Living With an Adult Child

Q: I have a few questions about adult children.

1) What is your advice for allowing a 22-year-old adult child to live with you temporarily?

2) What if that adult child is using and abusing drugs and/or alcohol?

3) If you have an adult child living with you who is abusing alcohol, what do you advise?

4) What, in your view, is the best way to help an adult child addicted to drugs and/or alcohol?

5) If you see an adult child under the influence of drugs/alcohol and they are going to drive somewhere, do you believe the necessary and right thing to do is call the police?

6) If you would call the police in that situation, do you tell the adult child ahead of time so that he or she is warned in advance?

Thanks in advance for your advice!

Image courtesy of auter84/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of auter84/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: You weren’t kidding when you said a few questions! Let’s tackle them in order and by number.

1) Set ground rules before the grown kid moves in. Make a simple contract, listing the big rules (such as expectations as to meals, chores and household goods/space, etc.), and have both parents and the child sign it. Then give the child a copy and keep one for yourself. Also specify how long the child can live with you rent-free and what the rent will be monthly with a firm start date (such as three months rent-free, with the date rent will start kicking in as specified).

2) Personally, I wouldn’t allow any adult child of mine to live with me if I knew for a fact (or strongly suspected) alcohol or drug abuse. I would, however, offer to help said child find a safe place, treatment center, etc., to live and offer what assistance was requested or accepted.

3) One of your contract rules could be no drinking in the house. If the 22-year-old violates that, then he’s (or she’s) kicked out. You have the right to expect certain behaviors in your own home. However, your adult child has the right to drink outside the home, since he’s over 21.

4) There’s not much you can do with an adult child addicted to drugs/alcohol unless that child wants help. You can offer, then you have to step back. It’s hard, painful, but unfortunately, the only person who can want to change is the child, and unless he desires a new way to live, you have very little recourse.

5) If you can’t take away his car keys, then yes, I would call the police. You don’t want an accident on your conscious–and your child doesn’t need that, either. A 22-year-old knows that drinking and driving is illegal.

6) I don’t think a warning by a parent (“If you get in the driver’s seat drunk, I’m calling the cops!”) is going to deter that behavior. But don’t expect the child to thank you for calling the police and possibly getting him arrested for DUI.

A follow-up to this advice from the question writer: Thank you for the advice you gave me for my 22-year-old addict living with me. I am still navigating this relationship but I have reviewed your advice again and really appreciate it.

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