2 min read

Steps to Independence: How to Get Your Adult Children Living on Their Own

Close to 14 million adult children are still living at home. There are simple steps both parents and their kids need to take to make their lives more productive, fulfilling and healthy.

For Parents:

  • Set boundaries without feeling guilt.
    Parents need to put down boundaries and stick to them. Children often assume the victim role and say, "I can't do it. I have to live here." Parents buy into this thinking, and then feel guilty because they want to help their kids. When they feed that guilt, they ignore the fact that they are crippling their children's advancement in life.
  • Let your adult children plan their own lives.
    Parents should not try to make a life plan for their adult children; this is something they need to devise on their own so they will follow it. Parents can guide and support their kids, but treating them like babies may cause them to regress. They need to be moving ahead and maturing, not regressing into childhood roles. Adult kids should be living as independent young people and making their own way. They need to decide for themselves what they want out of life, and devise a plan to obtain it.
  • Think about the true meaning of help.
    There is an old saying: "Those for whom you do the most, wind up resenting you the worst." Are you really helping your kids if you're not showing them how the real world works? Parents need to redefine what it means to help someone. Look at your motivation for helping your children. If you are doing it to feel better about yourself, then you probably don't have your child's best interest in mind. You don't help people by taking away their self-sufficiency, pride of accomplishment and achievement. Children need to take an initiative and find ways to achieve their goals on their own. If something is important enough for your children, they will find a way to make it happen.
  • Prepare your children for the world.
    "When we talk about loving our children, loving them means preparing them," Dr. Phil tells his guests. In the world, your children will have to pull their own weight and make their own way. If you allow them not to require more from themselves, then they won't, and they won't progress. It is important for your children to learn self-sufficiency, develop high self-esteem and be motivated from early on in life. If you are constantly helping them and taking care of their needs, you are not preparing them for the real world, and in fact, you are actually crippling them. "It's not fair to enable them for a long, long time and then all of a sudden just put them on the street. You own the problem as well," Dr. Phil says. "There's got to be a plan. There's got to be a transition."

For Adult Children:

  • Take responsibility for yourself.
    Oftentimes it is easier to sit back and let others provide for you, while you get accustomed to a comfort zone. By taking the path of least resistance, you reward yourself with comfort and relief from anxiety that comes from reaching for something else. You may feel safe when you don't attempt to change, but you are sabotaging yourself. You are selling out your happiness and putting up with something you don't want. Require more of yourself
  • Have a plan to get on your own.
    Find a job, something that gives you the pride and independence to be able to say, "I am taking care of myself." Start living where you can get up in the morning and look in the mirror and say, "I'm a grown person; I'm living on my own and I'm proud of that."  Dr. Phil asks his guests, "Won't you feel much better when you are totally self-sufficient and running your own life?" Start at an entry-level position if you have to, and then build from there. Saving yourself for a management position is not the place to start. You need to get whatever job you can, and then build for another job. Set some goals and make a timeline to get there.  
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