Rules, boundaries and older children — letting go

The phenomenon of adult children living at home and dependent on parents/ carers have become a worldwide problem. According to statistics more and more young adults who are well beyond their 20s, are living at home with parents or carers.

Aug 05, 2022

                     Purposeful Parenting Christine Fernandez

The phenomenon of adult children living at home and dependent on parents/ carers have become a worldwide problem. According to statistics more and more young adults who are well beyond their 20s, are living at home with parents or carers. What is most concerning is that these young adults (19-30 years) are idle and going nowhere fast as they don’t like making sacrifices. Parents on the other hand don’t want their children to make sacrifices.

Making a transition from adolescence to adulthood is very stressful, uncomfortable and difficult for a young adult. It involves solving some very complex problems for both parents and their adult children: What kind of life will they lead? Will they ever find a job? How will they make it on their own?

My husband and I have direct experience with our own first born who came home after graduating college at 24 years of age, and decided that he wanted to live with us whether we liked it or not. We were enjoying having one less kid living under our roof, but nevertheless it was a delight having him back to liven up the dinner table. However, we have found that the grace of God has helped in incorporating some helpful steps in our parenting process when we admitted to our imperfections and committed them to, a perfect God who will guide, guard and govern your sons and daughters in ways you could never carry out on your own (Psalm 78). Most importantly I learnt to, trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs: 3:5). Furthermore, I leaned on my training in psychology and other support systems to guide us in clarifying rules and expectations to make things more peaceful in the multi-generational home.

Though most young adults who live with parents solve problems in a non-destructive way, there is however, a sub-group of young adults who still make it their parents’ problem and society’s problem and everybody else’s problem. They can be abusive, intimidating and controlling. If you are one of those parents or carers dealing with a young adult of this group, it will take all the strength and commitment you can muster to force your adult child to become independent. At this stage, parenting your child in the flesh is over and it is time to parent him/her in spirit. I am not implying that parents have to throw their young adults out of the house. However, I am saying that your young adult will not change until you do something drastic. Even if your adult child is incapable of living independently, you can still hold him/her accountable for following basic house rules. As the Bible says in Hebrews 12:11, No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

As a parent I understand the difficulty, fear and anxiety of sending your child out into the world, but I also know that the best personality characteristic you can give your adult child is independence and the knowhow to solve life’s problems. Unfortunately, there is no grey area here. As a parent you have to be strong in demanding that your adult child starts to face his/her situation in life while you help them prepare themselves for adulthood, even though they are already young adults. So, how can you help your adult child to be independent and maybe even move out?

Remember the time when your child went to pre-kindergarten? Now, just as those times, your adult child needs to test his/her capability and competence. Your job as a parent now, is just to provide empathic support and not security and protection. Your young adult needs to move on to the next stage of life and you as a parent and carer have to let that happen by keeping communications open, being flexible and supportive and creating a bit of distance. However, let them know that you are still there when needed even if you are not physically present.

Change is difficult and it can be a rocky time for parents to navigate the new dynamics. But, what family hasn’t encountered challenges? Therefore, bear in mind that you are not losing a child but gaining an adult. These new boundaries you set for yourself and your adult child can be logistically important with a two-way negotiation as you now learn about the life your child is creating, the kind of support he/she is expecting from you, where to draw your line in supporting him/her, and how you as a parent will now redefine your own life at home, if you do not have other children.

Letting go can be the hardest thing for any parent. However, if you continue to make decisions for them and interfere every time there is a problem, you are admitting that you did a lousy job of parenting by not having faith in your adult child to handle themselves in difficult situations. Furthermore, part of being an adult is making mistakes and learning from them. Therefore, do not be a “fixer upper” parent. Be a supportive one who asks open ended questions like: “How do you think you can improve”? Or “What are you going to do now”? Or even “How are you going to solve this issue”? instead of making decisions for them and telling them what they should do. Let us be reminded that if our adult children are capable of making mistakes, they are also capable of learning from them by persevering, a skill needed for college, workforce and life itself.

Jesus accomplished what His heavenly father sent Him to do regardless of the trials and tribulations, with “Joy”. So too, are we chosen to accomplish our duties as parents and carers. Therefore, let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due course we will reap, if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).

(Christine Fernandez is a social worker, counsellor, chaplain, parent and grandparent. She would love to hear your parenting stories. Do drop her a line at:

Total Comments:0