When our children were just starting their careers and in the midst of struggling to meet their rent, cell phone bill and car payments, we may have helped out--a car payment here, a refilled refrigerator there; dinner out or a new sweater in just the right color. If we could afford it, we enjoyed doing all that and maybe a little more.
But there comes a time when it's counterproductive, when it makes our grown children feel like they aren't independent adults. In asking Philip Galanes in Social Qs what to do about parental overindulgence, a reader (a young woman in her 30s) described how it made her feel when her parents "keep buying things for me and my kids (groceries, toys, clothing) and refuse to let me pay for anything. I've told them we don't need gifts, but they ignore me. I feel awful."
Here's the advice Galanes handed out in how to deal with us--the parents who aren't giving our adult children the gift of acknowledging they are grown up and self sufficient adults.
Sit them down one quiet evening and say: “It’s largely thanks to you and your unwavering support that I’m in such good financial condition for my age. I hope you know that. And I think it’s time we put our relationship on more equal footing.”
Then, depending on your means (and inclination), buy them something you know they will appreciate: new winter coats, a gorgeous filet mignon from the butcher or a sunny weekend in Coral Gables. No need to become a spendthrift. Just try a loving gesture. It may wake them up to your well-founded gratitude and the true financial picture here.
This doesn't mean we can't pick up the check for dinner or surprise them with a beautiful sweater. It's just that it should be an occasional treat, not a habit. And we should let them treat us occasionally too.