Should a Parent Ask Their Child for Money?
This is a complex question that many parents face at some point. There are arguments on both sides, and the right answer often depends on the specific circumstances of the parent and child. Below is an in-depth look at the key considerations around whether it is appropriate for a parent to ask their adult child for financial help.
The Parent’s Situation
One factor is the parent’s overall financial status and need. A request may be more justified if the parent:
- Is facing an unexpected financial emergency or hardship
- Has limited income and resources in retirement
- Has high medical bills or other essential costs they cannot afford
On the other hand, if the parent is generally financially stable but wants extra money for non-essential spending, the request may be less reasonable.
The Child’s Situation
It is also important to consider the child’s financial circumstances. Asking for money could put an unfair burden on the child if they are:
- Struggling with student loan debt
- Have a low income or unstable job
- Are saving for their own home, family, or retirement
- Already providing caregiving support to parents
A child who is thriving financially may be in a better position to assist, especially if the amount the parent requests is within their means.
The Type and Amount of Support
Some types of parental requests are more controversial than others. Many experts advise against lending money, as it can damage the relationship if the parent fails to repay. Parents are generally advised to only request gifts their children can afford. Small, one-time amounts for essential expenses are likely to cause less tension than large, recurring cash gifts.
The Health of the Parent-Child Relationship
The existing bond between parent and child is a major factor. Requesting money could weaken the relationship if:
- There is a history of family estrangement, neglect, or abuse
- The parent was absent during childhood
- The child has unresolved anger toward the parent
- There are already conflicts over money and inheritance
A close, loving relationship where the child wants to help makes parental requests more acceptable.
Communication and Delivery
How the parent approaches this conversation also matters. The child may be more open to providing assistance if the parent:
- Expresses clear need, but does not demand or guilt the child into giving
- Shows they have explored other options for aid first
- Promises transparency about how funds will be used
- Sets parameters around the timing and amount requested
- Offers repayment once financially stable again
- Shows gratitude rather than entitlement
Even with the best delivery, the child has the right to refuse if they are unable or unwilling to provide the support requested.
Cultural background influences beliefs about family financial obligations. In some cultures, supporting ageing parents is expected. In others, parents are supposed to remain self-sufficient. If views differ, open communication is key.
The Impact on Future Inheritance
Giving parents money now could reduce assets left to children later. This may require adjusting estate plans. Children should consider if they are comfortable taking on some financial sacrifice or if an IOU from the estate would be appropriate.
Preserving the Child’s Independence
Adult children have worked hard for financial independence. Providing parental support risks regression to a parent-child dynamic. Clear boundaries are essential so money issues do not give parents unwelcome control over their children’s lives.
Alternative Sources of Support
Before asking their child for money, parents should explore other options exhaustively. These could include:
- Government aid and benefits
- Part time work
- Home equity loans
- Assistance from charities and nonprofits
- Paying only essential bills while cutting discretionary spending
- Moving in with other family members
- Budgeting classes and financial counseling
If the child is unable to provide the support requested, they can still help the parent access any available programs or resources.
Offering Non-Monetary Help
Even adult children with limited income may be able to provide other valuable assistance to struggling parents, such as:
- Free or subsidized housing
- Help applying for benefits and aid
- Paying bills directly
- Home maintenance and driving to appointments
- Checking in on their daily health and wellbeing
This emotional and functional support can relieve financial stress.
To avoid damaging the relationship, the parent should offer to repay any funds once they have the ability to do so. Even a token amount shows the child their gift is not taken for granted. The child may be able to claim the interest on the loan as a tax deduction as well. A formal promissory note adds accountability.
If the child declines the request, the parent should not punish or guilt them. The child knows their own limits and constraints. Forcing unaffordable assistance only breeds resentment. The parent can ask again if the child’s situation improves provided they respect the initial decision.
Focusing on Appreciation Rather than Entitlement
Cultural expectations aside, parents are not inherently entitled to their children’s money. Any gifts should be a voluntary choice motivated by care and compassion. The parent’s expressions of gratitude mean more to the child than receiving the money.
Considering Professional Advice
Financial advisors, accountants, social workers, or family therapists can provide guidance to help parents and children navigate this sensitive topic. They can objectively assess options and propose solutions. An outside perspective prevents misunderstandings and hurt feelings.
Maintaining Healthy Boundaries
Clear boundaries are key to preserving mutual respect and avoiding a sense of obligation. The child has the right to decide:
- If they provide support at all
- How much they can afford to give
- The type of support they are comfortable providing
- Payment timeframes and schedules
- How gifts impact future inheritance plans
- What level of insight into personal finances to grant the parent
Thinking Long Term
This decision can impact family ties over decades. With open communication and compassion on both sides, parents and children can reach an arrangement that works for them now without undermining their lifelong bond. If financial assistance is not feasible presently, the child can make it clear they still plan to ensure the parent’s wellbeing through other means.
Considering Your Family’s Values and History
Reflect on your family’s culture, stories, and experiences across generations. Include the parent’s role in the child’s upbringing. This provides essential context for whether parental requests for money align with established family norms or require sensitive navigation of a new dynamic.
Developing a Support Plan Together
Rather than a unilateral plea, this conversation becomes a collaborative effort to find the best solution. Make a budget together assessing costs and available resources. Set guidelines to minimize conflict and safeguard the relationship. Respectfully discuss how to balance the child’s needs and limits with providing meaningful assistance.
A Case-by-Case Decision
Every family faces distinct circumstances, so there are no rigid rules. The appropriateness of parents asking children for financial help depends on assessing factors like relative need, resources, family dynamics, and more. With openness, empathy, and planning, intergenerational monetary gifts can be managed in ways that work for each unique situation.