Parenting Tip: Wondering How To Help A Child Not Even Living At Home?

Not Living at Home:

Although your child may not be living at home he/she is still thinking about it. Every young person (especially troubled ones) considers what they would do in a worst case scenario, who they would turn to, who would help. That means they are secretly thinking about you A LOT! The conditions they think you would have before you help them out or let them come home are going to affect how they perceive you and themselves. It will affect how they consider taking responsibility for their actions if they were to need your help.

Let Me Give You An Example Of Their Thoughts: (trust me I know this)

  • What do my parents think of me?
  • I wonder if they would let me move home?
  • I wonder if they are going to lecture me the first night I move back?
  • Will they tell me “I told you so!”
  • I wish my dad could just drop the whole job issue, I don’t know why I don’t have confidence to get a job, I need help getting that confidence first.
  • I would check myself in for treatment, but I only have a part of the money. I wonder what my parents would say if I called them.
  • I wonder if my parents respect me at all? Would they listen to me if I tried to explain myself? Do they even like me? Do they even love me?

All the time their brain is defining its reality based on that person’s childhood and current experiences which are directly tied into how they perceive you! They don’t need to be under the same roof to perceive you. So if you take control of how you come across to them you can greatly affect their behavior.


This is about you! Not them. Everyday troubled kids think about their parents, particularly their mom. How they perceive you shapes their attitude towards life and themselves. You need to behave and communicate around your children in a certain way to cause certain thoughts and emotions in them. Every phone call they make to you is an opportunity for you to shape their future. Your child doesn’t need to live at home for you to do that.

This is not about you making rules to govern their behaviour, that is not what I am talking about. Below are some things I am NOT talking about:

  • Son, you should manage your debt properly!
  • You should show up for work on time, what were you thinking?
  • Why do you hang out with those people, I thought I raised you better than that!

These are some examples of What I AM talking about:

  • When you are on the phone with me son I will not tolerate swearing or yelling.
  • If you are going to ask me for money I need you to give me 3 days warning before you ask and before you actually need it.
  • If you were to move home you are always welcome, but everyone in this house gets up at 9am, and is home by 11pm.
  • I realize son that I have debt too, and have started to pay it off a fair bit at a time because I am asking you to pay yours off.
  • I am going to lose that 20 pounds I have been meaning to for 3 years and change my life, because I have been asking you to change your life.

This goes for young and adult children struggling with drugs, behavior, and mental illness. None of your children or family need to live in your house for you to affect them.

The Trick To This:

You are not trying to make your child WRONG by explaining your boundaries, you are just sticking up for what your terms are no matter who you are talking to.

Make your boundaries about you, not about how WRONG your kid is.

You should sound like a motivational cheerleader when talking to your children, you are SUPPORTING them through their troubles, not condemning them. You are just holding true to your boundaries.

EX: 7-11 has a boundary that only people with money will get a chocolate bar. You will never hear 7-11 argue or insult their customers. They just have the answer “NO MONEY- NO CHOCOLATE BAR”. They don’t mention how could the customer do this to them, or what were they thinking, they certainly don’t bring up changing their diapers as a kid (little joke there). If anything, through customer service, 7-11 is actually trying their best to be pleasant to the customer, encouraging them to get some money from home and come back!

Final Summary:

It is important you have clear communication to your children about what your terms are as a parent, how you are willing to help them, how you are not willing to help them, and how you feel about them separate from their actions. So you still need to have a residency agreement set up in your own mind and be willing to share that with them so it can affect their reasoning. Not just a residency agreement if they were to move home, but an agreement on paper for how you are going to manage your relationship with them while they live away from home.

Tom Barthel
Street Smart Counselling