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Life After High School: My Son is Living at Home After High School

Dear Your Teen:

My son is graduating high school without any plans. He will be living at home after graduating high school. I want to set reasonable expectations regarding contributing financially to our household.

He has no immediate plans to attend higher education or vocational training. Actually, my son has no plans after high school ends. He seems to lack any motivation to find employment. We have established some rules. He is required to take care of his own chores, including washing his dishes and doing his own laundry. And we have established a curfew. He has been good about following the house rules.

We have been providing food, a phone, Internet, and shelter at no cost. But we are wondering whether this should continue. Are we enabling him to remain unaccountable or irresponsible? Are we contributing to his lack of motivation? We work outside of the home so he has lots of freedom to remain lazy. How can we motivate him to find employment or, at least, some volunteer work? We have told him that he needs to do this. Help.

ANSWER | Barbara Greenberg, Ph.D.

This is an excellent question on many levels. It raises the issue of setting rules and limits with our kids which many parents have an extremely difficult time with while at the same time being supportive. Put simply, parents dislike having their kids feeling angry toward them. Parents must learn that if your kids never get angry at you then you are probably being too permissive. And, kids don’t do well with parents who are either too authoritarian or too permissive. They do best with authoritative parents who are nurturing and set limits. The two are NOT mutually exclusive.

Making a Plan for Life after High School

This brings us to the case of 18+ teens who are living at home with no clear plans for employment. There is absolutely no question that these kids need to be taught responsibility on many levels including fiscal responsibility. In life, no one gets a free ride.

Kids living at home should have a meeting with their parents during which they discuss what percentage of their salary will be given to the parents as rent. This is both a motivator and a teaching opportunity. If the child continues to remain unmotivated to seek a job then perhaps there is another issue going on such as depression, anxiety or low self-esteem that is interfering with job seeking. If you have the sense that this may be the case, then get your child supportive psychological help and perhaps vocational counseling. Remember most kids don’t want to disappoint their parents.

Dr. Barbara Greenberg is a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of teens, children, and families. She is the co-author of Teenage as a Second Language. She writes and consults for several publications and frequently appears on TV. You can find her work on her website

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