How long do we support an adult child?


We have a 31 year old son who is trying is get a career in acting. He was an easy child to raise and wasn’t bit by the acting bug until he tried out for a couple plays in high school and won best actor in both. We gave him a college education insisting on a double major (because he wanted to major in theater). The theater major was so demanding of his time that he begged us to let him just major in theater. I said to my husband “it’s his life - let it be his mistake”. Well it turns out it must be our mistake. After college he spent a year in Los Angeles and we had to send $$ and finally bring him home. Then a short time later friends begged him to go to Florida. We live in the midwest. So he went there for a year or so. We sent him $$ again and had to bring him home again. Once home he worked and lived here (bought a house) for around 3 years. Tried the corporate life and wasn’t happy. At the age of 26 he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Friends paid for him to go to New York and visit. He loved his visit and found some people interested in helping him in his acting career. He believed it was God telling him what to do with his life. So we took over his house payments and saw that it was sold. He has borrowed money from his grandpa to continue his acting education and to live on. After he finished the schooling he found a job here and there but nothing to be able to live on. He realized that his dad was upset with him for always calling grandpa to borrow money so he has started to call us again. We keep telling him he needs a job with health insurance. He called last Wed. and when I asked how he was he said “not good” he’d been evicted from his place and had no money for insulin. (My husband and I don’t have alot of money and no retirement plan.) He then stated “if you can’t count on your family for support who can you count on? Nobody cares, nobody cares if I live or die. I’m sick, mom. I be better off if my legs were cut off so people could see that I’m handicapped. Prayer doesn’t help, God doesn’t listen. I’ll just watch my blood sugar levels go up and lose limb by limb until I die. What kind of death is that?” This is just part of everything he said. As a mother my heart was breaking. My husband believes that if we don’t give him money and he dies that we have killed him. So I went and put $$$ into our sons account and he is a happy camper again. But we know this will continue until he actually has a career in acting. What are our options as far as Christ would want us to do? We know that we need tough love. And how do you implement tough love with someone who can die?

Thanks for any insight!


He needs to get a job. There are jobs for people in many fields that don’t require anything except for the fact that you’ve continued your education. Plain and simple. Also, he needs to learn to be independent.

My parents are helping me through school, but I also have to work (and I just got my first job:)) to take care of things like books, personal needs, travel to and from, and of course, my study abroad. I learned how to be smart with money (and even when I wasn’t working, I was very careful with the money I was given and didn’t ask for anything unless I truly needed it. I sucked it up and didn’t go out if I didn’t have any). I was cooking and doing laundry long before I left for school.

After I graduate, I want to be completely cut off. It’s one thing if you’re a student (so working full time is difficult), but afterwards, you need to figure things out. I think it’s great that your son is passionate about something, but he needs to get off the money. He’s not a child and shouldn’t be treated as one.


Your son is a user.

He is using you and using emotional blackmail to make you feel guilty and give him money.

When do you stop supporting an adult child? YESTERDAY.

My brother majored in theater and he has not taken one dime from my parents. He is successful in his career, has a wife, a home, a car, and can meet all of his obligations. He works in “behind the scenes” capacities, he does do theater and takes acting classes-- all of which HE pays for.

Your son has taken advantage of you. Perhaps you and your DH need counseling so that you can see him as he really is.

It sounds like he himself has some deep emotional problems. He as an attitude that you OWE him support. This is not true at all.

He is using his diabetes as an excuse. If he refuses to get a job, take medication, and monitor his condition it is HIS fault, not yours.


And, lest you fall for that line about it being the Christian thing to do… I suggest you read 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 3:

6 We instruct you, brothers, in the name of (our) Lord Jesus Christ,to shun any brother who conducts himself in a disorderly way and not according to the tradition they received from us. 2
7 For you know how one must imitate us. For we did not act in a disorderly way among you,
8 nor did we eat food received free from anyone. On the contrary, in toil and drudgery, night and day we worked, so as not to burden any of you.
9 Not that we do not have the right. Rather, we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us.
10 In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.
11 We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business ofothers.
12 Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and to eat their own food.


The Christian thing to do is to possibly pay for his insulin and nothing else. My daughter was also bitten by the acting bug and majored in theater. She has taken her talents and used them in teaching theater classes in our local community for spending money, as well as bit parts here and there. She has not asked us for money, because she has a “real” job during the day.
Your son is using you. If it were my son (and I have three sons) I would probably pay for the insulin and let him fall on his face. You have been helping him for way too long as it is. STOP, now!


This struck me in your post… was he perhaps “easy to raise” because you did not put a lot of limits on him? Chose not to discipline, but to give in, because it was easier? Your son did not get the idea to manipulate you, or learn how to do it so well, without many years of practice.

I agree with others’ assessment that your son is a user. He is also emotionally abusive with the whole “no one cares if I live or die” and “I will just lose my leg” whining. He plays your emotional attachment like a guitar string, and gets back just the tune he wants: “here’s some money.”

Stop supporting him. He is WAY old enough to have a job and pay his own bills. I am 33 and my husband and I have been on our own for 11 years. If he wants his dream bad enough, he will find a way to achieve it. People only value what they have to WORK for…


People with Type I Diabetes function just fine in everyday life, with jobs and all that. Believe it or not, a Theater Arts degree is very versitile. Actors can pretend to be just about anything, including office help, construction workers, servers, retail clerks, and a host of other positions. I have never heard of an actor who did not have a day job.

I have an old friend with such a BA. She works for a major bottling plant as a database administrator. Her friends from the same program teach school (some as subs), write speeches, all sorts of work.

I have three friends with Type I. They watch their sugar levels by not eating what they cannot, use insulin judiciously, and exercise. These people I know also hold down jobs, one as a computer engineer, one as a restaurant manager. One was a truck driver who has had diabetes for decades, and is now retired in Florida- with all of his limbs still firmly intact.

Partnership for Prescription Assistance can hook him up with the drugs he requires; also Public Aid. He should check if he qualifies for food stamps as well. I suggest you go to these sites, as well as the American Diabetes Association.

As the mother of an adult “user” I can tell you that your son, despite the diabetes, needs not just a job, but to be told it’s time to close the Bank of Mom and Dad. He is manipulating you. My daughter is 30, bipolar, won’t take the meds, but drinks. She too has the degree of her choice, two of them, in general studies as a well as paralegal studies. We co-signed for a rented townhome that was destroyed, and just adopted her daughters. In between those two events, she conned us into giving her a considerable sum of money, in the tens of thousands of dollars, with such excuses as:

*]I’m a single mother, and look at your poor grandchildren.
*]My husband left me.
*]I got fired from my job because they just didn’t appreciate me (Come to find out she refused to dress the part in a major law firm, and was surfing the Internet all day).
*](When she was married to her ex) The baby-sitter hates us, and told us if we didn’t give her $300 by Friday, she is going to turn us into DCFS, even if it is lie.
*]Our car broke down (They used the money to go out of town for the weekend.)[/LIST]
The speech you want to make goes something like this:

"Son, you are 31 years old. Your father and I offered you the opportunity for a college education. You have a degree in Theater Arts. God has given you a vivid imagination, and the ability to portray that imagination through your acting. It will come in handy when you apply it when you go on job interviews. You will need these interviews because you are going to have to pay your own way. Dad and I are getting older, and we will need income to retire. So far, we have none, as we have been giving you the money. It was wrong of us to continue to do that for you, to not allow you to gain adulthood and autonomy.

"Some of the greatest actors of our time have started out in lowly positions. Harrison Ford was a carpenter, just like Jesus. Bob Newhart was an accountant. Even the great pop singer, Sting, was a teacher. Surely, you want to follow these great celebrities in the world of honest labor.

"I am well aware of your diabetes. I am so aware, that I will not continue to simply give you money.

"I expect you to give me your doctor’s phone number. From now on, when you tell me that you have no money for insulin, I will call your doctor, and after confirming with him that you require this, ask him which pharmacy he prefers I call to pay for your prescription.

"Should you require food, dear boy, I shall search the Internet for a grocery store local to you, where you can pick the food I preordered for you. Rest assured, it will meet your health requirements.

"I am calling the local transit authority, and having them send you a prepaid transit card, so you can make your job interviews and appointments.

"If you expect your father and I to give you any more money, you must complete a financial freedom course with either Veritas or Dave Ramsey. I shall expect proof of such completion. Perhaps we can work out a deal where you earn the money, $XX per session successfully completed.

“But darling boy, while Dad and I love you, the Bank of Mom and Dad is closed. Your emotional ATM card has been disabled.”

Until you do that, you will have no peace.


Change your phone#?


Just giving a lighter post on this thread.


Pull the rug out.

I agree about paying for the insulin, although there’s a good chance that he can get insulin at a free clinic, so you probably shouldn’t even pay for that.

My daughter earned her B.A. in Theater, and she has been on her own since she was 21. She is a professional stage manager and a good one. She has a regular job as a production stage manager of a ballet company, and does free lance work in theaters all over her state. At any time she has at least 2-3 shows going.

She has actor friends who earn a living almost entirely through their acting. It can be done, even if you’re not a big star. They tour, they do the amusement parks (e.g., Cedar Point, Disney,etc.) They do stock theater, regional theater, and whatever theater they can get. They teach classes in acting, they do children’s acting workshops, camps, etc. Actors work harder than anyone in the U.S.A! Those who put in the hard hours making the rounds, doing the auditions, taking the classes, networking, etc. WILL make a living in their craft!

There is a big network in theater and these people all help each other out a lot . Networking is their life and they are as close as family. My daughter attends openings and parties and any theater event in the city as often as she can, and she works the crowds to get to know the people, and she doesn’t hesitate to offer her talents (and her business card) to everyone at the party. And it pays off–she gets plenty of work! She turns work down.

I am wondering if your son is somehow out of this networking loop. I think if he was in the loop, he probably would have work as an actor. If he isn’t willing to network and get to know everyone in town (whatever town he’s in), then he will never work as an actor.

This would be a good reason to pull the financial rug out from underneath him–it would force him to circulate in the theater world and network to get acting work and get his career moving. As long as you support him, he can hide out in his apartment and dream about an actor’s life, but that’s not the same as doing it. Acting, like any other profession, is hard work. Make him do that work by taking away his security blanket.

IF he isn’t cut out to be an actor, then he will, like everyone else, find another job. He may end up doing acting as a hobby, like many community theater actors do, and that’s great. Just don’t pay for him to go back to school to earn a degree in another field–it’s time for him to do some work to pay for further schooling himself. It can be done. Make him do it himself. Let him sweat and struggle. DON’T CAVE IN!! You are not being cruel, you are being kind to force him to stand on his own two feet! And don’t worry about the diabetes. A lot of people deal with some kind of disability, disease, or deformity and they make it and they’re PROUD of their accomplishments. Don’t deprive him of this pride in his own accomplishments.

Good luck. It would probably help you to find another family who has been through what you are going through, and leaning on them for support.


Your son is using you.

Stop giving him money for him to waste (because if he is penniless right now, he obviously doesn’t know how to manage money well). Pay for the insulin if you must, but that is it.

Your son is going to keep repeating this cycle until he has to figure out how to help himself.

Ignore the self-pity comments. You know what? I have a disability too and I graduated from college (went on scholarship) and got a job. I’ve been working at that job for two years. And I’m 23.

Your son needs to grow up. And remember–he’s not gonna stop loving you if you expect him to grow up. He’ll either become nasty and treat you horribly which will just reflect the way he really feels about you. Or he’ll come to his senses and then respect you and appreciate the tough love you’ve shown. Either way, right now he’s treating you dispicably and you and your husband need to put your collective foot down.


There are so many programs to get prescription medication reduced or free… I suggest your son look into that… not one more dime goes directly to him… if you have to… like Burbs said… pay the bill directly but no cash to ds!!! You are NOT doing him any favors by bailing him out!!!

I have a 21 yo that just had surgery for a broken femur and ligament damage… guess who is paying??? Not me! I fronted him $60 for meds… and made it clear that he will pay me back within a month. Trust me… he will pay me back.



I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Christian author Dave Ramsey, but he gives very sound financial advice to help people with these sorts of decisions. What I’ve heard Dave say a hundred times on his radio program is this:

If you are going to help someone, you first have to define what “help” is. It isn’t always monetary. Sometimes it’s helping them get a job, or watching their kids, or taking them to the doctor, etc. But should you decide that your son needs monetary help, Dave’s advice would be to attach a responsibility to each measure of help you give him.

That would look something like this: “Son, we’ve decided to give you “x” amount of money, on the condition that you find a job. If you do that, we will talk about the next step.” You decide what the steps are, but make it so that he has to prove that he can be responsible with the money you give him. As his responsibility improves, he gains further help, until help is no longer needed because he’s gotten his act together.

We have to remember that helping someone is not giving him a fish, but teaching him to fish, right? In this way you can help your son learn the independence and responsibility he so desperately needs.


No kidding. I served as a Vincentian for a few years, and one of the first things that we learn when serving the poor is that we don’t give them direct handouts. We can give them food, or a voucher to a food bank or thrift store, or bus tickets, or we can go to the pharmacy and pay for their prescription meds, or pay for a few nights of temporary housing, or even make a payment to DTE to keep their electricity and heat on. But we never, NEVER give them the money directly. I’m sure that many of them would handle it responsibly and use it where it was needed, but there are those who will be like this young man and fritter it away. And all of our funds came from parishoner donations, so we didn’t have the money to give repeat handouts, nor could we risk being irresponsible with that money.

I agree with everyone else: your son has a degree, paid for in full by you. You have provided him with the tools to support himself as an adult- and then some. Now it’s time to insist that he use those tools. If my parents, who barely finished high school, have managed to keep working for the past 40 years, then your son can manage to feed, clothe, and house himself. It may not be in the style that he’s accustomed to, but maybe that will provide him with incentive to work harder and get ahead. Certainly if he truly asks for help with food or meds, provide it, but do so in a way that he can’t squander the money. Oh, and make sure that Grandpa is on board with this as well. Grandparents are notorious for having soft spots for their hard-of-luck grandkids. But this won’t work unless Grandpa is also in on the tough love.


Well, you certainly have all given me sound advice. And I intend to use it. It won’t be easy but I don’t want to spend the rest of my life an emotional basket case.

I just ask you all for your prayers as I want to respond to him with love and the Holy Spirits’ guidance. Thank you.



You’ve had those prayers since yesterday, irishone. I know how hard this is going to be!!! It’ll be hard on your son, and hard on you.

But hey- You are Irish, right? And when did the Irish ever shrink from something because it was hard?:yup: Look at how much we’ve done in the past 400 years alone!


Cut the cord. He needs to be self sufficient. From what you said, there is nothing preventing him from getting a self supporting job. You are being used.
Prayers & blessings
Deacon Ed B


quick answer to Q in title
until you are ready to stop enabling his prolonged adolescence and let him be a man.

However, I am the last one to talk since we have an adult child to support, who has multiple disabilities and cannot work.


In situations such as this, you are not an enabler, but a caregiver who does so with love. Your reward for this will be beyond belief, as you are being a true,caring and loving mother.
Prayers & blessings
Deacon Ed B


my only point is that behind this young man’s sad story may very well be disabilities, not physical, which do prevent him from finding and keeping work. If that is the case, the parents may very well become resigned to supporting him but should do so under their terms, not his, and that does not including giving him their retirement money to fritter away in New York, and then allow him to use maniplative techniques to get more. In such a sad case you would provide through trust funds, estate planning, setting up a living situation for him you can afford etc. Not just bankrolling wild schemes.


Good point. For those of us not in this situation, it is obviously too easy for us not to foresee things such as this.
Prayers and blessings
Deacon Ed B

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