No matter how angry we may be, no matter how broken our heart, we must act in love. Our goal is to release and empower our adult child, not to bring them even more pain than this change in our behavior will most certainly cause. Therefore, stopping the flow of money is not the only thing that must be carefully planned.

Remember, although it is our prayer that our adult children become healthy, independent, and responsible members of society, just because we develop a plan and present it to them does not guarantee they will joyfully embrace the change or even recognize it for the opportunity that it is. What they do with their lives as a result of our implemented boundaries—financial or otherwise—will be their choice.

Our primary goal is not to stop their negative behavior, or to stop their drug or alcohol abuse, or to stop their lying, cheating, stealing, or the never-ending chain of excuses we’ve grown accustomed to hearing and they’ve grown accustomed to delivering. We’d love for all those things to stop—but it’s up to them to change their lives, their behaviors, their habits. Our part is to stop our negative behaviors, gain SANITY in our own lives, and if we’re married, in our life as a couple. Stopping the flow of money to our adult child is often the most crucial—and the most difficult—step we will take in this process.

Whether we are on a fixed income or blessed with abundant financial resources, whether their request is for $20 or $20,000, we must stop coming to the rescue with our checkbook. Our money must cease being the life preserver that buoys up our adult children, keeping them afloat through yet another storm. We might be amazed at just how well our adult children can swim when given the opportunity to do so. More important, they just might be surprised at their own ability to survive without our financial life support, a powerful lesson that no amount of money can purchase.

Developing an Action Plan

Once you’ve come to the decision to cut off the flow of money to your adult child (and possibly set other boundaries as well), you must first develop an action plan. Begin by making a detailed list of all your personal life goals and the ultimate destination you wish to reach in your lifetime. I’m not talking about what you would like your adult child to achieve. This is about you. This is your chance to dream on paper. Everyone must do this individually, and if married, you must also do this as a couple, making sure your ideas of a destination are compatible.

For example, if my goal in life is to raise cattle on a ranch in Wyoming and my husband’s goal is to make a killing on Wall Street and live in a plush condo on Central Park, then we have a bit of a problem, a failure to communicate, as it were. However, it is not unusual in a marriage where the focus has been too long on an adult child and not on the marriage, for a couple to get out of sync in their ultimate destination as husband and wife. That’s why it’s so vital that we begin to communicate openly, without reservation. We must understand that not only are we presenting our adult child with a new paradigm, but as a couple we are also entering a new stage in our marriage. Our roles as parents of an adult child are going to change, starting now. We may need to correspondingly adjust our goals as a single adult or as a married couple.

Remember the oft-quoted definition of insanity:  Insanity is repeating the same behavior and expecting different results. Now is the time to stop repeating the behavior that has not produced the desired results. Now is the time to change course, to stop believing the lie that this is the last time you will financially bail them out. It’s time to stop destructive behaviors and patterns, and start charting a firm and focused course that will get you—and your spouse—to your ultimate destination.