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Shippy's avatar

How does one assist an "adult" child to become a functioning adult?

Asked by Shippy (9852 points ) December 8th, 2012

One that has been financially supported by his parents his whole life, is thirty years old and still aimless. Cannot seem to hold down a job, and currently is living “off” his girlfriend.

He has many qualifications, and is capable. What is stopping him?

Aside from a full mental evaluation, what types of practical things could help? What is a positive way to say “No” to this person. In terms of loans, never paid back or money or constant emotional support. I am looking for positive ways to deal with this. Since I suspect also that, confidence or self belief is part of the issue to start with. What would one say to the girl friend of this person, who has basically said, if he doesn’t start to earn their days are numbered. What types of contributions are expected from partners? Sometimes this does not involve money.

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7 Answers

Coloma's avatar

Not much anyone can do, other than let him suffer the consequences for his lackadaisical approach to life. If nobody continues to enable him, baby bird will learn to fly, or hit the ground.
As long as others are bringing the worms to his nest he has no motivation to do anything.
I think a “tough love” approach is all that can be done.
Setting boundaries and following through with the consequences.

The girl friend seems to be making noise, but noise making is not the same as taking action.
The ” one more time you’re really gonna get“mantra that a lot of parents fall into using, but…the kiddies never DO, actually get “IT.” haha
Part of all dysfunctional relationships involve constantly raising the bar but never lowering the boom.

Unbroken's avatar

Ah. After having experience in this matter I would say nothing. Anything you for this person is enabling them. They shut down when you seek answers or explanations. And mostly they feel they entitled to not working. Its a core belief predicated and reinforced in this case by 30 years of life.

They don’t want to change and they will put up with a lot of degrading stuff on a mental note the weariness and hurt from you being used and ignore it.
I mean positive reinforcement, taking away pleasures priviledges time wasting devices works in the short term but if they don’t desire change or even if they do, they aren’t willing to climb or overcome that much to get to a place where they like.

So abandon ship.

I kinda think the only possible method would be to encourage them, walk them step by step, listen without judgement when they tell you why they feel entitled, but most of the time they don’t know or won’t share because years of judgement prevent them from opening up.

hearkat's avatar

I’m from the tough-love school, myself. Having been in relationships with men like that, I made a point to raise my son to be independent.

At 30+, it will be a very hard lesson for him to learn, but learn he must if he wants to achieve personal integrity and fulfillment. Right now he’s grieving the loss of his father, but part of that is likely that he is afraid of not knowing whether he will continue to be provided for. This is a difficult time to take a tough stance; however, if you are soft now, a precedent will have been set.

I don’t know how much you want to discuss it, but you have been open here about your own mental health issues… is there any evidence that your son may also have such problems, and may need counseling and/or medication? Perhaps encouraging him to seek counseling for his grief and it may carry over into some of the other challenges he faces.

Good luck!

Shippy's avatar

@hearkat Yes, I thought the exact same thing. I am frustrated as not only could I not get help but neither can he. As soon as I can, I will be donating to some therapy and medications for him. Well noticed and thank you.

zenvelo's avatar

An alternative view consistent with the above is to stop enabling, communicate with the girlfriend to stop enabling, and whenever he comes for help tell him to start working with a therapist.

Bellatrix's avatar

You have to let them fall. Don’t give them loans. Don’t let them live with (read sponge off you). Refuse to enable their behaviour. It isn’t easy. It will hurt you as much as them and you may (will) feel guilty. At 30 our children should be self-sufficient unless there is a very good reason why they are not.

Unbroken's avatar

@Shippy I am sorry for being flip. I didn’t realize you were referencing your son.
I should say I was not successful and why I was not successful was because I increased the problem by applying negative pressure, I blamed and I enabled and I gave ultimatums. It was a situation that spiralled because my take on the situation was heavily loaded. I didn’t listen i assumed, I increased anxiety and when positive steps were taken I was transparent about leaping on them. Distancing listening being realistic and saying I can’t afford these amenities right now you will have to do without. Working out realistic goals and a small reward system might help. Having the courage to be open to listen and then wait to respond. Be distant not inaccessible let him know he can seek you out but donmt anticipate or circle him like a mother hen. I don’t know if it would help but it’s all I got. And of course therapy would be ideal but since you would be paying for it and he’ll only get out as much as he puts in…

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