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Flight plan

Helping a fledgling adult fly the coop.

Article Author: Johnny Woodhouse

Article Date:

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In the season 7 premiere of “That ‘70s Show,” Red Forman, a gruff war veteran and no-nonsense father, refuses to feed his 18-year-old son, Eric, until the latter comes up with a bona fide plan for moving out. Leaving the familial home at 18 was considered the norm in Red’s generation.

These days, more than 30% of young adults (ages 18-34) are more likely to be living with their parents than in their own household, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

Moving out is still a rite of passage for young men and women, but it’s anything but standardized, said Michelle Taveras, PsyD, a psychologist with Baptist Behavioral Health who specializes in children and adolescents.

“Parents can help ease this transition with some advanced planning. The sooner they start promoting their child’s independence, the easier it will be for all parties involved,” she added.

Preparing to launch

Once an adult child has wrapped his or her head around moving out, it’s important for parents to keep the conversation going. Here are a few tips:

  • Listen but don’t judge
  • Continue to build trust
  • Promote the advantages of independent living

The next step is setting a specific time period for moving out, for instance, six months to a year. Putting that in writing can help keep both parties on track. Asking your child for status updates shouldn't be out of the question, either.

“Communication is the key,” said Dr. Taveras. “The more ideas you give him or her, the better.”

“It’s also really important for parents to outline what they are and aren't willing to do financially,” she added.

Financial literacy

Understanding the value of money and how to manage it are some of the best lessons a parent can teach his or her child, regardless of age. Sending a young adult out into the world with no financial foundation or safety net is simply setting him or her up for failure.

“We can’t expect them to figure it out on their own,” said Dr. Taveras. “Listening to podcasts and downloading mobile banking apps will make it easier than ever to plan and maintain a budget.”

Keys to basic budgeting success include:

  • Knowing the difference between wants and needs
  • Putting money aside for emergencies
  • Paying bills on time
  • Building good credit

“In today’s world, independence is tied to financial literacy,” said Dr. Taveras. “Just like past generations, young adults have to understand the value of a dollar and how to stretch it.”

Boomerang generation

According to a Pew Research survey, the number of Americans living in multi-generational households has been increasing steadily since 1980. “Boomerang kids” are part of this trend. Some return to the nest after completing college or suffering the loss of a job or love interest. Others seek their parent’s financial and emotional support before they embark on a long-lasting career.

In these situations, a contract that defines the new living arrangement, similar to a renter’s agreement, may be drawn up and signed by all parties involved. The document should detail how much the adult child is willing to contribute financially to the household before his or her anticipated move-out date.

“Most times, the goal is not to have the child bounce back home again,” said Dr. Taveras. “In these cases, give them as many tools as possible to help them navigate this detour in their life.”


If you're having trouble teaching adult children self-reliance or are unsure when to let them go it alone, a mental health provider with Baptist Behavioral Health may be able to help. To find an office near you, call 904.376.3800.

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