Should you really rescue your child from their financial mess?

As a parent, there is a strong likelihood that at some point, your child will fail at their goals particularly during young adulthood. Their situation may even become dire, and as a loving parent, you may feel a very strong desire to jump in and rescue your child. But the question is: when should you really rescue your child from their financial mess?  Yes, I agree that it is natural for almost every parent to never want to see their child suffer. However, before you come to their rescue, I would advise that you don’t just rush to help them—for good reasons. Consider the following advice:

What will they learn from being rescued? A failure is first and foremost a learning experience. What will your child learn if you step in and provide immediate rescuing? Will they experience the needed pain that one needs to feel after a failure, a tempering that in the end makes one stronger? Even if you plan to offer support, it might be worthwhile to not jump in immediately with help.

First and foremost, offer counseling. Offer them an ear to talk to, not just cash to solve the problem. Rather than letting money fix things, help them to discover the resources they have inside themselves to solve their problems. Otherwise, they will be ‘akabwere-bwere’ (coming for help always) and that is not love but digging them a trench of hardship in the long-term because you will not always be there for them—you are a mortal human being (adzalira kosaleka mukadzafa—they will never recover from shock when you die).

If you offer financial support, make it a one-time gift or a clearly delineated series of gifts. Never give the impression that they can get more at any time, or else they won’t learn how to pick themselves up and fix their own problems. As a parent, part of your job is to teach them life skills. Think of it this way: when they fell off a bike when they were little, you didn’t offer to ride the bike for them. You picked them up, dusted them off, gave some encouragement, and put them back on the bike. The same principle applies here.

Offer nonfinancial assistance. You can also offer similar support as to what a non-parental friend or relative might offer: assistance in locating new work, connecting with potentially useful contacts, and so forth. If the situation is truly apocalyptic offer shelter and food. If your child has actually lost their home, you can again offer indirect aid such as housing and food, but this situation should be clearly defined as temporary, contingent on your child making continual effort to improve his or her situation and eventually fly on his or her own again. Indefinite relationships where children move back into parent’s homes after independence can be very, very uncomfortable for both the children and the parents especially for their partners if the children are married.

Don’t force it. Some children, even when they are in financial mess, are simply too fiercely independent to want to accept help from a parent, so don’t force help upon someone who does not wish to accept it. This is not an indication of a lack of appreciation or love, just a desire to be able to walk strongly on their own two feet, no matter what— an attribute that you should be proud to see in your child.

Blessed week-end to you and yours as you make strategic decisions in supporting your children when they suddenly find themselves in financial mess.

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