How To Launch Your Kids (Out of Your House)
Years ago, I had a sit-down with my kids. The conversation was brief. First, I told my son he was moving out of the house and getting his own place on September 1, 2019. Then, I let my daughter know she was on her own on September 1, 2023.
Why September 1? It’s a few months after their respective college graduations.
“September 1, kids! Mark it on the calendar. You’re outta here. I love both of you so much. I’m in awe of who you’ve become. Please drop by anytime. Do NOT forget to call. But you’re getting your own address.”
That conversation may sound callous. It may sound mean. But believe me on this one: It was one of the most loving things I could have done for my kids. And, by the way, it sure beats the alternative.
The Stuck-at-home Generation
All over the country, 20-somethings and 30-somethings are still living at home. And why not? Their bills are covered, they do hardly any chores, and their free time is spent ingesting all the food, entertainment and substances they desire.
Can you blame them? Their parents do everything for them. A job? Nah. Responsibility? Please. It’s all taken care of.
There are exceptions, of course. Some kids have disabilities, illnesses or addictions that require them to live with their parents as adults.
But most of these full-grown adults suffer from a clear case of Failure to Launch syndrome. And the surprising thing is, they’re often not the ones to blame.
A Difficult Truth: Parents Are Typically Responsible
Some parents worry endlessly about their kids. “If she lived on her own, she wouldn’t make it,” they think. “Drugs, alcohol, DEATH. No thank you. She’ll stay here.”
Other parents simply want their adult children around. An empty house is essentially their worst nightmare. They’ve devoted the prime of their adulthood to their kids, so if they flew the coop, what now? Their entire identity is wrapped up in their offspring. Coming to terms with that is a scary prospect.
Finally, many parents just want their kids out of the dang house. Like, yesterday. Enough is enough. The problem is, they’re in a massive rut that took decades to carve. They’ve done everything for their children since birth. Problem? “I’ll solve it.” Homework? “I’ll do it.” Chores? Jobs? Life skills? “Oh, honey. Don’t you worry about that. Leave it to us.”
My generation makes fun of millennials all the time, but we are the ones who created them. So who’s really to blame?
Go from “Failure to Launch” to “We Have Liftoff!”
What is the message you’re sending your child if you don’t ask them for responsibility or rent? When you just take care of them, no questions asked? Is that unconditional love?
Maybe. But I’d argue that it sends the signal to your child that you don’t believe they’re able to do life on their own. Their self-esteem takes a hit, and they fall deeper into their reliance on you and become less likely to leave the nest.
When those roots are planted, they are deep. It can take months of dedicated work to finally move them out of the house. But if you’re serious about giving them—and yourself—some wonderful independence, here’s what you need to do.
Step 1: The Talk
Drop the ultimatum. “You have one year to move out.”
Step 2: The Plan
Tell them how they’ll get there: with more responsibility and more deadlines.
Step 3: The Deliverables
Some possibilities include:
- “You will apply for 5 jobs per week.”
- “You will go to the gym 4 times per week.”
- “You will pay rent.”
- “You will do yard work, do the dishes, take out the trash.”
- “You will cook breakfast and dinner on Wednesdays.”
Step 4: Let Them Do It
They’ll whine. They’ll gripe. They’ll fail. They’ll regress. Don’t step in and do the work for them. Don’t waver. Be strong. Stick to the move-out date and stick to the deliverables you established.
The Struggle is Real
It sounds simple, but it’s anything but easy to move a grown child out of the house. If you’re really struggling to get on the same page, we have great therapists at Stenzel Clinical who can help you hold your boundaries and help your child realize their potential.