What do I do with My Deadbeat Son?

by nikki
(Toronto, Canada)

My son is almost 21 years old. He quit school with only 8 credits.He is extremely intelligent. His pre- GED exam scored in the 90s.He didn't follow through with his GED My son sleeps all day stays up all night. I have given him an ultimatum -By May 1 he must either have a job or go back to school or else leave the family home. I enable him by allowing him to smoke my cigarettes, May 1 I will no longer give him cigarettes or money. I am so done with this situation! I put all of this in a letter to him 3 weeks ago. He is not even 1 step closer to getting his act together. Whats steps must I take to show him a plan of action once he becomes homeless. I suffer from chronic depression and live paycheque to paycheque. I need his help financially as I am a widow and my daughter works and goes to school to better herself. My children's father died of cancer when they were 6 and 7 years old. I've tried to do my best. How can I help my son become a responsible adult?

Ben's Answer:

You say you need his financial help in order to meet your expenses. Yet you say he's not working and is smoking your cigarettes (and I assume he's eating your food, using your utilities, and maybe your car, and your gas, and probably some other things too). So not only is he not helping your situation, he's hurting your situation. If you gave him an ultimatum letter 3 weeks ago - he's had more than enough time to mull it over. You're enabling him to be a dead beat.

I suggest you cut him off from the cigarettes ASAP for starters. And what does he need your money for? The only money he should have in his pocket is what he needs to make copies of his resume. I understand no parent wants to be cold and harsh with their child and kick them out - but you need to stick to your limits. May 1st is a generous offer. Start weaning him now, but taking away the benefits he's still enjoying by doing nothing! He needs a wake up call.

I've seen "kids" in this position at the age of 28, 32....50! It gets comfortable, but also destroys their self-esteem to find themselves in this dependency. It's much kinder to force him out of the nest and let him make his own mistakes and learn his own lessons in life.

You may feel some guilt now, but in the long run, you'll save yourself (and him) a lot of trouble, if you take decisive action.

Take Care,
Ben Schwarcz, MFT
Santa Rosa Psychotherapist

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