A: Nudging adult kids out of the nest is a tough issue for parents to struggle with. There’s no one-size-fits-all way to determine when it’s time to tell your adult children to move out of the nest. The question you need to ask is, are you empowering your kids or enabling them?


There are situations where a child’s earning potential is so low, it makes sense for him or her to live at home in an empowering way. Yet under similar circumstances this could seem enabling. For you, the difference may be a matter of how much effort your child is making to improve earning power.


One effective way to approach adult children living at home is to make sure there’s a clearly delineated, written plan of responsibilities — as there would be if you had tenants.


It sounds awful to think of your children as tenants, but it’s actually the best way to truly empower them. If they weren’t in your home, they’d be tenants somewhere else where they would be responsible for paying rent and contributing to food, utilities and so on. By not giving your children clear-cut responsibilities, you’re sending them out into the world without the skills they’ll need to flourish. No parent wants to do that.


For that reason, it’s so important to sit down and work out a plan that you mutually agree on. Examples might be, they’ll contribute $50 a week to the food fund, or $100 a month to the utilities and mortgage fund. You can also develop a timeline such as, they’ll agree to be out on their own in two years otherwise XYZ happens. Maybe XYZ is that the amount they contribute to the household doubles.


Establishing clear boundaries, and clear next steps if those boundaries don’t happen, may be the best thing you can do for your children. It’s not about the money, it’s about establishing good patterns, habits and attitudes towards personal responsibility. A useful question you can ask yourself is, “Am I empowering – or enabling – my adult children with this decision?”