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home : columns : dear harriette April 3, 2020

2/2/2020 1:36:00 PM
Reader wants help getting adult son to leave the nest

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have two adult children -- one who is already independent, and another who is struggling. I'm really worried about him. He seems to have a lack of confidence, even though my husband and I have provided him with everything so that he could succeed. He got a great education and did fairly well in school. But his motivation is limited. He has a job, but not in his area of interest, and he seems to be floundering. He doesn't make enough money to be on his own fully, so my husband and I supplement his income. He still lives at home. I'm not sure if this is helping. Do you think that he would get his act together if he were more motivated? What can we do to help him grow up and accept responsibility for his life? -- Leaving the Nest

DEAR LEAVING THE NEST: The reason mama birds push their babies out of the nest is to prove to them that they can fly. Why would they leave the comfort and protection of their parents' wings if they didn't have to? Remember this when you think about your son. The more you coddle him in the name of being kind and supportive parents, the greater the risk that he never leaves.

It's time to get tough. Set boundaries for how long he can live at home. While at home, require him to pay rent even if you put it away to give to him later. Hold him accountable for his responsibilities, and talk firmly with him about his future. Be willing to let him suffer a bit. In order for it to become real for him that he is in charge of his destiny, he has to experience the consequences of not taking action to reach his goals.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I noticed that an old friend from college has posted on social media that she is having health and financial problems. She has asked for people to contribute to a crowdfunding campaign to help her get back on her feet. I get it and I feel for her, but I am not comfortable helping her in that way. We live in nearby towns. I would like to offer to see her and maybe bring her a meal. I am a good cook and would be happy to share with her in this way. Even though this isn't what she asked for, I had the thought to email her and suggest that we get together. What do you think? -- Other Ways To Help

DEAR OTHER WAYS TO HELP: When people you know reach out for help, it is wonderful when you can take the time and consider how you can be of support to them. Your friend's plea for money was a clarion call for you, in a different way perhaps than she intended. Your reaction and interest in supporting her directly are great.

Reach out and ask to see her. Tell her you want to bring her a home-cooked meal. If she agrees, get a sense of what's going on with her and what kind of support you are willing to offer. She may need a sounding board or a referral for health services. Depending on how much time you can commit to her, your engagement may be worth far more than the few dollars you could have put in the fundraiser.

Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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