Ground rules are in order for jobless grads at home

August 03, 1993|By Pamela Yip | Pamela Yip,Houston Chronicle

Many parents who beamed with pride at their child's graduation this spring now are facing a new problem.

After decades raising your child, you probably dreamed of the day when that young adult joined the working world and you had more money to spend on yourself.

Not so fast. With today's tough job market and companies lopping off workers like a hairdresser snipping split ends, you might find the freshly minted graduate isn't exactly packing up a suitcase to leave the nest.

Now you may well have to do something tougher than pay tuition bills -- you have to help your child go off on his or her own.

It's common to help children when they start working. But if a son or daughter is going to live at home, you must set ground rules so the kid doesn't freeload off you.

"There should be a definite goal and time line as to when this thing is going to end," says Paul Richard, vice president and director of education at the National Center for Financial Education in San Diego, a consumer education organization. "Sit down and have a good meeting and understanding regarding things such as financial responsibility, accountability, so that there are no misunderstandings."

Of course, the discussion with your child has to be done in a context of why he or she is still at home. If a mental or physical impairment is involved, that's a different story.

"What makes it complicated these days is that there are a lot of kids who get out of college today who are unemployable because of the job market," says John Vincent, a psychology professor at the University of Houston. "They go to the job interview and nobody's hiring. They don't have experience and can't get experience because nobody's hiring."

Don't let your child take his or her eyes off the goal of financial independence.

"Ask, 'What are your goals and objectives? . . . What are you going to do with this life?' " says Jerry Mason, professor of financial planning at Lubbock's Texas Tech University.

Then set ground rules. If the child is going to live at home, and can't afford to chip in on expenses, he or she should at least do chores.

"The critical thing parents need to remember is everybody needs to have some structure in their life," Mr. Mason says.

Have them start making calls at 9 a.m., looking for job interviews.

"The structure helps the child start to make progress toward whatever goals they have because they've built into their day what they need to do to reach that goal."

If a young adult doesn't feel he or she is progressing, self-esteem plummets and that person starts regressing to childhood, he says.

If you have any business contacts, introduce them to your child as possible job prospects, but make it clear that your child will get the job on his or her own merits.

"Doing for an adult child what they can do for themselves undermines their self-confidence, their self-respect and their feeling of worth, so they won't be as aggressive in the job market," Mr. Richard says.

Don't feel guilty about giving your child this kind of tough love, even if it results in a fight.

"The fact that they [parents] have to underwrite in perpetuity kind of impairs that child," Mr. Vincent says. "That kind of adolescence extends into somebody's 30s."

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