Photo by Terence Burke on Unsplash
Photo by Terence Burke on Unsplash

Adult Children


Nobody warned me how tough it would be to be a parent to young adults. My one concern is with my eldest. Right now he's just working one part-time job, when previously he's had two jobs plus college. It's very hard to see him sitting around all day playing video games when the Lord has gifted him with so many talents. To see him not contributing is SO hard. What can a Mom do?


There is a lot a mom can do—but it may not be easy for you or for him.

We’re glad that you see his strengths. Sometimes a parent can become so discouraged by the disappointments and problems with a child that it becomes hard to see anything else. Negativity breeds negativity and it can become a vicious cycle. It’s important that we see our children as “image bearers” with gifts and strengths that God wants to use to help them develop.

At the same time, it’s essential that we identify the unhealthy as well as the healthy so that God can use us to help our children grow and mature and become Godly, healthy, independent, self-responsible men and women.

While you refer to him as a young adult, it sounds like he might be what one social commentator has called an “old adolescent.” Someone who doesn’t want to or know how to or hasn’t been in the position where he has had to grow up. Unfortunately, this is a growing societal problem and is much more prevalent among young males as illustrated by several movies, including “Failure to Launch.”

While it’s clear that your actions are motivated by your love for him the hard reality is that in the long run it isn’t loving to support him in ways that making it easier for him to stay stuck. Ask yourself what part of your son are you supporting? His healthy side or his unhealthy side? How does he support himself? Who pays for his food, clothes, car, car insurance, gas, medical care etc.? If you are the one providing for most of these core needs, ask yourself if you are making it easier or harder for him to stay an immature, irresponsible and dependent “older” adolescent who is “sitting around all day playing video games?”

Here’s the deal–some young people never learn how to be responsible until they HAVE to be responsible.

Over the next six months what are some steps you can take that might help him take responsibility for himself, learn to be independent, utilize his gifts, identify his strengths and in the process help him build a sense of competency and self-worth?

While you don’t want to “lower the boom,” you do need to prayerfully and with wise counsel from other parents in your church who have dealt with a similar situation, prepare for a conversation with your son in which you start by acknowledging your love for him and some of his strengths. Then share your concerns with him including his spiritual growth and becoming an adult who can support himself and eventually a family. Listen to his responses and then share what you (as a responsible and loving parent) have decided to do over the next six months to encourage him to move in a healthier direction.

We know of many parents who would tell you that if he’s not going to be in school, then certainly he needs to have a full-time job that has some medical benefits and he should probably be looking for his own place to stay. Many parents provide more support while their children are in school or pursuing other professional training. This varies with the resources of the parents and the unique needs of the individual child.

One purpose of adolescence is preparation for adulthood with the corresponding opportunities and responsibilities. This isn’t an easy transition, and your son is probably dealing with some fears about facing the future, so be both tender and clear about the next steps. It’s time for you to love him in ways that will facilitate and encourage him to grow up and discover all that God has intended him to be and become and in the process perhaps rediscover God’s goodness and faithfulness to his promises and rekindle his desire for spiritual things as he goes through the struggles of being an adult.

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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