Sage Advice: Empty Nester Wannabes

By Amy Dickinson | January 23rd, 2019

What to do when your grown child has no interest in flying the nest


parents with adult daughter having conflict Image

Dear Amy: My wife and I have two grown children. One is married with children. The other, our 35-year-old daughter, lives with us and has been unemployed for the last month.

She is kind and generous. She will help around the house or yard if asked. She pays for her own car, insurance, gas, clothes, phone and health and beauty aids. She does not pay for food, rent or utilities.

We have talked to her about making a mock budget so that she would know what she needs to earn to be on her own. We have gone to family counseling, where she rejects any and all ideas. We have also read books on boundaries and about how to connect with adult children.

Anytime we broach the subject of employment or of getting her own apartment, she breaks down in hysterical tears and says, “I’m trying!”

My spouse and I have infrequent sex because she is right down the hallway.

It is hard for me to believe that she is 35, single and unemployed. Will she end up being a 40-year-old virgin sleeping in a twin bed in an 8-by-10 bedroom down the hall?

We are highly frustrated! Help!

– Wannabe Empty Nesters

Dear Wannabe: Your daughter may have untreated conditions that contribute to her low-functioning. She should be evaluated by a healthcare professional. And yes, she needs to get a job. Her hysterical reaction when you ask about employment is an indication of how anxious she is. You should remain calm and helpful.

You sound so unhappy and resentful with her presence in your home that it would probably be best for her (as well as you) if she moved out. She might feel comfortable renting a room in a private home; aside from checking Craigslist, there are roommate or room rental sites available, which she can find through an internet search. Or could she join her sister’s household?

Give her a reasonable deadline, and be supportive but firm as it approaches. (“We know this is challenging for you, but you can do it, and we’re right here to help.”)

If she avoids taking on this task, find a place for her.

You are already financially supporting her through housing, food, etc., and perhaps you would be willing to continue to help her with some housing costs after she moves out, with the goal of weaning her incrementally from your support.

Don’t judge or comment on your daughter’s sexual status. That is insulting. Therapy and/or personal coaching might be useful to her.

Nothing will work unless you and your spouse are on the same page. If one spouse undermines the other, your daughter will continue to fall through the gap.


In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2019 by Amy Dickinson

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