Setting Boundaries: Money

When is it right to give my Adult Children money?

Is it ALWAYS wrong to pay their rent?

Should I pay for a divorce to help get them out of a bad situation?

When will I know I have given too much to my Adult Children?

What if giving gifts is their love language? Then shouldn’t I give money to my Adult Children?

 Why would you give money to your Adult Children? 

Everybody needs help from time to time. I remember when we were adopting two of our children. The attorney’s fees and expenses were adding up. As my stress level increased the bank balance decreased. One day my dad came to visit and left a “welcome to the family” gift for my kids. I was in my mid-30s and had been married for more than a decade. I wasn’t reckless with cash and my husband had a good job–but what a nice surprise.

Life happens. Sometimes our adult children have a life or health challenge. They can’t work and need help with rent, groceries, necessities. How would you feel about helping out?

Or maybe they need help with a new project or venture. Several of our adult children own their own businesses and getting off the ground can be expensive. That seems more of an investment than a hand out, right?

What are some of the limits you have on giving your adult children money? Never? Only for education or business ventures? Would you help with the down payment on a house? Or do you do it like a “dividend pay out: If we have extra we give it to the kids?

Many of our Adult Children have a great education. They also experienced more opportunity than has ever been possible for young adults before in America. Most of us, as parents, made sure that they were smothered in possibilities we never had.

The result: too often our AC now believe that they cannot move forward unless they have ALL the opportunities, education, possibilities to take on a new venture.  They refuse to take risks out of fear of failure or perfectionism.  Their lack of initiative might put them in a financial bind and they end up needing us to bail them out–with cash! 

We have said YES! to some of the requests for financial help with our kids. As I think of those times I am so glad we said yes. The benefits far out weigh the cash expense.

And there have been those times we did not hesitate to say “no, not this time.” I have no regrets about those times either. If we had given the requested help I believe that we would have resented it and felt used.

It takes lots of wisdom and discernment to know where to set the boundary in giving money to our adult children.

There don’t seem to be any hard and fast rules about when to say “yes” and when to say “no!” to our kids about money. But communication rules do dictate that every family needs to have rules and guidelines about loaning, giving, forwarding money to our adult children.

What are your family’s house rules concerning money? I would love to hear from you!


This week is the fourth in a  of nine week series entitled


Hopefully, this dialogue will occur between myself and other parents of adult children!


Leaving home is never easy for mom and son.

When Scott left for boot camp I had HUGE fears because of the war in Afghanistan as well as some strain in our relationship. Our separation transitioned our relationship from a confused mother of an angry son to an empathetic mother of a open-hearted son ready to have his dad and I investing in his life.


When I dropped off John at college for the first time, I cried so hard that the man on the plane next to me asked which relative had passed away.  The flight attendant offered to bump me to business class so I could “be more comfortable” (read that as “move to a place where you can cry alone”).  


Obviously, I recovered from John’s departure to college, but the memory still reminds me of the emotion of that initial departure.

Parents can make leaving home a little easier by doing hard things in advance.

This  is culminated from a lot of moms who have launched kiddos to college or to another city to work  ) : 

  • Talk about how “adulting” changes your relationship
    • Do not act like this is NOT A HUGE change. This is information sharing. Put it on the table.
    • What decisions will you make together?
    • What decisions will the adult child make on his/her own?
      • Will the child make decisions about health or will you? (Are you going to keep tabs on their eating or sleeping? I know some parents whose kids have had health issues who are very stressed about the student’s health concerns.)
      • Will the child make spiritual decisions? (Can s/he skip church and still receive your support? Has the child been spiritually growing or stagnant? How willing are you to let this area go? )
      • Will the child make financial decisions? Does s/he have a job for spending money that is TOTALLY at his discretion or is some of that cash for eating, housing, expenses?

When our Nikki got a loft with a friend after college she made TONS of friends, learned about life, and only OCCASSIONALLY ran out of money!


  • Establish a regular time/form of communication.
    • Do not expect to talk every day.
    • Establish the frequency you want to hear from your child.
    • Establish the form of communication you are comfortable with–do you like to text? Instagram? Maro Polo? Talk on the phone? What’sApp?
    • DO IT BEFORE THEY LEAVE! How many ways can I say, “set your expectations OUT LOUD!”


Will your adult child have the freedom to experience financial independence or will you be monitoring that aspect? What happens when they run out of money?


  • How much freedom will the child have?
    • NO ONE HAS COMPLETE FREEDOM: no child, no parent.
    • Define the freedoms and PLAY THIS UP!!! Let them know you trust them with freedom–do not focus on the limitations.
    • Are you going to know where they are constantly? like an app? like Life360? Mama Bear or GeoZilla? Find my Friends? All of these safety apps help you locate your family or friends round the clock to protect them. Some young adults will find this intrusive and others will see it as a way to keep up with each other without having to communicate every day.


  • Explain the benefits and consequences of all these freedoms. What are your responses going to be if the child violates a freedom? (What if she is caught drinking at 18 years old?) What will be your response? LET YOUR CHILD KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT! NO SURPRISES! 


  • Make an ideal budget and talk about REAL numbers (this didn’t happen till our last one!)
  • Create a contract style agreement that establishes under what circumstances you will continue to support them (if you are going to continue to support them!) Ted had all our adult children sign a contract after their eighteenth birthday if they were still being supported by/or living with us. This left no room for surprises when it was time for rewards or changes. 

What were some ways you helped your adult child adjust to college, the military, or a new job life? Share your victories and those other times as well…




Love Languages of our Adult Children: Acts of Service

This blog is one in a series of six addressing the topic of SPEAKING YOUR ADULT CHILD’S LOVE LANGUAGE.   We may have done this when they were young and now believe that speaking the love language of my adult child is not as important. But nothing is further from the truth.  The first blog in the series Speaking Your Child’s Language explains why. 
The test to determine what your child’s love language might be can be found at
Kate, Nikki, and Terah love their friends and family WELL through ACTS OF SERVICE–their primary love language.
My three girls who feel most loved by Acts of Service are TRUE servants. A friend of mine recently told me that the love language that fills her OWN tank signifies asWords of Affirmationbut she loves toSHOW love through ACTS OF SERVICE.Is it true that some people prefer toPERFORM acts of servicebut can’t accept them? SURE! Those servants who have been serving folks for a long time (in long time marriages, grew up with lots of siblings to serve) have concrete thoughts on what service looks and feels like.
Often EXCELLENT servants can teach the rest of us a thing or two about exactlyhowto place the napkin around the birthday plate to make the honoree feel loved!
The love tanks of Kate, Nikki, and Terah fill up when they receive acts of service. Here are some ideas from them and me…


Kate bought us ‘matchy’ scarves for the 4th of July…I loved it so much I even took this picture with no make up!
Kate has two “goofball boys” (this is not name calling but loving nicknames!) whom she serves every day. Below one act of service was working on a rocket that one brother received for his birthday. The rocket performed on point and the Goofball Brother experienced a memory he will never forget.
Kate works as a lobbyist and realizes what a PREMIUM time is for all of us. Spending a few hours privately with her (and her husband, even when he and Ted are SO tired they fall asleep on us!) fills her love tank when we get to see each other.
Through texts, email, Marco Polo, or whatever fun device of communication we currently use I keep Kate updated on this CRAZY BUSY family. She may be 1,200 miles away but when she steps off the plane, I want her to feel like she is IN THE LOOP.


One way Kate and Harris fill each other’s tank is through allowing the other to have some personal rec time. Kate encourages Harris to play golf and Harris makes a way for her to enjoy yoga every week. ACTS OF SERVICE are usually spelled TIME!

I have said before—serving my kids is serving me.

When Kate and Harris came for a visit I filled their tanks by taking the GoofBall Brothers for a morning while Kate and Harris went to the golf course—
SPOILER: I adore those boys and needed a little one-to-two time . ACTS OF SERVICE don’t have to be painful or marytdom!



Nikki throws a GREAT party! This one-year old party for Alana not only served her baby girl but ALL the family ad friends that fit in the house…and pool.

“I think that my needs for ACTS OF SERVICE right now is because of this season of life. I just need so much help!”  So spoike by sweet Nikki, mother of three BEAUTIFUL baby girls, five and under. Every day is a HUGE act of service to her family.
Last year Nikki taught English at the university model school which I founded. Every week as she entered the room to teach I took her baby and held Alana while she taught.OK—busted. This was NOT a hardship on the Grandmommy who held the baby each week till her mommy finished teaching.
Recently I really failed to support Nikki in a situation none of us expected to occur. I did not anticipate that as Rachelle says, “We needed to put out the Bat Light.” The next day, when a phone call of reassurance would have served, her dad and I got in the car and drove over an hour to look her in the eye and assure her that would never happen again.


Nikki is a ‘daddy’s girl’ so when he give her of his time and attention her love tank fills in a hurry!

Sometimes an act of service to your adult children takes a little more time than it took in making a pop-tart when they were small. But the time is such a GREAT investment in ACTING in SERVICE to them.


Terah loves the outdoors and nature. She recently visited the Lavender Farm in Utah of Young Living. Another way she serves others–good health!
Terah works as a nanny and also plays SUPER aunt to lots of nieces and nephews! Likewise she  serves her hard-working husband who works construction with another son-in-love.


Terah’s weekly acts help her sister Rachelle fulfill her calling of studying to be a midwife and work with her hubby in the construction industry.

When I asked Terah how I could show her I loved her she replied, “Come do my laundry or wash my dishes!” She might not have been kidding!
When she was engaged to be married, she confided in me that all the married kids got out of doing the dishes for the big family gatherings and she was looking forward to that!
One year, for Christmas Terah sent all of us “date boxes” so we could put on a special date for our spouses. Obviously, she adores DOING for others. At a recent family gathering she made a banana pudding that must have taken all day!Real meringue for a HUGE crew that would have consumed boxed brownies if she made them!
Ted and I adopted Terah when she was nine-weeks-old. Much of her birth history has been a mystery to us. Recently she did 23&Me to find out more about her pre-adoption past. When she got the results I compiled as much as I could of her adoption records, first birth certificate, and hospital records. We had a great breakfast looking through all the papers and details on the app to figure out as much as we could about her history. It was a sweet day neither of us will forget.


Terah spent time honoring Emma on her 12th birthday as we all helped Emma make the “journey” to womanhood.

Feeding your hungry brood every evening does not ACTUALLY count as an ACT OF SERVICE, since EATING if REQUIRED for living.
But a SPECIAL meal for a birthday or any day COUNTS to fill their love tanks because these gals are servants themselves and they KNOW what it takes to make a beautiful meal.
When you are performing ACTS OF SERVICE just ask, “what would make this special? A little music? A bow? An extra gift? Merangue?”

Although they don’t live in our home, our Adult Servers need us to help fill their love tanks!

Speaking Your Child’s Love Language

We love our adult children.

We care for their welfare.

We want only the best for them.

Sometimes, when we often try to express that love, our words and actions come off as nagging, patronizing, cajoling, or bribing instead of loving our dear ones.

Gary Chapman in his famous The 5 Love Languages instructs folks to speak our love to our spouses and children in their own primary love language.


When we love folks and attempt to express that love in some way other than their love language, the exercise simulates speaking our love to them in Chinese.  They hear it but they don’t understand it. They cannot interpret our words of affirmation, our physical touch, our quality time, our acts of service or our giving of gifts as loving acts. They may instead actually interpret them as flattery, smothering, helicoptering, or even attempting to buy their love and affection.
We can speak it louder, longer, with more words or actions but if we are speaking in the WRONG love language our messages of love will not get through. 
Do you know what your child’s love language is? I STRONGLY suggest that you take the Five Love Language test on
According to Chapman, we all have a ‘native tongue’ which communicates love to us. If we go as ambassadors to a foreign country naturally, we would take the time to learn at least some of the language. We would want to make sure that we are communicating LOUD AND CLEAR so our message is understood. 
As the parents of adult children we may have been duped into believing that our kids do not need this specific love language anymore. We act as if they are now suppose to be fluent in every dialect of “I love you” known to man.
Nothing is further from the truth. Obviously as adults they can RATIONALLY say, “Of course, my parents love me.” And as 20-somethings and 30-somethings they may not be as prone to throwing tantrums which ends in door slamming and yells of “You don’t even love me.”
But, not for one minute should we forget that they need to FEEL the love that we have for them.
Feeling loved becomes even more important in the ADULTHOOD of our children. Why?
  1. They are being asked to fill the love tanks of others now—their spouses, significant others, and possibly our GRANDCHILDREN, AKA their kids.
  2. They are living BUSY adult lives and are not as free to spend time and resources cultivating the love relationships they once had with us as their parents or their spouse—the two tiers of folks who are most RESPONSIBLE to fill up their love tanks.


they  NEED to give away more love (and fill others love tanks) even while having less time, resources, and emotional power to cultivate their own love tanks.

All my adult children are filling the love tanks of others.  Who is filling theirs? (My sweet granddaughter  Alana just turned one year old.  Looking at her fills my tank!)

Do yourself a favor— get them to take the test and learn their love language. 

The next five weeks will be about each of the languages and how we can SPEAK that LANGUAGE to our adult children. 

Speak Life into Your Adult Kids

“Sticks and stones may break my bones…but words will break my heart.”



The power of life and death is in the tongue.

Have you ever spoken a word in anger or frustration to your kids and wished that you could swallow the words back? Or that a hole would swallow you up?
Our words have power. Our words can build up or destroy our children. 
The age of our kids’ doesn’t determine the level of damage we can cause—words can hurt,.
Even with age and thicker skin our kids feel the pain of words spoken in frustration or anger…or more often, just insensitivity. And it is not just OUR words that can wound our kids–it is the words of our other kids (their brothers and sisters) that can harm.
With families of their own, our adult children often forget how a “joke” might sound on the receiving end.  The receiver might forget that his/her brother/sister is a person of good intentions… Since there is much more time between interactions the barb can take root and become a huge fence built between us and our adult kids. Or between them and their siblings.  What to do?


When our children were young and they started squabbling and bickering we had a rule: if you can’t learn to be friends with your brother and sister you won’t be allowed to make friends with anyone else. 

It was a vain threat until we were called to enforce it one week when NO ONE went ANYWHERE without a sibling.
That was all well and good when they were ten and younger—but now the practicality of asking them to all sit in one room for a week and “be friends” doesn’t work out as well.



As parents of adults, we have two courses of action when we know that one child has been hurt by another:


  1. Continue (as we should be practicing every week) to affirm and support ALL the kids. 


Ted is so great about this. Every Friday he writes “love texts” to one or several of the kids or their spouses.  This simple encouragement reminds them that they are LOVED, RESPECTED, WORTHY of AFFIRMATION. 
ALWAYS speak words of life into your children.  Practice speaking of their best characteristics and AFFIRM their strengths.
  1. Nurture and support the one who is wounded through affirming words, texts, cards, and notes. 

Just as words can hurt, they can also heal—but it takes longer! Keep encouraging through words and actions.

Be there for your hurting child.

Celebrate when your child has a victory!

Speak LIFE.

It is JUST as important now as when they were young!

WARNING: As tempting as this is, there is ONLY ONE thing you CANNOT DO when one of your adult children hurts another through words — you cannot be the middle man and ask the offender to apologize or even let that sibling know there is a problem.  This is not YOUR story. Making your kids apologize might have worked at 6 and 10—but now, as adults, they have to take ownership of their actions and make their own amends. This is their life and their story.
If you don’t follow this warning, you will end up in the middle of two adults who may eventually make up and turn on you—helicopter parenting is not just out of style—it is dangerous.

When Our Adult Children Suffer

I can’t imagine how you are hurting…

I wish it were me instead of you…

If only I could take your pain…

Recently I heard  a speaker express the anguish of living through the dark journey of  mental illness in her children. For years her two daughters suffered and thus created immeasurable pain for this beautiful mama as she watched, helpless to free them from the prison of their diseases.

Our Children's Pain is Our Pain
We want to rush to alleviate our kid’s pain as quickly as possible–but is that always the best option?

She and I shared similar questions–though not as many answers— we shared the journey.
How can we support without smothering?
How can we nurture without being a nuisance?
How can we be a helper and not a hinderance when our kids are in pain? 
Americans want to avoid pain at all cost.
We believe pain robs us of our plans for the day and often our dreams for the future. Naturally we want to help our kids avoid pain any way we can.

The broken glass on this picture depicts the further pain Jake and Rachelle suffered. After surviving this crash and going on to build a family, their home was flooded twice last year. This photo that hung in their bedroom reminded them of God’s faithfulness–although the picture frame succumbed to the flood water.

When our daughter Rachelle and her husband were only two months married they were hit by a drunk driver who was driving a LARGE mobile home moving trailer.
The PAIN was physical (Jake received a pelvis fractured in over 20 places and a torn kidney) mental (this would delay their school and work careers) and emotional (they lost their newly conceived first baby in the wreck). The pain was unbelievable. It interrupted their lives and destroyed hopes. Watching their sorrow was excruciating.

What could we do? 

What could we say?

When my husband, Ted, went to see the remains of this car the wrecker told him how sorry he was for Ted’s loss. “No. My daughter and her husband survived,” Ted responded.                        “Not in this car they couldn’t have,” the wise old demolition expert remarked.


There were no words from well-meaning friends that eased the pain. But often their presence encouraged Jake and Rachelle and therefore encouraged our hearts as well.
As adults in a cruel world we acknowledge that pain is inevitable, and when handled well, it brings growth and maturity. Pain can give needed perspective to our self-focused lives. But how can we apply all those “life lessons” to those who hold our hearts in their hands?
Timothy Keller in his best selling book Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering reminds us that our response to suffering should NOT be passive! Keller states four activities we should pursue during suffering:
  • WEEP

  • PRAY


  • HOPE


We must weep to acknowledge the true loss and the pain we are suffering with our kids.

These are not STEPS but activities that go on simultaneously or one at a time while we grieve the pain of what is happening in our lives.
These are the same essential steps when the pain is inflicted on our adult children. We grieve. We wail. We admit the pain and the suffering. We reprioritize what is most important. And we hope.

Knowing that the suffering produces a good work in us might comfort us AFTER the pain is gone… but during the tragedy we give ourselves permission to GRIEVE.

IT IS TRUE: PAIN is always easier to bear for ourselves than to bear while watching those we love so dearly suffer. 
But, as we see growth in our own lives through pain and suffering—we must long for that growth and strength in the lives of our adult children as well. 
Sometimes— that growth comes at a high price. 

Sibling Rivalry: Is this STILL a thing?

You always take her side!
Mom, he’s doing it again.
She always get her way!
Why does he always get to go first?
Remember when your kids were little and all you hoped for was ONE day without an attack of sibling rivalry?
The timing may have changed but not ALWAYS  the conflict…
Unlike training bras and training bikes, sibling rivalry may not be something your kids grow out of.
Several years ago one of my daughters ceased talking to the rest of the family. It started with me. One of the other girls let me know that this child felt abandoned by me.  True enough. She did FEEL that way. But the hurting child’s sister said it best, “You know, Mom, in this family you have to carry your own water. So I am not in it. You two work it out.” Within three months their relationship had disintegrated, also.
What is the CURE for sibling rivalry in adult children?
 In our daughter Rachelle‘s bathroom there is a plaque that MIGHT give us hope for overcoming sibling rivalry:
We have to preach (and unfortunately that is the only verb that will work at times) mercy… not justice to our children.
We cannot take up their offenses.
We must teach them how to go to each other in love. Forgive in LOVE. THINK OF THE BEST OF EACH OTHER IN LOVE.
 Recently a friend wept over two of her sons who were at odds with each other. After hearing the complaint that one young man made towards his older brother she had to ask him, “Is this going to be the thing that you allow to separate you and your brother forever?”
The brother shrugged, “Maybe.”
 “If you can live with that, it is your choice to make. You are an adult.”
Although she didn’t agree with this decision, it was not her call to make.
Few other times can our adult children break our hearts as easily as when they are angry with one another.
Our job is to forgive and MODEL how they can forgive, even when they are hurt as well.
My pastor preaches often concerning mercy and being merciful to others.
He reminds our congregation that the ground at the foot of the cross is all level.
Even though it is much easier to see someone else’s fault than our own, we must OFTEN humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness. We must FREELY forgive.
My daughter that sent word to me that she was hurt and felt abandoned returned to the fold after a personal transformation in her own life.  Although we both had done equal shares in damaging that relationship I had to reach out FIRST. Our reunion was tearful, loving, cherished, a bit scary after seven years, and totally life-changing.
We SPEAK AND SHOUT AND ACT OUT forgiveness often as they are growing up … and since they are now adults we MIGHT feel that we are mumbling the same message.
The time for shouting and sermonizing is over. With adult children they need to see us suffer injustice with grace and mercy.