I have a question for you. Our daughter is 24 and lives at home with us. She is dating, but not so frequently. Thankfully, she is not too isolated. She still has some of her old friends who are not married, plus she has made some new friends over the past couple of years.
She just finished her masters and is looking for work. We paid for her schooling and are paying for all of her expenses.
My question is this: Is there anything we can do to help her get settled? She doesn’t want to move out and we don’t really want her to either, but we aren’t sure if we are keeping her from taking the next step in her life.
-Still in this Single Stage
Dear Still in this Single Stage,
I’m so happy that you asked this question. There is a really tough balance that parents today have to find between fostering independence and continuing the secure love that every human being deserves.
So, it turns out that you are not the only family with a single child under your roof.
In the shidduch world, of course, it is quite common for adult children who are dating to live at home. Lately, the rest of society has mimicked this trend. In fact, there is an overall trend in the American demographic that indicates we have trouble launching our children into independent living.
One cause of this common household issue is the economy. It is still pretty hard to make it out there. Getting on your feet is pretty tough these days.
So it makes financial sense that your daughter is living with you: financial sense for her, at least. And financial sense in the short term, that is.
You see, something that comes up when thinking about financially supporting an adult child is the fear that he or she will not know what it’s like to be hungry. If you don’t feel hunger, you don’t feel the urgency of earning. If you don’t feel the urgency of earning, you will not push yourself to earn as much. And if you aren’t earning much, well, then it makes financial sense to live with your parents for another year. And around the cycle we go…
But you don’t want to kick her to the curb, and for good reason.
So I think it is really important to set up your loving home with a new kind of structure.
What kind of structure? Well, it’s different for each family. Some parents accept monthly “rent,” others ask the adult child to contribute to the costs of food, and others simply say the child must pay for any “extras.” Maintain the spirit of this in other areas too. So stop doing her laundry and don’t even think about making her bed!
But the most important thing to do is to make it clear that you are still here for her, always, and no matter what.
Young children need an attachment figure. Duh. But it is equally a need in adults.
As adults, we usually find a new person to attach to, and that comes in the form of a romantic partner or a spouse.
Or, for some, it comes in the form of a dog or a cat. Ever hear of a Pet Parent?
In any case, a single woman or man does not yet have anyone new to attach to.
More and more studies show being lonesome is quite bad for your health. And loneliness can occur even if you are not alone. It can happen if you feel disconnected from those living with you.
Her parents are all she has to attach to. You want this relationship to continue feeling safe and secure for her, while opening her up to be able to attach to others.
I know some experts fear that security; they worry that if someone is too content, they will not seek out a partner.
I disagree. I see that those who are securely attached are empowered and motivated to seek out even greater fulfillment, and that comes in the form of a spouse. It also attracts more secure candidates.
So the number one thing to keep in mind is to give her a very strong message of love and acceptance (even while working out your new financial system).
And do you know the best way to give her a message of love and acceptance? By doing something really hard. By imagining that she may never get married and believing that that would be good enough.
I cannot stress enough how important this is. Singles walk around in our society feeling like they are not good enough, even sub-human. This has to change and must change. Find value in your daughter for who she is today. Let go of your hopes for the future.
That will stand her a good chance of a bright and happy one.
Good luck restructuring!
Aviva Rizel, MA, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Aviva maintains a busy private practice in Cedarhurst, NY where she sees couples, families and individuals. She previously served as the Clinical Director of The Five Towns Marriage Initiative. She is trained in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT), the most effective, research-based model for strengthening couples’ connections. Aviva is also active in educating therapists and laypeople about EFT. Mrs. Rizel and her husband, Meir Rizel, MS, a Mental Health Counselor, enjoy co-lecturing across the tri-state area together almost as much as they enjoy raising their three children together in Far Rockaway, NY. To reach Aviva, email AvivaRizel.email@example.com or call 347-292-8482 To find out more about Emotionally Focused Therapy, go to iceeft.com.