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You might be the parent of a young adult if:

* You still pay their car insurance because your name is also listed on the car title.

* You have paid for a new tire because they don't have any money to pay for it and it is their only way to get back and forth to work.

* You have argued with them about how much they eat out and they do not understand your concern.

* You still pay their cellphone bill because they are part of the "family plan."

* You saw them really struggling with something and, although you wanted to step in and help, you didn't.

Parents who told their young adult children once they were gainfully employed, "Congratulations, you are officially off the payroll! Good luck!" are probably in the minority. The majority of today's parents seem to struggle with the idea of letting their kids experience the ups and downs of self-sufficiency.

Are parents too quick to come to the rescue? Are parents too accessible today?

Allison Bottke's challenges with her own adult son led her to write "Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children." After years of being her son's fail safe, she realized she was not helping him.

"I looked at what was happening around me and came to the conclusion this really isn't about my son, it's about me," says Bottke. "Instead of focusing on what I thought he needed to do, I really needed to focus on changes I needed to make. The steps I came up with led to the acronym — SANITY, which I had a lot more of when I implemented the steps."

Here's what SANITY means:

* Stop: We need to change how we respond to our kids. Stop trying to change them. Stop the money flow. Stop our own negative behavior.

"For so long we were in the midst of drama, chaos and crisis," Bottke says. "I had to stop letting my son push my buttons and I needed to stop accepting the consequences for his behavior."

* Assemble supportive people: Find other people who are experiencing this or who have already been down this road and enlist their support. It is powerful to know you are not the only one.

* Nip excuses in the bud: It is easy to let excuses coax you into doing things you would not typically do.

* Implement rules and boundaries: Make a plan, implement it and stick to it. Meet with your young adult and share the plan. Explain to them that, as of this date, you are no longer going to support them financially. Clearly, if you have been participating in this behavior for a while, giving them a timeline with specific dates to work off is helpful and is an excellent teaching tool.

* Trust your instincts: If your gut or your intuition is telling you something isn't right or you shouldn't be doing this — trust your gut.

"For me this meant getting in touch with my own life and fixing the messy person in my life — me," Bottke says.

* Yield everything: There is a plan for your child's life and you do not control it. Swooping in and trying to fix it hinders their ability to learn and grow. Love them and support them, but don't enable them.

According to Bottke, this is easier said than done. While it did take time, she says letting go was very freeing and the right thing to do. Her son has had to face some difficult circumstances, and she is the first to admit it is sometimes hard to sit on the sidelines. But since she has gotten out of the way, her son is doing better, their relationship has improved and she feels better about who she is as a person and a parent.

Julie Baumgardner is president and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at julieb@firstthings.org.

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