12 Sep Connecting Can Be Complicated
The bonds between parents and children can be complicated. As we work to repair or redefine the connections we have with our troubled adult children, we may also be dealing with one or more of six stress-inducing areas that can make rebuilding the relationship significantly more challenging and complicated. You won’t be surprised by any item on the list: money, incarceration, painful memories, grandchildren, family interference, and blended families. Because each of these six issues plays out differently in different circumstances with different people, I don’t have any one-size-fits-all solution.
But I can assure you that whatever time you spend now thinking and praying about any of these issues that impact you will be worthwhile. Ask the Lord—who promises to give us wisdom when we ask (James 1:5)—to help you know how to address any matters relevant to your unique circumstances. When we are armed with knowledge, God’s wisdom, and some specific strategies, we are better prepared to—in the power of the Spirit—do what we need to do in a given family situation. Let’s get started.
Love Is Not Spelled M-O-N-E-Y
“Our son was arrested again.”
Those five words held so much pain as this mother continued to share…
“The legal fees, bail, and cost of setting him up—and our grandson who lived with us—after his release have wiped us out. We are taking out a second mortgage to pay off that debt, his rehab, and treatment of his recently diagnosed bipolar disorder. So much is going wrong! My husband has a heart condition and needs medical care too. We argue about finances daily. I’m torn up inside. All I ever wanted was for my son to have an easier path than we did. And now how will we retire? I can’t abandon my son! But if I don’t help him, who will?”
Once a mother, always a mother…We love our children with every fiber of our being, no matter the choices they make—or don’t make.
And far too often—especially when our children’s safety and security are threatened—those feelings send us to our checkbook or credit card, and we let our children’s needs trump our own financial well-being. Whether we are on a fixed income or have abundant financial resources, a common denominator among parents of troubled adult children is the continual flow of money from us to them. Whether it’s $20 or $20,000, we will face serious consequences when we consistently come to the rescue with our checkbook.
In an article in CNBC.com, Lorie Konish wisely warned, “You might want to think twice before giving money to your adult children. It could ultimately trigger your financial ruin. It is reported that 70% of parents continue to help their adult kids after the age of 18 with everything from cell phones to house payments. And many do so without even having a conversation with their kids about it.”[i] Think about it. Have you ever discussed financial accountability, planning, and budgeting with your adult child? Or does he/she think you will never run out of money? If so, what did you do to contribute to that misconception?
What Motivates Us to Give?
Diane Harris said in Forbes.com, that helping with our adult children’s basic living expenses makes sense only if there is a “solid reason they can’t yet fend for themselves” and that anything more is “hobbling them on the path to full-fledged adulthood.”[ii] Our intentions are good, but the results can be bad.
When giving or loaning money to adult children, we must first consider our finances. Financial guru Suze Orman advises, “Say no out of love rather than yes out of fear.”[iii]
Our level of commitment to our children is not only a matter of the heart. It must be a matter of the head too. Our emotional responses to our kid’s problems have led many of us to refinance our homes, deplete our 401Ks, and even file for bankruptcy. Sadly, for many of us, money has done little or nothing to affect a solution to our child’s grim circumstances.
Consider the Consequences
We want our kids to be happy and healthy. When our kids are sick, either with an addiction or a diagnosed mental illness, we feel compelled to do everything we can for them. But decisions about our own financial futures must be weighed against the immediate and sometimes long-term care our troubled kids may need.
Before we make any financial commitments, we must consider the consequences. Financial and emotional burdens can hurt us not only mentally and physically, but they can also damage our marriages and other vital relationships.
And some of us find ourselves not only trying to navigate a relationship with our adult children wisely but also caring for their children. The love we have for our grandkids is complicated by the fear we have of our adult children’s unhealthy lifestyle and poor choices.
Closing the Bank of Mom and Dad
Our money must, however, stop being the life preserver that buoys up our adult children, keeping them afloat after yet another shipwreck. You and I might be amazed by how well our adult children can swim when given the opportunity. More important, they might be surprised by their ability to survive without life support—and that’s a powerful lesson that no amount of money can buy.
[i] Lorie Konish with CNBC.com quoted in “Giving money to your adult children,” The Week, January 26, 2018, https://www.pressreader.com/usa/the-week-us/20180126/282437054534069.
[ii] Diane Harris with Forbes.com quoted in “Giving money to your adult children,” The Week, January 26, 2018, https://www.pressreader.com/usa/the-week- us/20180126/282437054534069.
[iii] Suze Orman, “Managing Money” The Costco Connection 33, January 2018, 17.