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Need advice with 21 y.o. living at home

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

Hey everyone-

I'm writing on behalf of my parents, who are getting really frustrated with my 21 year old sister. (Side note- sorry if this is the wrong place for this post, but I wasn't really sure where to put it, so feel free to move it if necessary! :) )


Basically, she started dating someone who my parents don't love- he's 23, unemployed (not ambitious about finding a job), and we suspect/have some confirmation that my sister pays for at least some of his stuff. He has some other sketchy behaviors I won't go into. He lives at home as well, with his Dad.  She lives at home with our parents.


The problem is that she's hardly ever home, and when she is, she makes a mess or uses their stuff without picking up. She owes my parents for car insurance (which they lent her money for when she got her car, it was a one-time thing), and won't pay them back. She doesn't pay rent or anything. She comes in and out of the house at odd hours and usually ends up in an argument with my Mom or someone else. 


My Dad's about at his wit's end, he and my Mom are on the verge of kicking her out, but they're afraid of just driving her into the arms of her boyfriend. 

I'd love to hear from anyone who has dealt with something like this, or knows someone who has. Specifically any tips on how to talk to her without fighting- I think my parents have trouble with this, too.


Thanks in advance.

post #2 of 14

Parenting doesn't end when your child turns 18 it does evolve though. Have your parents sat down and talked with your sister about creating a roommate situation instead of a parent child relationship? It sounds like she is taking advantage of your parents being parents. What have they tried?

post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 

No, they haven't. Things have changed a lot over the past few months- before she was with this guy, she was working alllll the time (6-7 days a week, 10+ hour days), and would pay for some household things when asked to. So it wasn't much of an issue.  Then that job ended and she's only working a few days a week now, probably about 30 hours a week. There were never any ground rules or anything set up which is why I think they're having trouble now. They're wishing they had! They definitely feel taken advantage of.



I like the idea of talking about setting up a roommate situation, I'm going to relay that message to them. Thanks for your input! 

post #4 of 14
Thread Starter 

But what if they don't respond to the parents talking to them- then what? Threatening to kick them out seems like it could just backfire, not really work. And my sister definitely tends to just blow them off.


It's like the typical "teenage rebellion" didn't happen with her, and it's coming out now.

post #5 of 14

Sounds like a tough situation.  It sounds like she is not treating your parents with respect.  If I were the parents, I would try to sit her down for a conversation about what needs to happen in order for her to continue living there (i.e. you must pay X amount of money per month, you must clean up after yourself, etc) and if she doesn't want to comply, she should live elsewhere.  And yes, that will probably drive her closer to her not-so-great boyfriend, but I'm guessing she'll eventually get tired of his B.S....I dated (and supported) some losers in my 20s and my parents were NOT thrilled, but I had to learn on my own that it was not a good idea!  My exes always had reasons and sob stories that I fell for...but ultimately they were just not up to the task of taking care of themselves and after a while that is just not sexy!  Your parents deserve to be respected by people in their home.  She will probably not understand and be very surprised if they suddenly assert themselves after being walked over...but it will probably be better for all parties involved in the long run.


Of course, take all that with a grain of salt because I'm just a stranger on the internet speaking from my own experiences :)

post #6 of 14
I have two personal experiences in this area. They're both more extreme, but I think the same basic concepts apply.

The first is my dad. My father was a drug addict and an alcoholic. He was incapable of holding a job, or keeping a place to live. My grandparents always kept their home open to him -- as long as he treated them with respect and did not get high or drunk while living with them. Unfortunately, my dad chose his vices over his family, and eventually died because of it.

I also know another woman, in her late thirties, who is a drug addict. She cannot keep a job or a place to live. She has five children, and does not provide them with the stability that children need. However, her family enables her, cleans up her messes for her, and never lets her feel the consequences of her actions. It is obvious that she is never going to grow up. Her children suffer because no one has the guts to take them away from their mother, and her own mother is literally killing herself trying to take care of a grown daughter.

Here's what I have learned from these two situations. You cannot make adults act like adults. They are going to make their own choices, whether those are good choices or not. You can give them advice, you can show them love and support, and you can even drive yourself to an early grave trying to help them, but they will still make their own decisions. IMO, the best thing is to treat adults like adults, and insist they treat you the same. Set personal boundaries, with clear consequences (ie, treat me with respect or you can't live in my house -- just like you would expect of any other adult who is not your child), and then LET them make their choice and live with it.

Your sister may well decide that she'd rather move out and live with her useless boyfriend. If she does, then she's going to have to decide how much she likes living with a slacker who takes her money and contributes nothing. Maybe she'll put up with it. Maybe she'll beg to come home. Maybe she'll decide she'd rather be on her own, and start taking care of herself. Either way, she's going to learn something, and at the very least she's going to learn that she can't treat her parents like doormats.
post #7 of 14

Sometimes driving her into his arms might be what she needs and hopefully she will realize what a dead beat he is when she doesn;t have her parents helping her help him. Maybe.


But she is 21 and even though she lives with them they really cannot make her clean or come home or anything like that.

post #8 of 14
I agree with those who say that the possibility of driving her into his arms isn't such a bad thing. The best teacher in life is experience, and she is young and bound to make mistakes and hopefully learn from them. Its actually good to make mistakes because they help us learn what we like and what we don't like. Its rarely a good idea to try to prevent someone from doing something they are drawn towards since the worst that usually happens is they learn its not for them.

It will also force your sister to learn that she can't take advantage of people. Just because she's staying with her parents doesn't mean its okay for her to be disrespectful. The fact that she has had a job means that she should be helping with bills and she should definitely pay her parents back for the car insurance. If your parents give her firm boundaries with paying bills and being respectful then she will have expectations. Without expectations she probably doesn't believe she has anything to contribute so thats probably why she doesnt take living there seriously.
post #9 of 14

I agree that your parents need to sit down and have a talk with her.  It doesn't need to be accusatory, but they need to assert what their needs are.  I think your parents should probably keep the bf out of any discussion they have with her and focus strictly on what they need: her to clean up after herself and to pay for her own things - same as any other other adult.  Working 30 hours a week should get her enough money to pay for her insurance.  I'm sure your parents aren't thrilled with her coming and going at all hours, but she is an adult, so she should be treated as one and expected to act as one.  Telling someone that the new "love" in her life isn't good for her does not work.  Is your sister in school at all or working on a career?

post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 
Not at all, she's working a restaurant job that she hates. Trying to get her to go to school or a career path was a whole other power struggle. That's a great tip to keep the bf out of the discussion,I think tthat's key.

Thank you all for your great feedback, I really appreciate it. I hope the lesson she has to learn from this bf isn't too harsh but I know she has to learn it on her own. I'm such a protective big sister!
post #11 of 14
Originally Posted by lmk1 View Post

I agree that your parents need to sit down and have a talk with her.  It doesn't need to be accusatory, but they need to assert what their needs are.  I think your parents should probably keep the bf out of any discussion they have with her and focus strictly on what they need: her to clean up after herself and to pay for her own things - same as any other other adult.  Working 30 hours a week should get her enough money to pay for her insurance.  I'm sure your parents aren't thrilled with her coming and going at all hours, but she is an adult, so she should be treated as one and expected to act as one.  Telling someone that the new "love" in her life isn't good for her does not work.  Is your sister in school at all or working on a career?



Agreed. I suggest that your parents sit down with just each other and get really specific about what they would need your sister to do in order for her to be living at home, and then right it out and give it to her. I'm for being very clear and specific.


I don't think there is anything wrong with parents telling a 21 year old that she has to find her own place to live if she cannot live up to decent behavior fairly consistently. But personally, I would leave the door open for her to come back home if she figures out that it is in her own best interest.


Difficult as it is, I think mom and dad need to leave the BF out of it. It falls under "things we cannot change," and therefore, "god grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change."


Your sister might need to have a few difficult experiences before she realizes that she needs a real career and relationships with people who have a bit of focus and drive. By keeping her at home, your parents may be sparing her from very valuable experiences that she could learn from and grow from. The trick for them is to be to clear and firm, without being emotional, authoritarian, or preachy.

post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thank you all for your replies! (And sorry I'm so late responding!) 


My Mom sat down with her and talked to her about the money she owes her, and that same day my sister went out and gave her a payment toward it. So, they're taking some baby steps. My Mom did keep the BF out of the conversation. You could tell my sister didn't love the conversation, but she did comply. 


Thanks again!

post #13 of 14

My husband and I have two children in their 20s. Like others have said, parenting doesn't end when a child turns 18. I'm not personally crazy about a "roommate" situation. I think children who live in their parents house still should treat them like their parents be respectful, help out etc.


Our older children have always been in school when they lived at home. It was made clear by both verbal agreement and a written contract that they would stay in college OR pay rent. There were other things in the contract, what was expected of them: housework, curfew, hours ("This is NOT a hotel" etc) use of appliances, pitching in for food,  who was allowed over and when. "Adult" or not, we NEVER allowed boys/men in our daughter's bedrooms or allowed them to stay overnight. As things were made clear, both verbally AND in writing, we had few problems. When it came time for our then 23 year old daughter to pay rent, when she finished college, she decided on her own that getting her own place with her own rules was preferable and, needing to have had responsibility at home helped her make the transition. We had a written contract that both ourselves and our daughter signed, it was posted on the refrigerator so things could be referred to if needed.


There is a huge gap between letting and adult child walk all over you and "kicking her out." I think the "kicking" thing is a bit extreme, I can't think of anything our children ever did that would have prompted that response in either my husband or myself. However, as we had rules in our house for adult children, when our oldest decided she didn't want to play "daughter" as a child and have to have a curfew, pay us rent, do housework in our home anymore, she moved out when she finished her BS degree. We all think it was the best choice. She does much better living on her own.


Our middle daughter is 25 and still in Graduate School, so she lives here with us. She also has a near full time job, so her housework duties are fewer than they were a few years ago, but still intact for the most part.


Is your sister not in school anymore? She doesn't go to University?  By our rules anyone not in school has to pay a certain amount in rent, and MUST have a full time job. (Or we would have kept upping the rent until a full time job would be the best option.)  It's in the contract that our older children all signed. There are jobs out there, of course, the more education one has, the better opportunities arise and thankfully all our children realize this. So the "full time school or full time work and rent" part of the contract was one of the best IMO.


One of the perks of living at home with parents is staying on their health insurance (it's one of the reasons our middle dd is still here) but and that's really important, but I still feel a written contract between your sister and your parents, where they both negotiate and agree on the terms is the best thing.

post #14 of 14

The first thing that came to my mind when I saw the subject line was "common courtesy."  When you live with someone, whether it is a relative or roommate, there are some courteous things you do to make life easier for all. 


It is common courtesy to let your parents (in this case.  Could be roommates.) know where you are going and when you will return so that they won't worry about you.  If you say you'll be home by 10:00, and you realize you won't be home until 3:00, you call and tell your parents so that they won't worry.  There is also a safety issue.  If you don't come back, your parents have a starting point for the search party.  At 21, it is unreasonable for her to have a curfew.  That's a different thing. 


It is common courtesy to tidy up after yourself in a share space so that others don't have to deal with your stuff. 


It is common courtesy to not use other people's stuff without asking.


Ditto for owing money.  Are your parents the legal owners of the car?  If not, they may want to let the DMV handle the insurance issue when it runs out.  If if they are, they can either transfer the title and let the DMV deal with it or keep the title and the car keys until the insurance is paid back. 


Advice columns always say that no one can take advantage of you without your permission, and it is usually true, and I think it's true here.  I'm not sure how involved you are in this, but I'm going to guess that you're not making this decision for your parents.  Can you make suggestions?  I suppose we are making suggestions, so it's okay. 


IMHO:  Sister needs to be paying room and board.  Parents need to explain common courtesy, in person and posted on the wall.  Sister needs to directly make all car-related payments.  And I hate to say this, but parents need to make one more big expense for sister and get her and IUD or implant so she doesn't get knocked up by loser boyfriend.  I don't think she's going to do that herself, and she needs it. 


It just occurred to me that boyfriend is taking advantage of sister, and sister is taking advantage of parents.  Maybe when parents stop letting sister take advantage of them, she will stop letting boyfriend take advantage of her. 


I like other people's ideas of having a contract regarding college/working/rent.  My oldest is 12, and I think I'm going to put that idea on the back burner for later. 

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