Should I kick out my adult child?

Your child is an adult—or nearly one. They have a serious mental health condition. They aren’t following the rules in your house. They may be doing drugs or bringing home friends who do drugs. Your patience is wearing thin.

When is enough, enough?

One of the toughest decisions we make is when to “push” our children out of our house and make them responsible for themselves. This is tough with any kid, as is evident from the many 20-somethings and 30-somethings who still live at home with their parents.

Even though the law is pretty clear that they’re responsible adults when they turn 18, it can be especially hard to follow this guideline when your child has a serious mental health condition and you feel responsible for their well-being.

There’s no perfect answer for when to cut the cord. But here are some tips that will make a difference.

  • Don’t exceed your limits. Understand that your mental health is important, too. You only have so much energy to devote to your child. If you exhaust it all today, you may not have any when they need it tomorrow.
  • Set boundaries and expectations. It’s okay to let them know that if they want to live with you, they must follow the same rules as everyone else.
  • Don’t infantilize your adult child. If you see them as young and incompetent, it will be much harder to let them go and accept their choices and decisions.
  • Be calm and consistent. If you tell them that they have to do “x” and “y” to live with you, don’t change it to “a” and “b” later on.
  • Give them notice. It takes time to find a place to live, and you’re not trying to make your kid homeless. Don’t shock them when they come home one day and find their possessions out on the street. Instead, let them know that in three months or six months they will need to find another place, and then help them find it—if you can, and if they want your help. When the deadline comes, stick to it.
  • Stay in touch and be supportive when they go. Just because they’ve moved out doesn’t mean that you are cutting off all ties. You can still have lunch or hang out—even if that’s not at your home for a while.
  • Let them know that you continue to love them.

Let them know you see them as an adult. Accept their choices, and don’t judge them. If you haven’t exhausted all your patience and reserves, they will know that in a pinch you will still be there for them.

The good news? Self-direction and continued engagement with others are part of the pathway to recovery.

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