Mother and daughter walkingMany people did not learn to trust themselves or to grow through taking responsibility. Ann, for example, was never allowed to cross the street by herself until she was thirteen. Her mother told her friend, Valerie, “Be sure to watch Ann when you go downtown. Don’t you girls cross the street until the light turns green.”

Even as a grown mother of two children herself, Ann has a deep dread about moving out of the “secure” position she has as a receptionist in a tiny mail-order business in a warehouse district. A typical under-earner, Ann was never allowed to make decisions about her life until she left home to go to college. She fears obtaining a more challenging job situation because she has an inner dread of taking risks and leaving her protective cocoon, repeatedly finding situations that continue her under-earning pattern.

I’ve learned something interesting, however, about parents with dependent adult children: often parents set up these situations because of their own need to be needed.

Dan is another talented under-earner. He had never really been allowed to make choices or decisions growing up as his parents made them for him. By the age of 25, he had accumulated $15,000 worth of credit card debt. He turned to his parents, as he had always done, to solve his problem. They are now refinancing their house to pay off his debt. The pattern between Dan and his parents had become deeply entrenched.

I’ve learned something interesting, however, about parents with dependent adult children: often parents set up these situations because of their own need to be needed. There’s a payoff, in other words, for the parents having their kids hang around and be dependent. With parents like this, who aren’t invested in raising fully functional adults, the kids have to set the boundaries so that they can learn how to relate to their parents as strong, independent children.

June 5th, 2013 by Karen McCall