Thursday, July 17, 2008

Parenting Adult Children: A Dilemma

When Peter graduated from high school, we told him that he'd have to not only buy his own car, but pay for his own insurance -- mostly because we had twins who were turning 16 and we needed the car for them, and because insurance for a family of six with four teen and young adult drivers would just be unaffordable. (Elisabeth was told the same thing when she graduated and Peter was turning 16.) Peter, being the mensch he is, was agreeable and both bought his own car and paid for his own insurance without complaint.

Fast-forward three years. The 1996 Ford Contour we bought from our mechanic for $200 for Aleks to drive conveniently died last month -- which is fine because Aleks is headed to UW, where he won't need a car. But the same car (a 1997 Ford Escort) that Elisabeth relinquished to Peter and that we made Peter relinquish to Kat three years ago, just broke down yesterday as Kat drove to work, and the repair will cost us upwards of $850.

So here's the dilemma -- or dilemmas, since they're actually multi-tiered:

  1. Do we make Kat relinguish the car, as we did Peter, even though there's no one else in the family who needs it now? Or do we allow her to drive it, as long as she works and goes to school (the local community college to take some pre-nursing classes). And really, how is that fair to Peter, who also went to school and worked, but had to pay for a car and insurance?
  2. And now that the car requires a significant repair, do we ask Kat to pay for or to contribute to the cost of the repair? She doesn't have the money so it's a moot point now, but theoretically, how should we handle this one?
  3. And what about insurance? Does she pay? Or should we? How can we be fair?
  4. Peter's car -- one which he bought with half with his own money and half with a loan from us -- is leaking antifreeze. Do we help pay for that repair? To what extent?
  5. And hell, while we're at it... do we continue to pay for the kids' cell phones? It costs us $10 - $15 per line if they're under our family plan, but would cost each of them $30+ to have their own plans. At what point do we "cut them off"?
Yeah, I'm the parent of ADULT children, and I am still looking for parenting advice!

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Anonymous said...

Come on, you really know the answers to most of those questions, don't you ... do you want to share the responsibility??

Maria said...

Well, my perspective is a little different because my son is so young, but I was recently an adult child who did need to lean on my parents (within the past 10 years), and these are my thoughts.

This assumes you can afford to help...

Why not allow Kat to make some sort of payments to you for both the car and the repairs? Keep a running tab and discuss expectations. Same with Peter.

As for the phones, they could stay on your plan and pay the cost of their phone in the big scheme of things. That way it is not AS expensive, but they still have to share responsibility. Perhaps same with insurance?

I found that no matter how hard I tried to be independent, there were still times when I needed to lean on my parents for support until I was probably in my mid-20s. I don't think it is wrong to help adult children out as long as they are learning life's lessons.

Just my two cents. :)

Goofball said...

If Peter and Elisabeth had to relinguish the family car they used...I think Kat should do so too.

Or she has to rent if from you guys, but she should pay for it as the others did.

Blog Antagonist said...

ARGGGGHHH. It just never gets any easier, does it? These are all the things I dread having to address.

Me and my next youngest sister were very independant. I left home at 18 and have been completely self-supported since then. The only time I asked for money after I left home was when we got married. We paid for most of the wedding ourselves, but I needed to borrow a couple thousand from them. They gave it gladly, because I had not asked for anything prior to that.

My next youngest sister went to college and worked her way through. She needed money here and there to wash clothes and put gas in her car, but for the most part, she was self sufficient as well.

My youngest sister is 33 and STILL depends on my parents financially. She finally got her own place, but she doesn't drive, so if her deadbeat boyfriend doesn't feel up to it, she has to beg my parents for rides to and from work.

Knowing what my parents have gone through with her, I think I will be pretty tough when it comes to cutting my kids off.

But who knows? If there's one thing I've learned in parenting, it's that you can never predict what you might do in any given situation.

Sorry for the epic comment. It wasn't very helpful, was it?

jennifer said...

Phone: let them stay on the plan but pony up the $10/15 a month that is their share. Don't contribute any further $ to the cellphone companies! :)

Car: if the previous kids got "a free ride" through high school but then had to give up the car, sounds like Kat is now at that end-of-the-road point. Of course if she can't afford a car or the repairs, it would be nice for you to help her out, but work out some sort of pro-rated rental deal so her ride isn't "free" (just "subsidized").

BTW who is this "anonymous" person who seems to write comments on your blog just to antagonize you? Is it someone you know?

Carol said...

Thanks for all your great feedback, all! It's much appreciated.

Jennifer, I have wondered the same thing myself, wondering why anyone would want to waste the time it takes to antagonize me or this blog. Based on my "research," those comments come from a city where I don't know anyone.

Still, it is a bit disconcerting!


Nikki said...

Someone once told me that "Fair Parenting" isn't giving every child the same thing, but giving every child what they NEED." I really like that. And, if you think about it, it is true. You give a child things based on his or her ability to deal with those things (i.e. responsibility, maturity, personality, etc)

In this situation, I think Peter should be relinquished of the bills on the old car. And, I think Kat should be able to keep this car (even after high school) but should have to help pay for it in some way....

jen said...

i totally agree with not giving the cell phone company more moolah. I think the kids should pay the minimal amount for the family plan.

the car is hard.

Kat is in a different situation than the other kids, isn't she? And she's also the last in line.

is she working?

The idea of the kids having the car is to give them the flexibility to do what they need to do, right? If it is going to hamstring Kat to pay for the car and insurance, then don't do it regardless of the other kids. the idea is to give them the tools they need to succeed, right?

Did you ask the other kids?

J said...

I agree with not paying for their cell phones. They shoud do so - then they might use them a bit

As far as the car goes, how about telling her you'll sell her the car for the price of the repairs (loan her the money if need be) and call it even. That way, she will have purchased the car from you and doesn't have to relinquish it because it's her car.

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