Dear Dr. Chloe,
We are a married couple whose adult child has been living with us due to financial problems related to credit card debt he is still paying off from his early 20s. While we want to help, we also notice he is making purchases we consider to be frivolous. We have tried to discuss our concerns with him, but he just gets angry and says we are being unsupportive.
He is 27 years old and has a decent job, though we don’t feel he is working (or earning) up to his full potential. This is okay with us, since we understand that not everyone necessarily wants to prioritize earning their maximum possible income. He has said that while he knows it’s important to have a job, he feels there’s also “more to life than money”, and he enjoys spending time with his friends. Our relationship is generally harmonious, except for the issue of him living with us.
We enjoy having him here, but we also had envisioned him being more independent by this point in his life. We don’t charge him rent because it would feel awkward to do that to our own child when he’s having financial problems, and because we don’t want to do anything that would encourage him to think of this as a normal landlord situation. We would love to see him determined to do whatever it takes to live in his own apartment (or at least with roommates) out of his own natural desire for independence.
What should we do?
Dear Loving Parents,
Thank you for sharing. You are clearly loving parents who want what’s best for your son.
Your son’s frivolous purchases are incongruous with the idea that he’s living with you to eliminate debt. His anger and accusation that you’re being “unsupportive” for discussing this seems irrational– you’re clearly being very supportive by allowing him free rent, and showing interest in his financial health.
You asked me what to do. Since I only have limited knowledge of your situation, I’ll offer advice with the caveat that you must use your own best judgment and seek counsel from a trusted source such as a family therapist or clergyperson if needed. With that said:
Tell your son that you love and respect him as an adult who can make his own choices. Explain that this includes honoring his choice not to prioritize making more money even if he is in debt, despite the fact that you would take a different approach. Affirm that you recognize he doesn’t need your approval to make unnecessary purchases despite his debt. The next part is where it gets delicate:
Remind him that your …….