Need help--parents of adult(?) son living at home

sophiesmom4

Hi, I'm hoping for some feedback on my situation. I'll try and be concise :) I have 4 wonderful kids, the youngest in high school. All are, except 1, are showing signs of having a great life ahead of them. My problem is a 23 year old son. 5 years ago, after he graduated high school, we moved to a different state. He didn't want to go, so the agreement was that he could stay, but we would only pay for him to go to college there, (we were hoping that after a year or so he would know what sort of career he wanted and follow that path. Well he didn't do well, didn't like it, and just struggled for about a year and a half. The problem is that in high school, he joined a band (the scary-noisy kind) and he really thought it would go somewhere. We knew it wouldn't and tried to steer him toward a different goal (I refered to it as a back-up plan). So he left school and came to live with us, but all he could talk about was his band and how he wanted to go back. Another band member's parents suggested he stay with them (we did tell them that by offering, they were sorta not helping him) but off he went, spending a few months sleeping on a blow up mattress in their basement and doing odd jobs for them. We persuaded him to come home thinking we could get him on some sort of career path (plus it was the holidays) which didn't work. This was a bad time for all of us so we made him go to a life coach/therapist, then a psychiatrist for some help as he was very depressed. So back he goes to the same family on the condition (theirs) that he get a job, which he did in a mall near where their son works as my son has no car. During this time his fellow band members are all maturing, going back to school, getting jobs and getting on with their lives, which we hope will make my son see that he should too. So holiday time comes around and he comes home again. HE currently has a job (only part time, and in a mall) but is still very lost, and mentions going back again (he knows I am against it.)

I know many of you will say it's time he was gone and I agree--If he had a decent job with a chance of getting somewhere, or decided to go back to school, or had any direction at all, but he doesn't and would just end up living in a cardboard box somewhere, playing his guitar. This has caused so much distress to all of us and I don't know what else to do. He is VERY quiet and shy. He is also kind, and considerate, doesn't go out to party, doesn't even like alcohol (honestly, I know). But he is SOOOO stubborn. Sadly he doesn't have a "look" that is conducive to many work environments. We have told him he must pay rent and work around the house but he won't, and I won't lock him out, and not let him eat, I just can't. So what do I do? I feel that it would be very easy for him to spiral downwards. So things are not awful, they're just not good. Any advice?

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mariealways

That's a tough situation. Some children and adults take a longer time to figure what direction to take with their lives than others. My suggestion is to support him while he tries to figure things out, and do so at home. Encourage him to try different things, take a class or two at a local community college in areas he may be interested in. Try a few different types of jobs for a few months at a time, like an internship-type thing. Encourage him to go out and meet people his age who are already living independently who will be good role-models for him and be able to offer advice that doesn't come from you -- he may be more receptive.

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lowspark

Since college didn't work out, has he checked into other kinds of job training? There are lots of technical courses available. There are lots of alternatives in between college education and sitting at home being completely unproductive.

The bottom line is that he needs to get a reasonable job that can allow him to move out and pay rent, buy groceries, etc.

College isn't for everyone, and that's ok. But neither is it written that those who don't go to college get to live off their parents for the rest of their lives. I would assign him the task of finding out what kind of training is available locally, what it costs, how long the courses last, etc, and then help him make a decision as to what might work best for him. If he won't do the research, then do it yourself, but try to get him to do it because that's the beginning of him achieving independence and responsibility for his own life.

I'm guessing that part of the reason he is depressed is because he's spent the last five years not being productive. Get him out of that cycle.

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sophiesmom4

Thanks for the replies, it always helps to get another perspective. For clarification, we have tried to suggest alternatives to a 4 year school but he just is not interested in anything but his music. I suppose that my problem is getting him to do anything in a positive manner. Ultimatums don't work, He is an adult and I can't tell him what to do, but neither can I tell him to leave because I know that he would be on a slippery slope down. If he was any of my other kids, I would have no problem telling him to grow up, get a job, and get going.
I feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place.

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azzalea

Well, part of the problem is that his brain isn't yet mature. The logical-thinking part of the brain doesn't fully mature until the mid 20's, sometimes later. Before that time, we're mostly operating with the emotional component of our brains--not really a good tool for making the best decisions. Some people don't get themselves into as much 'trouble' that way as others, but truly, he may not yet have the tools to act responsibly.

However, if you really do want to help him mature, you have to stop treating him like a 6 year old. At 23, he's old enough to be responsible for himself. I would NEVER let a child of that age live in my house for free. Not because I wanted their money, but because by expecting them to pay board, you're teaching them responsibility. My dd paid board every week, from the time she was done her 2 year associate's degree, until she bought her own condo. Didn't tell her this, but I put the money she gave me into a separate savings account, and when she bought her own place, on her own--I handed her the passbook. She was delighted and very surprised at how much was in it.

You know, I once heard a great explanation of parenting. It was said that the point of good parenting is to make the parent's job obsolete. Think that one over. Do you honestly think it's helping your son to constantly make excuses for him? or do you think by saying you'd never lock him out or let him go hungry you're enabling him to continue to be an adolescent? Know you don't want to hear this, but that boy isn't going to grow up until YOU start treating him like an adult.

You just can't say you want him to grow up and be responsible, and then turn around and be running around behind him cleaning up his messes. You're sabotaging both of you that way.

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popi_gw

I have a neighbour that is in the same situation as you.

From a distance, I can see that how she treats her son is not doing him any good. She just thinks eventually he will find his way. He is a vegan, into music, as a lot of boys seem to be, and is shy, withdrawn, never had a job. etc. But from what I can see, she keeping him that way, by just sitting by and letting it happen.

Things have to be laid on the line..ulimatum. He can't continue on this way..this is what you say to him.

Do you think he could have a learning difficulty ? Did he do well with his studies at school ?

I can understand your concern, you love him and care about him. But if he is booted out the door, and he gets hungry, there is not greater live lesson to learn. You need money to live..maybe he hasn't realized that yet.. You will never know what he is capable, and neither will he, until he has some challenges.

Basically people have to stop doing things for him.

Good luck, my friend.

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motherlode

my 36 year old son had seperated from his common law wife and came here broken hearted. I thought ok i will give him some comfort and a safe place to come to and get himself together. He has an excellant job and was paying rent here but his lifestyle was different than ours-he is a night owl and hogged the computer all the time and drank alcohol-which i am dead against. after many set to's with him I told him you must find other arrangements by the end of the month. I stood firm even though he begged me not to do this but in the long run when he did get on his own he was much happier and so was i. we continue to have a great relationship and he continues to be more and more independant. he even calls me for recipes and cooks good meals instead of fast food like before. I would never give you advice as each case is different but tough love worked for me-it is hard but in the long run worth it. I kept thinking what would he do if i died-he wuld have to look after himself as far as renting a place etc. I just pushed him out of the nest-again-like birds do. He had to learn to fly.

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mariealways

I don't have an adult child, but having seen my parents take the hard line approach that some of you are advocating with 2 of my older siblings and did not do that with my youngest sister, I must say that that approach works with some kids, but not others. You really have to know your child. Some young adults will respond well to that, others may get themselves into serious trouble, for which you may never forgive yourself as parents.

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sophiesmom4

Once again, thank you for the replies, and some compassion. Let me just repeat, as in my original post, that out of the 4, this is the only one that is causing me problems. I am not inexperienced. Those that work, pay rent which gets put aside for them for when they leave. I understand that tough love is the way to go with some, but I know it would be the wrong move with this one, as marielways says. No learning disability. College is just not a good fit, even though we thought he would mature into it, and may still, or not, which is fine. Also I make no "excuses" for him, I'm just trying to give an accurate description of the type of person he is. I feel as if I have to be VERY careful with this one. Thinking of family therapy, anyone been? Thanks everyone!

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lowspark

He is an adult and I can't tell him what to do

He may be an adult in age, but he's not behaving as a responsible adult. And the fact that he's living in your house, doesn't that give you the right to dictate at least some of his behavior? I lived in my parents' house while in college and although I was an "adult" I still had to go by their rules. And when my kids are home from college, they have to follow my rules.

You ARE between a rock and a hard place, because he will not do anything to change his situation and you won't make him.

But looking at it from his point of view, why SHOULD he do anything to change his situation? He's got it pretty good. He gets to do his music, he's being supported financially and has no real responsibilities.

The trouble is that this kind of lifestyle is very unhealthy. There's no question that it contributes his depression. He's not taking care of himself and you're not making him. The more he gets used to this life, the harder it is for him to dig himself out of it, and if it's been going on for five years, he's pretty deeply entrenched.

Example: what if he decided that he was going to eat a diet of junk food only: chips, candy, and nothing else? How long would you let that go on before you felt the need to intervene for the sake of his health?

If his main interest is in music, find out options for careers related to music. Being in a band may be his dream job but not everyone gets to have that dream. We all have to buckle down to some kind of job in order to earn a living, and then try to make things happen so that the dream comes true. That's what it means to be an adult.

You know, when my kids were little, and didn't want to do as they were told, sometimes I had to physically make them. Gently take them by the hand and make them pick up their toys, for example. (I didn't hurt them, just made them do it.) They learned pretty quickly that I meant business and when I said Pick up toys, I meant it. I think you're going to have to do something similar here. You're going to have to somehow see to it that he gets some kind of job training or education in order to start on a career.

He's clearly NOT going to do it for himself. You're going to have to jump start him somehow. It's pretty much going to mean treating him like a child. Taking him by the hand (so to speak) and leading him to some kind of school. Sitting with him at night to make sure he gets his homework done. Standing over him with a whip, so to speak, till he finally gets it that you mean business.

Just curious about this: aside from room & board which you are providing, how does he pay for any other expenses: fun stuff like going out with friends, music supplies, clothes, etc. Does his part time job cover that stuff or are you supplementing that?

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bnicebkind

My sister has a daughter like this. Same age. Nothing has worked, and they fear that if they throw her out, something tragic will happen. She has lived with a relative a few times, when her parents reached the breaking point with her. Also...incredibly stubborn, and simply will not do anything they suggest. See's herself like Paris Hilton. Wants fame, and refuses anything less. What a waste.

Regarding your son. Since he loves music, could he assist a DJ working parties, or volunteer at a radio station? Or is it possible to hook up with a band that does have some weekend gigs, and work part time at a regular job during the week. There are many musicians that have regular jobs during the week, and play at bars, or private parties, or weddings on the weekend. They do the weekend band simply because they love music and playing, not because they will ever become famous that way. I imagine that if he got to know some of the guys at a local guitar shop, they might be able to put him together with some guys who have a band already. I know attorneys that play in weekend bands, and bankers, and construction workers. They have a love of music in common, and come together to play.

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sheilajoyce_gw

I have experienced some of this with my middle child. Your case has similarities, but somehow we skirted the nearly complete mess you have.

First of all, he is depressed. That may need treatment from experts and possibly some medication. Second, he is very shy. That may mean he likes the cocoon of same old, same old routine and surroundings and being in a band where he feels he "belongs" has "friends" in his fellow musicians and some band followers providing him his only social security. Third, he evaluates and analyzes life from an EMOTIONAL standpoint, not a logical one. Fourth, change is scarey, especially to him. I like the old quote, "Change is an ocean voyage, in a leaky boat with a mutinous crew." Also, he is terribly afraid and so avoids change. He has no training to do anything, so options aren't really open to him. Fifth, he has not hit his rock bottom, so he sees no need to change what he is doing. He does not get that if you keep doing what you have always done you will have the outcome you always have had. Everyone has their own rock bottom when they finally realize they must change, that this is not working for them. You are an enabler, and I fully appreciate your concerns as a parent. But you are holding him just above that rock bottom, so he will not experience the desperation to motivate him to make changes.

That said, maybe I should tell you something of our experiences. Our son was the cool dude, surfer, liked break dancing as a kid. He is bright but did not believe he was, and finally he discovered the guitar, my idea to talk him into it and give him lessons. I could shoot myself.

He did not want to go to college. He informed us that he wanted to go only to the Guitar College of America, where his teacher had gone.

We insisted he pick an area of interest, pick a college, and earn a bachelor's degree.

His music and surf friends were underachievers and without goals for the most part other than to become millionairs by surfing or strumming. A couple came from familys with a successful business that the kid would inherit, but would have to learn by working in it first. No goals.

He headed off to our community college, graduated with honors, with the idea of getting into film school (we live in southern California). He graduated from the university magna cum laude, and during these college years became quite shy but very nice too. The girlfriend got him interested in reading, and now he devours books.

He is now in the film business of assistant editing tv commercials. He continues to have a band, is the main motivator of the other members, and dreams of being successful musically. It has never happened. Now he finally is dating a delightful girl, invests and saves from his paychecks while living modestly, is a wonderful son, has a delightful sense of humor, and has earned our respect.

One area we had suggested to both of our sons who are interested in music was to get a business degree and work in the business end of music. There is a real need for talent there, but neither wanted to do it. But maybe that kind of thinking may help your son. He cannot drift professionally or socially. And by the way, living at home really limits their social contacts. Home is a good alternative when things are tough, but the sooner they can manage on their own, the happier they will be.

If you could get him the diagnosis and treatment he needs, support him while he earns a degree, then he may well fly the nest quite successfully--for him.

Lastly, creative kids really do march to their own drummer. As a non-creative parent and one who operates from a logical basis only, unlike her sons, I struggled with this.

I hope the family analysis helps. Don't give up. There has to be an answer. And tell your son that it takes courage to face the world, to make changes, to leave the comfortable circle of what he has always done, but you are proud of him and you are here to help him do so.

Let us know how you are progressing.

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sophiesmom4

Thanks everyone for your advice. This afternoon I sat down with my son. To make a looong story short, he is aware of his depression. I think I made every effort to try to see if there was anything at all we could to, look at schools, colleges, training, anything to help him to go in a positive direction. Suggested the 3 of us see a counselor, tried to get him to see a doctor. It was pretty much of a one sided conversation. He said the doctor and counselor were no help. All other suggestions were met with a no. He knows, and I repeated, the rules of the house--work and rent, or school. I was told I was insane. So I took the keys to the car (it's not his) and shut off the circuit breaker for his bedroom. No rent, no electric, no car. I left in my car for a while. When I returned he asked for the keys, I asked for the rent. I stayed calm, he didn't. Currently I'm waiting for my husband to get home. What a day! Please tell me this will someday be just a distant memory! Thanks again for all the support.

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lowspark

Good for you! Please let us know how this progresses.

All other suggestions were met with a no.
and
I was told I was insane.

These two statements really clarify the fact that your son has the upper hand.

You have now taken the upper hand away from him, and it's going to be tough because he's going to fight against that.

I can't emphasize this enough: STAND YOUR GROUND. He's got to realize you are not going to give in. If you give in now, you might not ever again be able to gain that bit of turf that you now have.

Good luck, and please check in to give us updates.

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khandi

What was he taking in college?

If he loves his music, why not suggest he take something in a music program...maybe some day he can teach it.

Maybe college wasn't for him because he was enrolled in a program that didn't meet his interests.

Music also entails writing... what about a program that contains music and english creative writing courses?

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sheilajoyce_gw

Well, finding a talented doctor is a challenge too. Let him know you will help find that person that he will respect and like working with.

He is resisting change with all his no's. Also, he needs to get out and be physical, which helps control mild depression. Just getting him to play a game of basketball, shoot hoops, walk (I guess he will be doing that now), run, work out will help him move away from the depressing inactivity. Dad may need to work at being his running or hoops buddy, or you. Don't let him dictate no doctor. If there is a chemical imbalance, the sooner you find out the better.

Doing nothing, nothing physical and nothing toward developing and realizing goals, makes for spiraling depression.

Hang in there. You have begun to turn the situation around, and at first it won't seem like you are at all.

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dotz_gw

Sohpsmom, Know from where you speak, I talked out of the side of my mouth here, telling my child I just wanted him to be happy and do what he wanted to do, thinking he would eventually go to law school, let him do the band thing(never thinking he would be a success) I know its a one in a million shot, but I regret not supporting him in the early part of his career, ...I agree with everything thats been said, BUT....He did it....Make it happen, wise advice from another poster...Classes, side jobs, if he s so dedicated to music, let him go for it....

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bucyn

And then there's the old classic: get a fulltime job and an apartment by X date or be in college fulltime...or join the army. You can't get a life, they'll get a life for you.

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Vickey__MN

Sophiesmom4
I didn't post before because I could tell from your other post I would be met by resistance. You see I had a sson who though not into music,his vice was the computer...would do nothing. Oh yes, he had another out for himself..fighting with his sister (typical sibling rivalry)...finally after a verbal fight one morning at 5:30 I said that's it...you're out by end of next month. preferably this month, but for sure next month. I too had not said this before because, like you I didn't think he would make it. I thought his depression would return, he wouldn't be able to take care of himself, etc.

That was 4 years ago. He is now married to a wonder young woman, is BACK in college, will finish his AA in June, is hoping to get into school for law enforcement. Is a volunteer Police Officer (or whatever they're called). Owns a town house...I could go on and on. Our relationship...Wife hears good news first, then Mom. Yes, we have a wonderful relationship. Yes he was angry with me at first, VERY ANGRY. But he knew deep down I was right.

STAND YOUR GROUND. Come here when you feel you'll faulter. Do not let him, shoot the word eludes me...he may try to guilt you, don't lwt him. You are doing the right thing, you are doing what is best for him in the long run. Your goal as a parent was as Azzalea said, make you, the parent obsolete!

Vickey-MN

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