Some parents have a hard time letting go. They are used to "doing" for their children and when the kids grow into adulthood, well, some habits just die hard. In other cases, with so many young adults returning to the family nest for financial reasons, the boundary maps for relationships need to be redrawn.
Here is a list of what you shouldn't be doing when it comes to your adult children:
1) Suffer the consequences of their mistakes.
We know a mom who, when her kids were in elementary school would always make a repeat trip to school with their forgotten violins, homework, gym clothes. Her kids never developed a sense of responsibility because, in part, she never let them suffer the consequences of their forgetfulness. We also know a mom whose grown daughter and two grandsons are still living with her five years after the daughter divorced her deadbeat husband. "In the beginning," Grandma said, "I just wanted to help her get back on her feet -- you know, be able to finish school and get a job and rebuild her life." What's happened instead is that Grandma is a live-in babysitter while her adult daughter lives rent free with no signs of moving out anytime soon. Her daughter never learned how to be responsible for herself and the pattern continues.
2) Cover all their expenses/rent.
Financial adviser Suze Orman says that while you may not be ready to put your adult child out in the street, it's just as important to take care of your own retirement needs. She suggests that adult kids who move back home be asked to pay rent, however small the amount and however broke the adult child. Even a little something will help you afford your retirement -- and them to establish a sense of standing on their own two feet.
The take-care-of-yourself-first advice is pretty universal."You have to make sure your own oxygen mask is secure and fastened before assisting your child," adds Zac Bissonnette, author of the best-selling "Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents."
This means that if your retirement isn't fully funded, you really aren't in a position to co-sign college loans and assume more debt on behalf of your college-bound child. Instead, says Bissonnette, look for better returns on your investment like community college for two years.
3) Give advice expecting it to be taken.
Adult children are adults, even if they are living under your roof. Frequently, their choices -- of who to date, how to raise their kids, what to wear out -- are different than yours. For advice to be heeded, it needs to be asked for. Otherwise, it becomes white noise and words like "nagging" are thrown around.
Instead, try to be a good listener.
4) Plan their social lives.
When kids are small, we have to make a concerted effort to carve time away for ourselves. Our evenings are spent helping with homework and our weekends consumed by soccer tournaments and piano recitals. When they get older, we need to shift the balance of our social lives away from them and back to our own friends.
While it's great fun to enjoy a girls' night out of dinner and a movie with your 22-year-old daughter, it's just as important to let her do the same thing with her friends guilt-free and you hang with yours. You can be close without being smothering.
It sounds silly but it isn't. For years, we define ourselves as caregivers to our kids. We pack healthy snacks for them seriously believing that every apple eaten instead of a bag of chips is a victory to our parenting skills. Right up til they time they leave the nest, we are buying them alarm clocks and bed linens for their college dorm room and reminding them to turn the car wheels into the curb when they park on a hill.
Laundry is often the final frontier -- the last thing we stop doing for them. We know a mom who sent her son off to college with two mesh bags in which to sort his dirty clothes: one for whites and one for colors. By the time he returned home at Christmas, his tidy whities were gray and his colors muted. He didn't care and didn't understand why she should.
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