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Money vampires: Launching your adult child

| August 08, 2018
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Just when you thought you’d finished raising your child and could focus on your own well-being, here she or he comes with a plea for money.


Their job doesn’t pay enough, and now they can’t pay their phone bill. Or they can’t find a job they like, and need rent money until they do.


Why, you wonder, is your child is still coming to you for financial help?


The economy—which, for millennials, can be much more challenging than for their parents—could be one answer. Things are different today, with sky-high student loan rates and wages that barely cover the cost of living, among other disadvantages.  


But some young adults who should—those who have more advantages than most—don’t “launch” into the autonomous adult world. Instead, your child remains in a state of childlike dependence on you. And they come back again and again to take the money that you need to secure your own financial future.


If you aren’t careful, you could give them everything, and end up with nothing. Surely this isn’t what you want. Chances are, it isn’t what your adult child wants, either.


Helping them to help themselves


This failure may or may not have to do with you. Different people mature differently, and at different ages. If your young adult child is 25 or under, their brain may not be fully developed. You can’t hasten the process, but you can help them grow and mature in other ways that will help them, and you, down the road.


Being a young adult is hard, it’s true. But we all did it, and got through it. Think about your first jobs, your first apartment, your first years being independent. Remember the challenges of figuring it all out? Remember how good you felt when you overcame a challenge, when you made something work using your own resourcefulness?


Why would you rob your children of those lessons, and the boosts to self-esteem and confidence that even the smallest successes can bring?


Many of us belong to the generation of “helicopter parents,” always hovering around our children, even when they are adults.


Or maybe we are “lawn mower” parents who want to groom everything in our children’s path so they can enjoy a smooth ride.


Each of these approaches cheats the young adult of freedom and autonomy, and makes it more likely that they will remain in a state of dependence. That’s not good for your kids, and it’s not good for you.


What to do

Where to look for answers? The mirror should be the first place you look. Because the problem of children who don’t launch usually starts with the people who raised them.


Where are you spending your time and energy? If you’re focusing on your child and their problems, that needs to change. You’ve raised the child to adulthood; now, you need a new hobby. How about getting a part-time job, or volunteering?


Perhaps doing something to improve your personal health, like taking up kick boxing or yoga, will lead you to work next on your financial well-being.


Because your primary job, now, is to take care of yourself. If you aren’t used to doing that, it may feel difficult at first. You may feel ashamed for being “selfish.” But there’s a big difference between selfishness and self-care. And modeling self-care can be one of the best things you do for your child, as well.


Here are some steps you can take to help your adult child to launch and live the life they were meant to live:


  • Acknowledge the problem.  You cannot change anything you don’t acknowledge.
  • Set boundaries, and enforce them. Practice saying, “I am sorry I cannot help you…..”  Help them build a spine while you build yours. A simple “no,” even if you have to say it many times, will do.
  • Stand your ground. Do not defend yourself. After all it is your money and you are in authority. Do not allow the “money vampire” to guilt, bully, or manipulate you into giving in. If you do, you’ll remain a doormat.
  • Be patient. Give yourself and your adult child the time you need to adjust to the change. Research shows it takes 66 days on average to establish new patterns of behavior. You and your child may take longer than this.
  • Be generous—selectively. Give freely of your love. Acknowledge your child’s growth and progress, and tell them you know that dealing with change is not easy. Do not, however, give away your integrity or your wallet.


Because we love and identify with our children no matter what their age, untying the financial purse strings can be at least as frightening for us as it is for them. But just like birds pushing their chicks from the nest, you can do this. In fact, you must—or your own bird may never learn to fly.

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

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