When is helping your grown kids not helpful at all?
You see it all the time in New Jersey: baby boomer parents helping their 20-something kids make rent or pay car insurance and credit card bills. Sometimes the parents even buy these grown children cars and condominiums.
According to Deborah Carr, professor of sociology at Rutgers University, parents have always wanted to give their children support and attention. These days, though, more and more parents are providing financial assistance, because "it's harder for a young person to be launched into adulthood today because they're staying in school longer," Carr said. "They're accruing more debt."
She said this kind of giving can be healthy, in the short term.
"If a child has hit a rough patch -- they graduate from college, they don't have a job, and they can't make their rent -- then I think they feel loved and supported if their parents are giving to them," Carr said.
However, Carr continued by saying it's important that parents let their children know that this help isn't going to be there forever.
"The important point is that it needs to be presented as a short-term assistance to launch one into independence, rather than a safety net that will carry these children into middle age," she said.
Somerset-based family counselor Marty Tashman advises parents to make an objective assessment of the situation.
"Parents need to ask themselves, 'What is my youngster doing with their life right now, and do I see (or) project any change in the next six months to a year in their circumstance?'" he said. "If their youngster is working hard, if they can see a change, well then, I would put a check mark in the column of 'help them out.' If you indulge the youngster and make it too comfortable, then they'll be, like the movie title, a failure to launch. They're not motivated. If you help too much, then your adult child will become comfortable and escape back into their room as a teenager."
Tashman added that if parents are driven by guilt in helping their children, the outcome will be terrible.