Help! My Teen Maxed Out My Credit Card by Fern Weis, Parent + Family Recovery Coach



A college student puts all her expenses on her dad's credit card -- all her expenses, in addition to the tuition he paid with it. The card is maxed out, charges are being declined, and his credit score is plummeting. The solution? Now he gets reports from a credit-monitoring service so he can keep track of expenses and limits.

Don't get me wrong. You do have to protect yourself. There's nothing wrong with it, as long as it's not the only solution. I'm looking at the places where things could have gone wrong, and will continue to go wrong if a more proactive parenting approach is not taken. Here we go. (Look out for recurring themes.)

1) Budgeting and finance.

Many young people have what they need and what they want, without understanding the hard work that went into providing it for them. They need to know how money is earned, saved, invested and spent in reasonable ways. It's time to teach them about creating a budget.

Ask yourself: What's your money story? What message have you given your kids over the years, through words and deeds, about money matters? Ask them, too. You may be surprised to learn what they think.

2) Communicating calmly and effectively.

Can you imagine the frustration, maybe the explosion that came when he got the news? It's completely understandable... and not the way to produce long-lasting positive results. This requires some cooling-down time and a quiet fact-finding discussion before you can work on solutions.

Ask yourself: Besides the money and credit score, what else is really bothering you?

3) Putting an end to enabling and entitlement.

This is tough. It can be difficult to say 'no' to them. Maybe they aren't used to hearing it from you because you've been able to provide it all for them. It bears repeating: Just because you can afford to give them what they want doesn't mean you should. Kids who learn to expect everything to be provided, without restriction, are not being prepared for real life.

Ask yourself: Why is it difficult to say 'no', whether it's about money or other decisions involving your kids? What fears are showing up?

4) Setting clear expectations and limits.

Once you're calm and have had time to think clearly, you're ready to discuss what you are and are not willing to do for them. If you're paying for it, you have the right and responsibility to make decisions about how your money is spent. (See #3) How much funding will you give? Will they have to supplement with a job? Will you provide for certain expenses and not for others? (See #1)

Ask yourself: What expectations did my parents have for me? How have they served me? How will I feel when I create money expectations and limits and follow through with my own children?

5) Shifting responsibility to your teen or young adult.

This is the result you're going for: letting go enough to let your children be responsible for themselves. This is where they learn self-control, to make choices, to think before making those choices, and to live with the outcomes... in other words, preparation for life!

Ask yourself: Where do you need to let go, and your child to take hold? How will this contribute to your well-being? To his or her growth? (They will most likely struggle and make mistakes. It's inevitable and necessary. See #3.)

Your teens are teachable. A little preparation on your part will get your message through loud and clear, and eliminate an emotional reaction.


Fern Weis is a certified life coach who learned that caring and good intentions are not enough in parenting.  In fact, they are often the problem! Fern supports parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations, including addiction recovery.  She helps parents release guilt, end enabling and confidently prepare their children to thrive through life's challenges. Her articles are featured in Thrive Global, Medium, Motherly, The Teen Mentor, and Bergen County Moms.  

Learn more about coaching and classes at www.fernweis.com. And then download your free guide, "Five Powerful Steps to Get Your Teen to Talk." For information on Family Recovery programs, visit www.familyrecoverypartners.com.


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