What You Should and Shouldn't Do for Your Adult Child

What do you owe your adult children? In one sense, the answer might be nothing. Once someone reaches the age of 18, parents have no further legal obligations in most situations. Practically speaking, most parents would probably give an answer that is somewhere between everything and nothing. The trick is to figure out where to draw the line.


Most parents who expect their kids to go to college also plan to contribute toward that education if they are able. However, this can represent a significant financial burden. For example, if you took out a Parent PLUS loan, you may want to look into your options once your child is finished with school, attending part-time or is near graduation. These options could include loan forgiveness or refinancing. Parents generally do not feel obligated to help with the cost of graduate school, but they may help in other ways. For example, if your child is attending graduate school in the same city where you live, you might allow them to live with you.

Child Care

Some parents help their adult children with child care. This can represent an important support system within many families although there can also be conflict if there are assumptions on either side about how available grandparents will be. Caring for grandchildren can be a wonderful experience for the entire family if everyone is willing, but this is not a role you should feel obligated to take on. However, if your child is a single parent, being able to help in this way can make a big difference in their life.

Home Purchase

Many young people are able to purchase a home because of a mother or father who helps them with the down payment. You should not jeopardize your own financial security to help in this way, but if you want to and are able to do so, this can be an enormous assistance. Even if your child has some money saved as well, a larger down payment can mean a smaller mortgage, less debt and fewer years of making payments.


While it is often traditional for mothers and fathers to pay for a wedding, this will differ a great deal between families, cultures and among couples themselves. Some may be marrying late in life or have substantial savings of their own for a wedding. In some families, having parents pay for a wedding may simply cause too much conflict if there are significant disagreements about what the ceremony and reception should be like.

Emotional Support and Boundaries

Perhaps the most valuable thing that parents can offer their adult offspring is emotional support along with boundary setting. It is important to establish a new, adult relationship with children after they grow up. Just as parents need to wean them from financial dependency, they also need to help them establish greater independence in managing their own lives and issues. Even if you are very close to your children and they come to you for advice, you should encourage them to make their own decisions after getting input from you.

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