What to do with son?

I am looking for advice about my adult son. He is 22 next month.
He has been in school, but blew off the last semester. He doesn’t want to go back.
He has a low paying job that he has held for a year. It doesn’t pay enough to live on, and there is no room for advancement. He doesn’t want to leave that job without another.
He doesn’t want to look for another job.he lives in a rented room in a house with two other grown ups, that are no further along in life than he is.

I’ve suggested everything I can think of. And have been doing so since he was about 15. I’m a big advocate for school, but I’m not sure if I can trust him to actually attend class. I’ve suggested a trade, UPS. Teaching overseas…The oil fields in either the US or Canada (he can live and work in the US, Canada, or anywhere in the EU- he has citizenship). He got poped for pot a little while ago, and doesn’t think he can get Into the military. He tells me he has stopped smoking. He not going to church.
He lives in a depressed part of the country far away from me and refuses to move. He has a “friend” who he is terribly in love with but she is not interested in anything romantic with him. Yet he wants to stay in the area just in case. He will not come a live with me, ( I admit I don’t live in a good place right now) or with his dad. He has no health insurance, and although he is eligible for free healthcare through the state, he hasn’t bothered to get the papers in they have asked for.

He has no idea what he wants to do. I’ve had a terrible time getting him to participate in his own life. I don’t understand a man who cannot even dream of something he would like to do with his life. He has no goals, not working towards anything. He’s marking time. He’s been like this since his teenage years. And nothing I have said has helped. It has only been a wedge between us.

What am I to do? I can’t let him starve. I can’t cut off contact with him, I’m Pretty much all he’s got. He’s probably depressed, but without healthcare, and me living so few away, I can’t get him to go see somebody.

I’m really scared that he’s going to wrap his car around a tree someday. And I will be getting “the phone call”.
What do you guys think? He’s my only living child. I had little help in raising him, I was pretty much on my own. We had a good middle class lifestyle, but as he got Into his teens he just shut down. At 22 shouldn’t he be coming out of the teen doldrums and waking up to his life?

Love him, pray for him, always be there for him.

I would only give him money assuming that he does what he needs to do. From your post, it sounds like “what he needs to do” is look for a new job. But - and this is key - you have to make your expectations clear and stick to them. If he doesn’t work, if he doesn’t look for a new job - cut off support.

This might sound harsh, but he is not a child any longer. He does not ‘deserve’ your support when he is not trying to help himself - that’s just throwing away your money. You are right that he is probably depressed. But continuing to support him indefinitely is not going to help anything. He will probably not wake up one day and think “oh, I need to get my act together” until he feels responsible for his own actions.

P.S. For context: I have suffered from depression for most of my adult life. Often what gets me up off the couch and working is just the knowledge that if I don’t take care of myself, no one else is going to fix it for me. It’s up to me.

I think what the others have said is spot on. He is an adult, and yes, he is and will always be your son, but this is where the tough love comes in. Be his emotional support and help him that way, but he needs to pull himself up and get motivated. Pray for him and love him, but that doesn’t mean being co-dependent on him.

God bless and I will pray for you and your son…


If he doesn’t earn enough to live on with his current job, are you or his father financially supporting him? If so, my advice would be to tell him that the money’s going to stop flowing on x date but if he ever changes his mind about your advice he can call you and you’ll be happy to pay for a) a semester of college and a second if he makes good grades, b) a plane ticket to move closer to you or dad or c) copays to see a therapist for depression. And that’s it. No food or clothing or rent money. Then call him and ask how the girl is doing or how his favorite sports team is faring or whether he’s seen any decent movies lately. Tell him about your hobbies and work. Ask how he’s feeling. But lay off the advice. He needs to grow up and learn that you’re there for support and guidance but that he needs to take responsibility for managing his life. If he’s okay with a go-nowhere job making minimum wage then I think you need to be okay with that too.

I’m so sorry, though. This has got to be incredibly stressful for you. Turn to St. Monica, who prayed for her wayward son for 17 years before he got his act together, and ask for her loving intercession.

Thank you for the advice. St. Monica and i are very close…

I don’t mind the money, I have it to give him and it’s not very much. But I do understand that in giving it to him he has the choice to do nothing.

The pain is watching him waste his life. He should be out there having fun, making money, establishing a relationship that will last… But he is not interested,

He’s told his dad he’s going to finish school and has registered, mind you. C college, not university…but last week he told me he didn’t want to go to school. He does that a lot, says one thing one day and then a few days later says something g else. At least we are talking: that is new. He’s been pretty nasty to me in the past. I think I’m a bit of a joke to him, although I do think he loves me.

Anyway, his birthday is next month. I am thinking of writing him a letter about this subject and lay down some rules in preparation of not helping him at all. I want to reiterate all the opportunity he does have, let him know I’m here if he needs help, real help, and that I love him and want to see him happy. Things I’ve all said before.
I have my own situation I need to deal with and he’s not making that any easier. However, I do often wonder if I could get him going so I wasn’t so concerned for him all the time, I might be able to handle my own problem better. I just don’t know.

I’m up for all and any advice from parents, sons, and grandparents. So far the advice I’ve gotten is all in one vein, and matches what has been written here.
Thank you for you prayers. I’ve been dealing with this for a long time, and it’s wearing me out.

No two situations are the same but I was on a similar path. At 21-22 I lived in a rat hole apartment with 3 other there was drugs, drinking, sex and we all worked jobs that paid little and paritied what little we earned away. I was depressed, my father had died two years before, I had flunked out of two colleges. I never went to class and my own mother did not ever really know where I lived because of embarrassment. Of course we had a giant TV. Complete with a bullet hole in it. And every weekend was a potential felony conviction. It was a fast crowd and a dangerous one.

This did not last long. And now I am a happy well adjusted man who is as Holy as I can be and a father to 4 (soon to be 5 children) that we homeschool I hold two degrees. I have a wonderful wife and a great life.

What was my salvation? My wife. I met her and I finally had a reason to strive to be better, to focus and to want to be the man she deserved.

Something will happen, perhaps he must fall even further, and if so, it is best that you are at a distance. But God will help him and you must pray to help him be open to that vioce of God calling out to him.

I think this is a big part of the problem. By not allowing him to experience the consequences of his own choices you’re enabling him to keep on going the way he’s going.

His lack of ambition is troubling; but at least he does have a job and is willing to work. Pray for him, but I’d really suggest that you stop giving him money. He has no motivation to look for anything better if he doesn’t have to.

H Daddy, is there anything your mom could have done to help?
My sons dad is a Disneyland dad, he gives money and trips, but was never around to actually be a father, or actually help raise his son. I couldn’t keep the dad from giving money.

And I’m so afraid that if I lay down the law, I will lose him forever. I’m sure he is aware of this fear. My son is being very sweet to me lately. I am thinking the run in with the law has actually helped.

I’m just feeling so weary. His sister died in an accident when she was six. I’m sure this event hasn’t helped my ability to say no.

Like I said each situation is different. But no, my mom could not have helped. She tried. She threw money at the problem. She tried to keep me out of debt, wasted money on my schooling, and lectured me to no end. In the end, there was nothing she really did one way or the other that fixed it. If anything her gentle approach made it worse.

Honestly, school is the last thing your son should do right now. The drive to motivate has to come from within. Or from God.

But I know how helpless you must feel that you have to watch it. And it does not help that you and his dad are not together on this.

How’s his religious/prayer life?

His religious life is non existent.
Like his father, he’s too smart for all those lies…

Unlike his silly mother who truly believes.

I’ve suggested going to church many times. I’ve even cased it around the idea of finding a “good girl” to date and to find friends that won’t drag him down.
Suggestion has been rejected.

I think I will write that letter and send it along with his birthday gift.
Then it will be up to him:
He is welcome to use me and my money if he will use it to get on in life. I’m there for one off expenses, like medical ones, if I get a scan of the bill. Same with school. I will need to have the bill and the grade report before I pay.
I will point out to him, one more time, that he has a world of opportunity open to him through apprenticships, university, or simply working at a job that affords him learning skills and advancement.
And point out that he has most of the developed world available to him in which to take those opportunities.

I just don’t know what else to do, except pray. WhIch I’ve been doing for many years.

It makes me feel terrible, but the lioness has to teach her cub to hunt. Even if that means pushing him away.
The Russians have it right,the slap of truth is better that the sweetness of a lie.
Thanks all.

I haven’t read all the replies, but I’m going to throw in my two cents.

You need to give him the pink slip on his life. Give him reasonable notice – 30 or 45 days. And at the end of that time, he’s on his own. He’ll have to figure out how to live on what he makes – getting a roommate or whatever he has to do.

As long as you’re there to provide a safety net for him, he’s never going to fly on his own! Right now he has NO incentive to make any meaningful changes in his life. Maybe school is not for him – it’s not for everybody – but if he doesn’t figure out a path in his life, he’s never going to advance – and you can’t do that for him.

I would shy away from the letter with the present. Or tying it to his birthday in any way. I know that if my mom did that I would resent it. Good or bad a birthday is a selfish time anyway and writing a letter that expresses these deep truths will not be received well on a day he will probably be living the high life anyway.

My mom is a letter and email writer. I hate it. It comes across to me as cowardly. Why can’t two people just sit and talk. Because that is a two way street and you should not be afraid of that. Have a sit down with your son. But stay away from the one way, “if I can just word it right I am sure he will change” letters. It will backfire.

Ok, H daddy. I will take your advice.
I see it’s wisdom.

I would suggest listening to Dave Ramsey and hearing the sort of answers he gives to parents in your position. From what I can remember, here’s what he would advise:

–pay for things that help him and move him forward (for instance, if he were to take a class or relocate)
–don’t just pay for more of the same. 10 years from now, you don’t want him to be where he is today
–if you visit (which I would encourage you to do), feel free to buy him some groceries and take him out to dinner.

I’d add that it sounds like he is sinking into depression. You might need to sweeten the deal for him with regard to getting a psychological evaluation. It feels weird, but it’s OK to pay him to go for an evaluation and for seeing a therapist. In his position, you wouldn’t need to offer a lot. I think I might also pay him to sign up for health insurance and to see a doctor periodically. I know this sounds weird, but it’s better to give him money for doing stuff that’s good for him rather than to pay him for doing nothing.

You might also consider some sort of matching program, so that for every $10 he earns, you give him $2.50. You’d have to figure out the rate very carefully as it needs to be high enough to be interesting, but low enough that he’ll have to work for it.

By the way, he’s probably not starving. The worst things that could happen in his situation is 1) he goes to prison for drugs (which you can’t stop him from doing) 2) the drunk driving scenario you mention (which you can’t stop him from doing) or 3) he winds up with a medical bankruptcy. Of all of those, #3 is pretty tame, but you have the most control over it–you can lay down the law and make sure he gets insurance or you won’t give him another dime.

His situation is not your fault, and I would encourage you to consider seeing a therapist just for moral support with this situation.

Here’s a book for you: “Don’t Let Your Kids Kill You: A Guide for Parents of Drug and Alcohol Addicted Children.”


Best wishes! This is a very difficult situation.

I love those suggestions. About the therapist and visiting him and buying him some groceries.

I visited him a couple of months ago. We had a good time.

How about instead of sending cash each month I buy him an equivenlent gift card at a local grocery store? Is that going to be embarrassing for him?

Nope, don’t do it. It is still allowing him to live as he is because he knows you will "feed " him. He is free to use his meager earnings from the job he dislikes to have fun with the girl that is not interested in him.:rolleyes:

He needs to get involved in his own life. You can’t do that for him, he has to do it for himself.

That is not embarrassing at all. We are a self sufficient family that makes good money and I love gift certificates. Not only that but many Catholic schools sell gift certificates to stores for and get a kickback from the companies. Buy your gift certificates from a Catholic school!

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.