Is it time to tell the adult kids to stay away?

Turning your adult kids away can be hard, but is often the right thing.

Mature woman and grown son discussing serious matter

Turning your adult children away can be difficult, but if, like Bill, their continued presence is restricting your fun in retirement, it may be time for some not-so-subtle hints.

Q. Bill,
My wife and I love our two children and, like most parents, treated them well and always made them feel welcome at home. Too welcome it seems. Despite being 25 and 27, they keep coming back and expecting to stay for as long as they want. My wife and I were looking forward to some time on our own to rediscover our relationship once our children had moved out, but it seems we’re more involved in their lives than ever. My son and daughter expect my wife to cook, clean and do their laundry for them and they think I’m a glorified taxi driver! We don’t want them to think we don’t care, or are not there to support them, but seriously, this is just too much. Can you help?

A. I wonder how many parents out there are nodding in agreement as they cook their son or daughter’s dinner for them. Children are a wonderful gift but sometimes they become the gift that takes more than it gives.

Firstly, you can try being subtle. Ask them if they’re happy in their lives or if there is a reason that they feel unable to settle in the world on their own. Perhaps financial pressures are making it difficult for them to pay rent or buy a house. I don’t know if you’re in a position to help, but perhaps you could assist them by drawing up a budget.

Secondly, don’t make it so easy for them to come back. I’m assuming from what you say that you still maintain a bedroom for each of them in your home? Consider turning at least one of these rooms into a hobby room, study or second sitting room. This might make them realise that you and your wife have interests of your own that you wish to pursue. You could go a step further and consider downsizing to a home that suits just you and your wife; although you will need to be aware of any financial implications this has if you are claiming an Age Pension or other Centrelink payment.    

Finally, you may just need to be blunt. Sit your children down and explain to them how lucky you and your wife are that you are still in love with each other and wish to spend more time alone. Let them know that you will never turn your backs on them, but that it’s time for them to stand on their own two feet. If you feel uncomfortable doing this, you could consider writing a letter, but direct action is usually the best option. Relationships Australia can help with advice on how to tackle such issues and can even arrange mediation if things don’t go to plan. For more information, visit Relationships Australia.    

For what it’s worth, I’m sure you and your wife have been great parents, but can’t help wondering if there’s a part of both of you that enjoys the feeling of being needed by your children. This is not unusual and all too often when adult children become independent, they tend to forget all that their parents did to help them achieve what they have. Being open and upfront with your children will enable them to see that you respect them enough to have this discussion face-to-face but perhaps you and your wife need to be honest about the need to let your children go – and if you are truly capable of doing this. 



    To make a comment, please register or login
    30th Nov 2016
    Let me see. Your adult child ends up divorced. No home, kids to raise, and housing and rental at prohibitive levels. Your adult child is absolutely traumatized by their shattered life and you want us to chuck them out!
    I am sorry for this young generation. There isn't a place for them to go and enjoy their independence and I am sick of advertisements and articles that belittle our youngsters for having to seek refuge. Do you honestly think they want to come back!
    So before you increase the suicide rate even higher can we please stop these sort of comments and address the real issue i.e. the housing market crisis.
    30th Nov 2016
    Well said...our door is always open, last February my middle daughters relationship broke down, we supported her both financially and emotionally - she's back home now, her house now in her name is rented out.

    No regrets...naturally we'd prefer this situation not to have occurred, but such is life.
    30th Nov 2016
    Oh before we have the negative comments about my daughter keeping the house and 'men loosing out etc', facts in our situation, daughter had a sizeable inheritance from both grandmas as well as good savings - deposit was her money - daughter and her partner had only been in house 5 month!
    30th Nov 2016
    I believe you do need to keep the home open to family members in need.

    Those adults returning home also need to do their share of the chores, take turn at cooking and cleaning up and pay board to cover their costs.

    Even if you keep the money for their use as a bond etc they do need to pay their own way otherwise they learn nothing about being independent.
    30th Nov 2016
    Stop nodding your head....
    How did you get through life and its problems?..
    Your children are precious but so is your own life and sanity, and lets face it there is not much of it left.. we've done the hard yards, now its time to put up the feet...
    30th Nov 2016
    You can always walk around the house naked and have very noisy sex.
    30th Nov 2016
    Of course help your children if life goes pear shaped for them. But when they come home "to save money" so they can buy a house, and then abuse your kindness - that's a different matter again. Although they are adults they seem to think they deserve to be treated like they are children again. I'm over it too Bill!!
    30th Nov 2016
    Do I think kids are molly coddled today...yes, I do. What is stopping the brother and sister renting a flat together....others do it!

    They need to learn how to budget, and exist in the big wide world; pay bills etc.

    At 25 and 27 they should be standing on their own two feet. If you were living interstate they would have to do it; wouldn't they?

    Maybe that is the answer; sell the house and move to another part of Australia ;)
    30th Nov 2016
    I have a granny flat. Big mistake.

    My youngest lived in it for about 18 months, when she returned from Darwin. The extra power coming from my house cost me about $75 a month, & her water use became a problem with only tank water available.

    My son & his lady have been in it for over 2 years. They use even more water, & cost $120 a month in electricity. We have mentioned we can’t afford to use our air conditioning much, but that does not stop them running theirs 24/7.

    My son was even complaining when a tree branch cracked a window, & wanted it fixed. He lost interest when I suggested I would have to charge rent if I was going to have to spend money on the thing.

    Drink driving avoidance is the worst problem. 30 kilometres from any transport, when they go out a couple of nights a week, it requires me to do 120 kilometres dropping them in town, & picking them up, often quite late.

    Obviously I don’t want them driving after a few drinks, but I am getting a bit sick of my late night jaunts.

    When they move out, I think I’ll burn the damn thing down.
    30th Nov 2016
    You don't charge them rent?????? At least cover your power, water and car costs. They are taking advantage of you but worse you are letting them do it to you.
    When my family came home to stay for various lengths of time they paid for their share of the bills and a bit extra - as it should be. This was set down (in writing) before they moved their stuff in.
    If they aren't willing to pay give them notice to vacate and get in a really nice tenant who is willing to pay fair rent, then they can't come back.
    No Fixed ABode
    30th Nov 2016
    Those parents on here saying "Poor Jimmy, he lost his job; I'm here for him to live with me..." are EXACTLY the reason that adults living with their parents is becoming such a problem.

    No one EVER learns how to get by, to budget, to struggle back onto their feet if mum and/or dad give them hand outs all of the time.

    Becoming a responsible, well-balanced adult is achieved by learning through your own mistakes. Adult children never learn this and go on to be feckless people.
    30th Nov 2016
    Too Easy !! MOVE !! And don't tell them :-) :-)
    1st Dec 2016
    Every circumstance is different. Learning to stand on our own feet is important (and sometimes urgently necessary.) Even then, fortunes can run the wrong way and if a parent can comfortably assist on the trip back to the track good for them.

    I thought the advice that a formal agreement and cost recovery should be put in place appropriate.
    2nd Dec 2016
    My wife and I built a house with a separate flat many years ago and when we moved in the house our eldest son appropriated the flat . All bills (gas-power) were ours to pay and when he came home from work front and back doors were left open while he cuddled the gas heater and watched the box.So--- we charged 50 bucks a week to recoup our costs and from there on privately called him "crime" , cos crime don't pay. Every time he entered a relationship he moved out and moved back if it didn't work. We were asked by our village post office if there was any accommodation in the village and a light bulb glimmered . A divorcee moved in and paid 80 a week. The son came to visit and saw light's in the flat and said in a shocked voice "there's someone in my flat" and we broke it to him as gently as we could ," No son there's someone in OUR flat " .
    Problem solved , simples !
    2nd Dec 2016
    I'm surprised He didn't give the Person in the Flat a WEEKS NOTICE !! :-) :-)
    16th May 2017
    PS... :-) :-) :-)
    16th May 2017
    If they are still trying to find their feet financially, then you should welcome them back to assist. They are adults and there is no way either you or your wife should be doing any cooking, cleaning or washing for them. There is no reason why you and your wife cannot get on with your own lives seperate from them and they should contribute financially towards utility bills and food. They are adults!

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