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Adult Son Won't Leave Home

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

Q: Our son (23 years old) joined the Navy right after graduating from High School. After his tour of duty he moved back home "for just a couple of weeks until I can find my own place." That was two years ago. Now we are ready for him to move out on his own. Each time this is suggested he flys into a rage, storms out of the house and causes a big uproar. He works in a grocery store and pays us a nominal weekly fee for board. He buys his own food. He tells us he has no one to share an apartment or house with and he cannot afford one on his own. We feel he either needs to get a better paying job or go back to school and get the education or skills needed to get a career. I would like to know how we can get him to leave and remain on friendly terms with him.

A: It would be a gross understatement to say that your 23-year-old son has clearly overstayed his estimated co-habitation with you. Since I don't know anything about him or your relationship as a family, I can't offer specific "educated" advice in this situation. It does appear, however, that he has not made an honest, energetic commitment to finding a place of his own. In two years, he has had the opportunity to make the necessary moves to get a place of his own - with or without roommates.

You have a right to say that you would like him to move out, without his making you feel like horrible parents. Short of physically trying to make him move out, you appear to be at an impasse. If he maintains the same attitudes and continues to show the same lack of initiative regarding moving out, he could stay with you indefinitely. His rages are his way of getting you to back off. You are both stuck in an arrangement that seems to serve neither of you well.

I would suggest that you seek some family therapy to provide all of you with an unbiased environment in which to seek a solution. A skilled family therapist can honor everyone's feelings and help you to reach a reasonable settlement. One of the possible outcomes of seeing a family therapist may be your son's forming a trusting bond with him and using him individually to break out of the rut he's in. It sounds as if he could use some life and career/vocational counseling and support. Short of seeking outside professional help, you need to give him a departure timetable and perhaps offer to help him search for an apartment he could afford on his own. Apartment agencies also connect people with other apartment seekers who need a roommate. I know this is a touchy situation but doing nothing is the surest route to perpetuating a bad situation.

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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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