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Adult Child Won't Leave Nest

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: This question concerns adult (twenty eight years old) children living at home with their parents. This young adult is not working but is capable of working. I've heard that a contract is a good method of working toward separation. What should the contract contain in terms of goals and conditions? How is it carried out? Thank you!

A: I think a written contract is an excellent tool in helping to resolve a conflict like you describe. Twenty-year-old children who are physically and emotionally capable of working are not contributing to the overall welfare of the family and are being encouraged in this irresponsible, adolescent behavior by their parents. It always takes "two to tango" in these situations. Even though parents loudly protest about these living situations, they are getting something they want out of the situation or else they would not have allowed it to continue. The contract should be ideally drafted by "kids" and parents and should have a mission statement (i.e., why you are undertaking this separation), short- and long-term goals, and a timetable that is firm for when the children should be out of the house.

Obviously, a contract of this nature is only as good as the integrity of the people drafting and signing it; this cannot be viewed as something your children are doing to pacify you and with their having no intention of following through on their obligations. I believe that the discussions and heartfelt feelings that should come out in the process of making up this contract can serve as the long overdue catharsis that frees the whole family from an unhealthy family environment. Be loving, be firm, and be free.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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