Q.My husband and I always wanted to raise our girls so well that one day they wouldn't need us anymore. And I think we succeeded.

That's one reason we were so proud of our 22-year-old daughter when she found a job in another state. When her boyfriend moved there, too, she let him move in with her because he didn't have a job, even though she wanted them to have separate apartments. She didn't want him to move back in with his parents or his old college roommate in his home state, and she also thought they could save money and pay off their student loans faster once he went to work.

Instead, she has been paying the rent for the past 18 months. And the food. And the car. And everything else because this 27-year-old freeloading gigolo hasn't gotten a job yet. I think his behavior is unconscionable and that my daughter is enabling his lazy lifestyle and that isn't good for either of them.

I don't understand it. She once said that she didn't want a guy that needed mothering. Is she blind?

Part of me knows that my daughter has the right to make mistakes, but it's as hard to let go now as it was when she went off to college. I bite my tongue to keep from telling her what to do or why I dislike her boyfriend.

But if her family can't give her some well-intentioned advice, then who can?

And yet when she asked me what I thought of this boyfriend, I only said that he seemed nice but he should be working. She said that a lot of people have given him that advice and she didn't want to be one of them, which is an attitude I respect. But I still hope that she will kick the bum out.

My husband feels that he should speak up to protect his daughter, but he hasn't said anything yet.

A.You should step in, but on your tiptoes, so both your daughter and her boyfriend can keep their dignity.

This is a much more fearful time than most people realize -- including the ones who are going through it -- and it affects some people more than others. While your daughter is handling her twenties with maturity and confidence, her boyfriend is acting like a scared little boy.

Some young people are almost frozen in fear and often decide to go to law school or get married -- or sponge off of their girlfriends -- anything to postpone the time when they must live and act like grown-ups.

The majority of young college graduates treasure the single, carefree life of lattes and late-night parties, however, but even they are nervous, for they are making decisions that could affect them for the rest of their lives.

For the first time they must decide which job to take and where to live -- and with whom -- or whether to marry instead. And they worry about their status, too. If they were such hotshots in college, then why are their jobs so unimportant now and their paychecks so small?

All of this angst calls for support and guidance from their parents.

You and your husband need to visit your daughter, staying in her apartment if you can. This will give you the chance to see what her boyfriend does when she's at work, how often he cleans and cooks and how well he answers your questions.

Fathers used to ask, "What are your intentions?" but in this case, your husband should ask, "Any good job leads lately?" and "What kind of work do you want to do?" And then say, "I know my daughter can support you, but can you support her if she loses her job?"

These questions and answers may make your daughter realize that the switch from subsidized independence to real independence is one of life's great leaps, especially for her boyfriend, and that her generous support of him may be taking away his self-confidence and making it hard for him to look for work.

Be sympathetic to these realities, and to this young man. Bluntness is needed but not harshness or sarcasm or judgmental lectures.

With gentle interference, your daughter and her boyfriend may rethink their living arrangements.

Questions? Send them to advice@margueritekelly.com or to Box 15310, Washington, D.C. 20003.