you are not serious about your feelings for change, and you will get the same outcome as before with no changes occurring. Be firm and keep your boundaries. Best of luck!

– Kari

As published in the June 2021 issue of Connections.

About Kari:

Kari O’Neill, MSW, LICSW, is a licensed independent clinical social worker and a resident of Issaquah Highlands.

This column is for entertainment purposes only. If you are in crisis and in need of support please contact the Crisis Clinic at 866-427-4747.