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Money and Parenting Adults

Money and Parenting Adults

One issue that gets in the way of a healthy parent-adult child relationship is money.

Whether we like it or not, around the world and in all relationships, money can create a power imbalance: the provinces with money versus those without, the employer signing the paychecks versus the employee being told what to do, the adult child living at home in the basement not paying rent versus the parent who owns the home.
In each case there are times when the party with money appears to have greater authority and more right to express opinions and make requests.

When it comes to adult child-parent relationships, I encourage all parties involved to try to extricate money from their relationship. Even without the intrusive impact of money, it can be challenging to transition the child-parent relationship from one between a minor and an adult to a relationship between two adults.

As discussed in my last post, it can be tempting to continue our parenting pattern of suggestions, ideas and commentary as our child becomes a twentysomething. It is so easy to forget we have no more right to say to our 21 year old child that we think she should ask for a raise than to say that to our next door neighbour!

I understand there is a strong pull to supporting our children in all ways and often letting them live with us or “having them on the payroll”. This can be explained by the current economic situation or the parents’ financial success.

The challenge I’ve seen, however, both as an estate lawyer and now as a therapist, is it is very hard to get off the path of paying for adult children. A dependency is easily created, and with it a belief that the parents can and should have a say in the child’s life.

There are no easy answers to how to change a relationship between adults, particularly when it has become tangled up with a money imbalance. This is especially the case where one adult is the child of the other. One thing is certain: there is at least one difficult conversation required, and likely more than that.

However, the alternative – to leave the situation as it is – will continue to deepen the financial dependency and threaten the health and stability of the child-parent relationship.

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