Retirement Guide on MSN MoneySpring Retirement Guide
Tue, 11 Feb 2014 15:15:00 GMT | By Gordon Powers, MSN Money

Don’t let your kids ruin your retirement

Parenting is hard work. And parents of adult children often have it even harder – particularly as they approach retirement.

Gordon Powers

It’s no secret that a tough economy and tight job market has created a generation of adult children once again bunking with mom and dad.

But while we’re wired to assist our children in any way we can, there has to be a limit — something those approaching retirement ignore at their peril. 

That’s the blunt message from psychotherapist Linda Herman, author of Parents to the End: How Baby Boomers Can Parent for Peace of Mind, Foster Responsibility in Their Adult Children, and Keep Their Hard-Earned Money.

“If our adult children are looking to us increasingly for support, if they’re relying on us to pay for their new living room furniture and pick up their cellphone bills, that dependency may have as much to with the signals we’re sending as parents as with a lack of work ethic,” she maintains. 

Rather than accept the role of unpaid concierge or primary lender, Herman urges parents to start considering their own needs a bit more, going so far as to arm them with a “Bill of Rights for Parents of Adult Children.” Here are some of the highlights:

The right to be free from abuse. Some parents find themselves the victims of physical, verbal or psychological abuse by their children. In all cases, the abuser’s goal is to gain or perpetuate control over another.

Abuse is never acceptable, she insists. If you find yourself in an abusive situation, set limits with your child. End abusive phone conversations, refuse to give time, money, or advice until you’re treated appropriately. And never meet with them alone.

The right to be guilt-free. Parents feel accountable for what happens in their families. But when best intentions produce less-than-ideal results, guilt can easily creep in.

Some parents may be subject to manipulation by kids who continue to hold them responsible for their own delinquent behaviour. Others find that seemingly normal family history has been revised to rationalize their offspring’s poor choices.

Confronted with insults and accusations, parents are often immobilized, convinced of their own guilt for made-up offenses. Don’t be one of them, Herman suggests.

The right to peace of mind. Most empty nesters expect that, at some point, living without their children will result in increased freedom and peace of mind. But some parents discover their lives actually become increasingly strained when children leave home.

There is no peace for a boomer parent whose adult child is struggling with issues such as substance abuse, spousal mistreatment, health or financial problems, or criminal activity.

If you find yourself in one of these situations, “claim your peace,” Herman advises. That means giving yourself permission to enjoy yourself at your job, have fun with friends, continue your hobbies and take time to exercise.

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