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Adult children – does it ever end?

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Dear Ella,
I love my daughter with all my heart, but I don’t like her very much.
At the moment, we’re not speaking. She is self-centred and lacks common sense and compassion. Tracy was always our baby and we treated her that way. Her older brother did well in school, had lots of friends, played sports and today is a wonderful father with a promising career.

Tracy, however, is the exact opposite. She dropped out of high school, never went to university, married a guy she met in a questionable way and is living, with him, in our basement.
We have always bailed her out of everything. How could we stand back and watch our little girl suffer? We couldn’t –and now we are paying the price. Tracy is not self-sufficient and doesn’t know how to fall and get back up again.

I don’t know how to undo years of enabling. I find myself constantly anxious and worrying. My husband says we did the best we could, but he is just as upset as I am. Where do we go from here?
Might Be Too Late

Dear Might Be Too Late,
First off, it may be more difficult now that you’ve established a pattern, but it’s never too late. It has become very common for adult children to live at home until they get their lives on track. That may mean finishing school, or perhaps working and saving for a place of their own; or they may still be in limbo, unsure what direction they see their lives going.

In the first two scenarios, there’s an end. They eventually graduate, or save enough money for a down payment or security deposit and a little extra in an emergency fund. The latter scenario can turn into a very dangerous situation with no end in sight, while they wait for that perfect job to fall into their laps.

Months turn to years and tough parenting makes you feel like the bad guys. But are you really bad guys because you want your children, who may be well into their 30s, to stand on their own two feet?

By now, there are probably psychological issues, as well. Tracy may be depressed, have anxiety problems and lack self-confidence, which can lead to anger problems.

Enough enabling. You need a plan that must be respected by both of you. Bring a professional third party on board to implement a timeline and goal, perhaps a life coach or psychologist. It’s going to be tough and you are going to see Tracy fall, but you will see her get up and flourish, as well. That’s the prize you need to keep in mind on this rough ride you have ahead.


Dear Ella,
When we became empty nesters, we sold our house and moved to a condo. Steve and I still work. Steve works from home and often sees clients at the condo.

My son, Dror, finished his master’s at Dalhousie University and is now looking for a job. He’s back home and living in our spare room. Steve and Dror are getting on each other’s nerves. I know this is temporary, but I’d like to find a better way before their once great relationship is ruined permanently. Suggestions?
Too Much Togetherness

Dear Too Much Togetherness,
Dror has been away for a number of years and Steve and you have moved on. Now that Dror is back, it’s upset the natural order of how you planned your lives. Living under one small roof requires respect and boundaries.

This is Steve’s home and office and Dror has to fit in, not the other way around. Even though he’s your son, Dror must understand that he is a temporary guest. It’s up to you to set rules that are reasonable. If Steve doesn’t want him there when he’s seeing a client, then tell Dror he can’t stay there during those hours. He can pass time at a coffee shop if he desires. Don’t adjust your lives for him. He’s an adult and must adapt to fit into your new lifestyle, until he can find his own job and home. I hope he realizes how lucky he is to have you as a backup.

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