Q.My wife and I have two daughters who are now in their late twenties. We put a fair amount of energy into raising them and giving them lots of opportunities. They went to good schools, we helped them with their homework, enrolled them in extra curricular activities and we traveled to interesting places as a family. When my wife and I were younger we had to struggle much more to assure ourselves of a good education and career. We had to work during high school and college, since our parents couldn’t afford to pay for everything. I enjoyed working hard and knowing I could create the future I wanted for myself.
One of my girls is quite independent. The other one seems unmotivated and tends to rely on us for financial support regularly. I don’t see her looking for work with any seriousness or wanting to get a degree so she can have a graduate education. Saying no to her requests makes me feel guilty. I don’t know how to help her grow in this area?
A You want to first understand what might be going on for her. What are her world views, ideas about work and independence? Does she have interests that can get her excited to work or go to school? Have you had such a conversation with her? Does she feel disappointed about the lack of opportunities? Does she feel lost? Some young folks express depression by withdrawing, becoming more dependent, afraid and disinterested in their futures. Present these topics and I’m sure you will learn a lot more about her.
Some children become more dependent when their parents hand them opportunities and pay for services without having to work for them. They take it for granted and don’t see the effort you’ve put in to helping them grow. Thus, they don’t really learn the real life lessons of earning, budgeting, planning and taking responsibility for themselves. Your financial support needs to be conditioned upon some agreements and follow through with time limits. She needs to give you a plan of moving towards financial independence or getting the training or degree she needs to get there in the near future. There are also students loans and many people do kickstarter campaigns to launch a career or start a business. You are not the only financial source for her.
Lastly, some parents unconsciously hold on to one of their children so as to not face the loss of an “empty nest.” Are you sure you want her to be on her own? She may move further away or have a serious relationship. Not having any children in the home after many years can feel strange and could put a strain on your marriage. Partners wonder what they will have in common and how they are going to deal with each other, since the distraction of raising a child is gone. Some couples have to rebuild their relationship to stay together and grow. Finding individual and shared activities and interests can rekindle your partnership at this point. Letting your child go is essential for her freedom and maturity. It will also initiate you into the next phase of your life.
Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist of Indian descent in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit www.wholenesstherapy.com