Step Parent: When a Grown Step Child Won’t Leave Home

Step Parent Question and Answer

I have a twenty-three year old step son who moved back home a year ago. He has a job, but refuses to help out or even try to find a place of his own, and I know he’s trying to cause problems between his father and I. What can I do?

As a step parent, the first thing you need to do is have a heart-to-heart talk with your husband. Rather than focusing on your fears, focus on the opportunities presented by this situation. Start off by telling your husband that you love him very much and that you know how much his son means to him. Since he cares for him so much, he needs to help him grow into a man who can take care of himself and his family, rather than enabling him.

In order for this to happen, suggest that he establish firm ground rules that encourage a sense of responsibility and help prepare his son for the realities of moving out and living on his own. Since you are the step parent, make your husband responsible for laying down the rules and enforcing them. Present this as something that he will do for the benefit of his son, rather than something he must do to answer your demands or any desire to be free of your step son.

While it is fine if your step son stays with you while he saves money to move out, he must make a contribution to the family by helping around the house. Agree upon some weekly chores. Your husband must make it clear to his son that living in the house is contingent upon proper and timely completion of these chores.

For instance, your husband can make his son responsible for the yard work, taking out the trash and doing the dishes after dinner. In addition to cleaning up after himself and taking care of his personal responsibilities, like doing his own laundry, he must contribute to the household with his time and labor. After all, in any happy household, there is an agreed-upon division of labor between adults.

Your husband may also want to charge him a small amount of rent, so he learns how to budget his money in terms of expenses, spending money and saving. Your step son must start a savings account and make agreed upon weekly or monthly deposits to work toward the goal of moving out.

As a step parent, you can encourage his savings contributions by engaging him and getting him to start thinking about where he wants to live, what kind of place he can afford and how he will furnish it. Make a date and take your step son apartment-hunting, even if he doesn’t have enough money yet, so he can start to see what’s out there and start to imagine life on his own. As a step parent, this is how you start to build a real relationship with your step son that is separate from your husband.

Although being a step parent doesn’t give you much control in this situation, claim your power by acting as a guide. The key here is to focus on the opportunity for a positive outcome and take the steps toward it. Let your husband be the disciplinarian, after all, he’s the birth parent. Help your husband guide his son to become a man who has the self-confidence that comes from knowing that he can take care of himself and make his way in the world.