Financial Independence Week: Should I Rescue My Children?

As a parent, there is a strong likelihood that at some point, your child will fail at their goals during young adulthood. Their situation may even become dire, and as a loving parent, you may feel a very strong desire to jump in and rescue your child. Before you do that, consider the following advice:

What will they learn from being rescued? A failure is first and foremost a learning experience. What will your child learn if you step in and provide immediate rescuing? Will they experience the needed pain that one needs to feel after a failure, a tempering that in the end makes one stronger? Even if you plan to offer support, it might be worthwhile to not jump in immediately with help.

First and foremost, offer counseling. Offer them an ear to talk to, not just cash to solve the problem. Rather than letting money fix things, help them to discover the resources they have inside themselves to solve their problems.

If you offer financial support, make it a one-time gift or a clearly delineated series of gifts. Never give the impression that they can get more at any time, or else they won’t learn how to pick themselves up and fix their own problems. As a parent, part of your job is to teach them life skills. Think of it this way: when they fell off of a bike when they were little, you didn’t offer to ride the bike for them. You picked them up, dusted them off, gave some encouragement, and put them back on the bike. The same principle applies here.

Offer nonfinancial assistance. You can also offer similar support as to what a nonparental friend or relative might offer: assistance in locating new work, connecting with potentially useful contacts, and so forth. This is the kind of assistance that is useful to any professional, and may be particularly useful in this case.

If the situation is truly apocalyptic, offer shelter and food. If your child has actually lost their home, you can again offer indirect aid such as housing and food, but this situation should be clearly defined as temporary, contingent on your child making continual effort to improve his or her situation and eventually fly on his or her own again. Indefinite relationships where children move back in after independence can be very, very uncomfortable for both the children and the parents.

Don’t force it. Some children are simply too fiercely independent to want to accept help, so don’t force help upon someone who does not wish to accept it. This is not an indication of a lack of appreciation or love, just a desire to be able to walk strongly on their own two feet, no matter what – an attribute that you should be proud to see in your child.

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