We were well into our pear-tini's (a delightful pear flavored cocktail) when my friend C said she didn't mean to gossip but....her husband's father still pays his daughter's credit card bills even though the daughter (the dad's youngest child and only daughter) is about to turn 40. The daughter, C says, has a good job and so does her husband. "He [the dad] just spoils her rotten," says C, whose Midwestern father wouldn't have dreamed of running up a credit card bill, no less paying his daughter's debts or minor indulgences.
I cringe. I don't pay my children's credit card bills but I do help out my kids occasionally--and I enjoy doing it. Am I spoiling them? They give no indication that they expect any assistance. The few times they have asked for money to help them ride out a cash flow problem, they have paid it back quickly and in full. It was hard to express to C how much pleasure I get from giving--from knowing I'm there as a helping hand, to take the edge off any financial worries or make some small indulgence possible.
Now I feel vindicated--and pretty upbeat about myself. A new study finds that while we parents of adult children want our kids to be independent and self sufficient, some of us still get a thrill from helping out--though some decidedly do not.
The study looked at 337 older parents of middle-aged children and found that parents are giving help to their children, well into their children's middle age. "This support is often associated with lower rates of depression among the older adults," reports Lauren Bangerter, one of the researchers from Penn State. Those who felt rewarded by providing financial support had fewer depressive symptoms when they were helping generously compared with when they weren't. Meanwhile, those who did not feel rewarded by helping financially had more depressive symptoms when they helped financially.
The results also suggest, according to Steven Zarit, a Penn State professor also involved in the study. "that depressive symptoms are more frequent when the level of reward a parent feels regarding giving is inconsistent with the amount of tangible support that he or she actually gives."
To those of us who have the wherewithal and share it with our grown kids no matter their age: Let's have another pear-tini and give ourselves a pat on the back. We make ourselves feel good about being indulgent--even if others see it as spoiling our kids rotten.