{Family} How Long Should your Adult Children Live at Home?

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“Would love a suggestion on how to deal with adult children living at home,” wrote in one FOF, and we are pretty sure she’s not the only one looking for answers. An unstable job market has led to the rise of what has been dubbed as the Boomerang Generation, the era of kids who return home after college. The U.S. Census Bureau reported a 5% increase in the number of young men (ages 24-34) and 8% increase in the number of young women living with their parents for the period between 2005 and 2011.

So, what’s an FOF to do? We chatted with Christina Newberry, author of  “The Hands-On Guide to Adult Children Living at Home” to get some answers. Here, she offers advice on how long your adult children should live at home (her answer may surprise you!), how to adapt your parenting style to this situation, and the best exit strategy to help your child gain independence and for you to reclaim that empty nest–once and for all.

Enter to win a copy of her book by answering this question in the comments below: how long did your adult children live at home?

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Can you offer five basic tips for dealing with your adult child living at home?

  • Have a plan. One of the biggest sources of conflict are the different expectations in terms of behavior, rent, and family dynamics. Have a conversation about expectations, and put together a contract that everyone agrees to.
  • Be really aware of the financial consequences. There’s a perception that when an adult child moves back home it won’t cost anything, because their old room is empty–it’s just not true. There are financial consequences in terms of food, gas, electricity, and more. It’s important to figure this out together and decide how the family is going to deal with them.
  • Set a timeline on how long your child is going to stay at home and have a plan on how they can work towards independence.
  • You can’t parent adult children and young children the same way. You can’t just take up parenting where you left off. That whole ‘I’m your mother and I said so’ doesn’t work anymore. If they’re living in your house, you absolutely have the right to set guidelines, but it needs to be done in a way that acknowledges your child is now an adult.
  • Remember to take care of yourself and your own relationship with your spouse or partner. That relationship can really suffer when there’s an adult child living at home–especially if the parent is the child’s stepparent, they can end up feeling squeezed out.

How long should you allow your adult child to live at home?
It should be based on why the adult child is moving home. Once you know the reason, you can think about a reasonable amount of time for the adult child. When an adult child is home after college and needs a time to get established, the guideline that I use is up to a year and a half. If it goes beyond two years, it’s become a permanent living situation. The parents and the adult child [then] need to re-evaluate why the adult child is still there. Re-focus on the fact that the adult child should be attempting to become independent, and figure out a way to make that happen.

What if your adult child has always lived at home? How do you establish rules and create an exit strategy for them?
In some ways [this is] easier, since the relationship evolved slowly rather than with the shock of an adult child returning home who has developed habits and [is] used to living independently. The family should still have a meeting–the challenge is figuring out when it is appropriate [to have the meeting]. For some families it may be as soon as the child graduates from high school, while for others it may be after college graduation. But other than the timing of the meeting, all the strategies stay the same.

How can you get your adult child to pitch in around the house without turning it into a fight?
Talk about the impacts of their living at home so that they understand that it’s impacting their parents lives. Once they understand that, they have a better sense of why they’re being expected to help. Adult children living at home often don’t understand that they [may be] causing their parents stress and unhappiness. Parents can be more honest about what their needs are, [and] that keeping the household running is part of their [child’s] responsibility as an adult.

What rules or boundaries  should be set regarding your adult child having their significant other over?
Unless the parents have serious concerns about that person, I think it would be unreasonable [for them] to say that this person couldn’t come over during the day. As far as staying overnight, that’s a call that the parents have to make. It’s not reasonable for adult children to expect their parents to allow them to have their boyfriend or girlfriend stay over if it’s not something that the parents are comfortable with.

How can a parent allow their adult child to feel more free to live his or her life while they’re still living at home?
[By] understanding the difference [between] rules for your house and rules for your child’s life. The parent is in charge of their house, and it’s their responsibility to put rules in place to make [the parents] feel more comfortable. [Whether] the adult child is paying rent, whether or not they have a curfew–those are house rules. When it comes to life rules, that’s when the parent needs to let the adult child figure things out on their own. The parent can say the boyfriend or girlfriend can’t stay over, but it’s not reasonable for the parent to tell the adult child that they’re not allowed to stay over at their boyfriend or girlfriend’s house, because that’s something in terms of the adult child making their own life decisions.

How can you help your adult child choose a career path without being too pushy?
You should not be giving advice unless it’s asked for. Parents can end up causing problems when they’re just trying to help. It’s becoming more common for parents to do things like write their kid’s resume or call potential employers on their child’s behalf, [and] that is just an absolute no-no. You need to let your adult child figure out a career path on their own. [The parents may] have some contacts that they would be able to put their child in touch with, but they shouldn’t call those contact on their child’s behalf. [But] there’s nothing wrong with suggesting that their adult child give one of their contacts a call.

Is it possible to teach your adult child to budget and save while they’re living under your roof?
An adult child living at home should pay rent in virtually all cases. Obviously it’s not going to be market rent, but the adult child should have some kind of payment. It gets them in the habit of knowing that they’re going to have a monthly payment once they’re paying for their own living expenses. In some cases, adult children living at home have no income coming in whatsoever, [but] there should be something equivalent to rent that the adult child physically earns through labor around the house. It’s a good idea for parents to sit down with their adult kids and figure out a budget, so that they really understand how much money they need to afford living independently.

What can you do if you find illegal drugs in your adult child’s room?
If it bothers you that it’s in your house, but you’re not concerned that it’s going to have a major impact on your child’s life, make a point that it’s not acceptable. If it’s a more serious kind of situation where you’re worried for your child’s safety, you may need to get help from someone in your area who has expertise and can help you come up with a strategy to fit your situation. Keep in mind that if you do get the police involved, you can’t undo that decision, so you need to think about this before you do it.

What if you don’t want to kick your adult child out but they constantly lie and are disrespectful?
Sit down with your adult child and explain that you don’t have to let them be there. It’s important to make the adult child aware that once they reach a certain age, that [your] responsibility of having to take care of them isn’t there anymore, and [that the parents] are letting the adult child live at home just because they love the adult child. If the adult child has behavior issues that are causing the parent to be uncomfortable, then maybe [the parents] should think of ways they could help that child without them living in their home.

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Enter to win a free copy of Christina Newberry’s book, “The Hands-On Guide to Adult Children Living at Home,” by answering this question in the comment section below: How long did your adult children live at home?

One FOF will win. (See all our past winners, here.) (See official rules, here.) Contest closes July 5th, 2012 at midnight E.S.T.

  • tncem

    How about a participation trophy instead?

  • tncem

    You made it, you live with it. When you’ve had enough, you’ll do something about it. But whining about it here is not the answer. Man up!

  • tncem

    Sounds to me that you created that mess. You made the bed, you lay in it.

  • tncem

    Tell her she is more than welcome to go with them. Problem solved.

  • tncem

    That’s because you let him. Stop enabling the behavior.

    • Lynette

      I’m willing to bet each case you have given your oh so understanding advice to has probably/hopefully resolved their situations????

      • tncem

        And if not, who is STILL to blame? That’s right…..they are.

  • Judy Goupee

    I have a 37 yr old daughter that left her husband, took the 2 children my grandson and grandaughter with her. Asked if I would let them stay with me temporary. We are now in our eight year. I just turned 65, divorced 2 years ago from her stepfather , I work 45 to 50 hours aweek. Gone thru most of my savings and 401 pkan. She contribute no money, at first she did a little here and there it helped with the oil. Does no house work until last year, I was in a bad accident the bathoom was disgusting and I took pictures before I cleaned. Gave her the pictures and told her it was her job from now on. I can not get on my hands and knees and clean up. I raised 2 sons beside her that are married with children she is the yougest.
    I laugh to my self, Becus I say this situation is worse then any marriage. I live in a household of 4 and no one talks.they hide in their rooms. As years went on I made it more comortable for them, got rid of my exercise equip turn that room into a bedroom, same with my office room turned it into a bedoom. She does get food stamps for her and the kids. I ask for nothing. I’m told I’m not a lovely mom grandmother to wish them a home outside of mind.
    What I should have done is put them up in an apt, life would be different.

  • Aladdin Smith

    I have a 34yr old daughter has finished college has a good job been living in my house with me and my estranged wife, I have told her she needs to leave, she’s always saying she leaving but continue to stay. There’s a problem she’s support my estranged wife in all the negative things that my wife is doing to make my life miserable the is telling her she can stay I want her out.

  • Anders Burden

    oh oh oh …let’s change the locks to begin..Jose! Listen to me….time to tell him…TIME TO TELL HIM…to go….to go..TO GO! Sorry so late..I suppose he has gone by now…

  • Anders Burden

    oh dear Ken, oh dear, what have we done with our children. We cared for them, we nutured and kept them safe, and we grew them into healthy young men, so why don’t they want to go and seize their own life… because we enable them to never leave the nest. It’s too comfortable. Question: Can you live without the car for a few months? Can you de-register it..? .I can assure you, once he cannot obtain what he wants, he will winge (god how they know how to winge) and then he will wander off. Start having meals without him, have them earlier..let him know you are in a different pattern, go out and don’t tell him where you’re going, explain that you have your own life and friends, start having card nights and friends over…explain to them you have a “failure to launch” let’s face it Ken..you do. Be honest with your friends, they may give you their own experience and advice. You have to muscle him out of your life and allow him to leave and create his own. good luck Ken

  • Anders Burden

    There’s no easy solution Chris, you just have to tell them both to leave and be resolute. They will call you the worst names in the world and will make you feel like absolute crap but to have a life, a sweet life, with your partner, it has to happen. Be brave and help them pack. It’s over, you’ve raised him to be an adult, now it’s his turn. launch him…he will thank you in 10 years and curse you for nine, but the birds have to leave the nest, they’ve overgrown it….. good luck Chris… I have just done the same. I pleaded, I negotiated, I compromised. Nothing lasted. Just say it’s time you were gone, we love you, goodbye. best of luck …

  • Anders Burden

    Dear Katie I am 3 years late..so what happened?

  • Dorothy Kimberly Thi

    Hello everyone i just want to share a testimony on how Dr Alex of ([email protected]) was able to bring my love partner back to me after 3months of divorcing me for another woman, my partner was very faithful and nice to me, not until he finally met with another woman who was enticing him with some fake love, and had enchantment on my partner, after some time we started having quarrels for little cases, and at the first time he threatened me that he was going to leave me for another woman, to me i never believed it not until it happened,after my partner ordered for a divorce note for me i became so curious and desperate to have him back at all cost, i tried all mean i could but all fell apart for me, but few time back i went in search on the internet on how to get Ex Back, it was there i saw many testimonies of how Dr Alex has helped people with relationship problem, immediately i message Dr Alex and i told him everything concerning my relationship he told me not to worry and gave me instructions on what he is to do to bring my partner back to me and all he wanted was for me to have faith in him, really i tried to believe him as he was my last hope, so after everything done by Dr Alex my partner returned to me begging me for mercies, i can just tell how it happened but i am so amaze by his work, friend out there if you need any help for your marriage or relationship you can kindly email Dr Alex on, ([email protected]) or call him on +2347036013351…………

  • Dorothy Kimberly Thi

    Hello everyone i just want to share a testimony on how Dr Alex of ([email protected]) was able to bring my love partner back to me after 3months of divorcing me for another woman, my partner was very faithful and nice to me, not until he finally met with another woman who was enticing him with some fake love, and had enchantment on my partner, after some time we started having quarrels for little cases, and at the first time he threatened me that he was going to leave me for another woman, to me i never believed it not until it happened,after my partner ordered for a divorce note for me i became so curious and desperate to have him back at all cost, i tried all mean i could but all fell apart for me, but few time back i went in search on the internet on how to get Ex Back, it was there i saw many testimonies of how Dr Alex has helped people with relationship problem, immediately i message Dr Alex and i told him everything concerning my relationship he told me not to worry and gave me instructions on what he is to do to bring my partner back to me and all he wanted was for me to have faith in him, really i tried to believe him as he was my last hope, so after everything done by Dr Alex my partner returned to me begging me for mercies, i can just tell how it happened but i am so amaze by his work, friend out there if you need any help for your marriage or relationship you can kindly email Dr Alex on, ([email protected]) or call him on +2347036013351.

  • Denise James

    Are there no replies to any of these posts??? If so, how do I see them??

  • Kaye

    Our oldest son, my stepson, is 37 and has been living in our home for the past 2-months since his incident. He injected himself with an infected needle. He is (hopefully was) a steroid user, a weight lifter. He spent 16 days in the hospital with a near death infection and a massive amount of surgery to the arm. He had always lived on his own with his 14 year old daughter. Prior to this he was in the midst of looking for a new place to live and his vehicle is broken and in the shop. His daughter has been living with his stepsister for awhile. He came home to us from the hospital, no one else could help. He indeed was unable to work at that time, and we cared for his wound daily. Since then (Christmas) he has healed significantly. He still has no transportation of his own so we have take him to and from his work, cleaning parking lots and doing maintenence. Whenever he does get money he spends it. A lot goes into rental cars, gas, and travel to see a long distance girlfriend, 4 hours away. He is able to work some, and should be capable of savings for a vehicle of his own, or pay to repair his vehicle. He is very secretive, and everything concerning him is private. He lies chronically. We receive no financial help or offerings from him. He comes and goes as he pleases. He is not allowed to use our vehicle because he is very destructive on things. He has Toraiat Syndrome and he won’t consider meds for it, so his tics are extreme. We do want our home back but can’t figure out a plan to get him motivated and challenge him to set some goals. He is exhausting and wearing on my last nerve. Stress is over the top. How much longer should I give him?

    • Denise James

      Wow! I have the same issue. My stepson has been with us for the past 2.5 years. Recovering (we hope) alcoholic, no job, no car, no motivation and lies like you wouldn’t believe. He is so good at lying we can never trust what he says. He tells us he has a job, always “loses” his pay stub and hubby finally went to see if he was working….found him in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant. Son came up to his Dad and asks. .”what’s up?” just like there was nothing wrong. When asked why he wasn’t at work, “oh, they didn’t need me today”…still no paycheck. We don’t want him using our cars, but have an old one he uses. We have put him responsible for paying car insurance weekly and also a temp. plate. This Friday he will need $75.00 to do both and hubby says he will take the keys if he doesn’t. Problem is, we leave for a 7 day vacation Sat morning and I don’t know if hubby will follow thru.
      My main concern is getting him out of our house. He is very comfortable where he is. I have worked with him on a resume, printed 100 out and even text him with new jobs that pop up locally. I am about ready to give him an eviction notice but don’t know how hubby will back me up on that or not. Hubby gets depressed easily, I work a full time job and get to come home every night to see him depressed, son no job, and I just want to run away.

      • tncem

        You can’t fix what you created, and now you cry unfair? Interesting.

        • Kim9

          Wow. Someone asks for help or advice, and it’s one smart remark after another. No $hit he created this. So, no one is allowed to make mistakes then realize they did so, and need help. You’re a total a hole.

          • tncem

            Suck it up buttercup. This is a result of YEARS of coddling. This didn’t happen overnight. Looking back at it now doesn’t automatically make it a mistake. This is the result of continuous bad choices. No mistake about it. YOU made it, YOU live with it!

    • tncem

      Change the locks and let him go…… YOU CANNOT FIX THIS!

  • I have a 37 year old stepson who moved back in 9 years ago. His son has problems and raises hell every time he comes to the house. My wife backs her son all the way and he is completely disrespectful to her. He does not pay rent, any utilities, and does not even take out the garbage. He lets his 12 year old son treat my wife the same way. He needs to pack up and leave. I am, and have been fed up with him for a long time. We went through his EVERY DAY temper tantrums when he was a teenager calling his mom a b…, telling her she was pathetic, and every time I got in the middle of it-I WAS THE BAD GUY AND STILL AM!!!

  • matt

    my fiance and i have been togehter six years. her adult son, now 27, has been with us for 5. when he dropped in on us(totally unexpected) we agrred that he had to follow our rules and within a certain time frame, get some sort of job. that initial time passed and no job. so we set another. again no job. since day one he has broken the rules over and over. in 5 years he has done nothing but mooch of his mom and me-which she seems to be ok with. she actually sneaks stuff out to him like tp, soap, bread,crckers,etc. i have asked for her not to do that-he can get a job and pay for his own stuff. oh, i buy all the household food and items and prepare 99.9% of all meals. in addition, i have told her it is haveing an impact on our re;lationsghip, and i mean ALL parts of it. she continues to do nothing, and when talking wiith her mom on the phone, lies about how good he is doing.aarrgghhh! and she gets on my case about being grumpy… what to do?

  • Ken

    I have a 33 year old step son that has now been back home for a year and a half. We allowed him to move back in after he and his girlfriend broke up. They had lived together for about 2 years. Before that he lived with a male friend for 2 years , and before that he lived with us for 6 years. He last month started paying us 200.00 per month for rent at my insistence. His car has broken down, now for about 6 months, so he bums rides to work, and once a week uses one of our vehicles. He does not eat here. He orders out everyday. He teaches guitar lessons as his job. He has no high school diploma. We have encouraged him to get his GED to no avail. he is going no where in his life in my opinion, and I am sick of him being here. At this point I think we should give him a deadline to move out. What do you think?

  • heather

    Hello;i have a 27 almost 28 daughter living at home,never left,gone all weekends with boyfriend, comes home Monday to Thursday to eat,wash clothes,do nails etc.but does not help out with anything.husband will not support me about getting her out or to pay rent,set rules.so frustrated!what can I do?

  • Jose A. Beltran

    I was just put into a very awkard position where my 29 year old son would not move out, but managed to bring in his new girlfriend without asking permisssion or if it was alright or not. And when I asked them to leave he wanted to make me feel guilty as if I were the person that was wrong. today I told them both to get the heck out of my house. For 29 years he has not paid not one cent towards any bills or rent, has a job but is always claiming he has no money. My heart is hurting right now, but he left me no other choice. Oh lets not forget the amount of money I pulled out of my 401K to bail him out of jail!! Am I wrong or did I do the correct thing?

    • sue

      your absolutely right. my son has pulled the same crap. he is 24 yrs. old. moved away for 3 years and came back for 2 weeks, that turned into a year. but the sneaking a girlfriend in at all hours is where i drew the line. its very hard to respect that kind of girl and she and i will never have words. he did the same thing about turning everything around on me. i guess that is the thanks we get. i am a big believer in karma (whatever it is!!!). i am just glad they are not here, in my space. i will take the lose of money and never loan a dime again. i left home when i was 18 and all my dad said is “never come back!!” that blew me away at the time, but, i have never moved back home nor asked either parent for a dime. today, i could help take care of either one of them if they needed it.. stay strong and dont think……sue frye

  • L

    Still going on. She graduated in May and has a full time job locally. She’s building her savings up, and we enjoy having her here.

  • WLONGMAN

    There are critical milestones in life, that if not met within a defined window of time seriously effect development. Independence, is in my view, THE critical milestone of young adulthood. I believe it is my duty as a parent to push my daughter out of the nest, forcibly if necessary, when she graduates college. We are trying to help her gain confidence in independence incrementally — dorm life first year of college to subsidized (by us) apartment for the rest of college. Although we pay the majority of her rent and utilities, she is expected to work part time for food money. If she chooses not to work , well, like I always say, hunger is a strong motivater. She is also well aware, that upon graduation, she is on her own financially. This mama bird expects her baby to fly.

  • Mick

    Post college kids should NOT move back home. They need to have a job or internship in junior & senior years to gain hiring advantages if the parents are paying their bills during college. Coddling people does not help them stand on their own; prior planning & goal setting does. Let them live at home during college to save money if you must, but once they graduate, they should be well on their own. This doesn’t mean cronic helicopter parents can’t send over a care package & help them out, but living at home as an adult? No. Unless there is some sort of serious handicap, parents shouldn’t go there & buy the trouble that comes with allowing it.

    A gazelle stands & runs with the herd or dies within an hour of its birth. After 4 years of college & being in your 20’s you are as prepared as you will ever be to live on your own. Lose the excuses, grow up & function as an adult.

  • Mary Ann

    One lived at home until they were 26 and the other until they were 24. I think it all depends on the circumstances and you can’t really put a certain time or age on this.

  • cl

    I do not agree with 1 1/2 years. Our son was homeschooled, then went to college and graduated in 3 years. We said stay here, save money for a home, why pay rent? And so he has. He has always been an excellent respectful son and we will miss him very much. He is now 27 and next month he is getting married and moving into the home he bought and is fixing up. He does not make a huge salary, so this was a great way to save. Never being a spender, and because of his discipline, he is able to have what he would not have had if he had paid for an apartment. We were glad to have him here and we charged him nothing. He is our son and we were more than happy to help him get a start. We loved him being home and have a great 37 year marriage, so that was no issue. He has good decent friends and is busy all the time.
    BUT I think it also depends on the kid-their attitude and lifestyle.

  • katie

    Help!!!!!!! My adult son (27) moved back in last August when he broke up with his girlfriend. He also went to rehab to get off drugs and alcohol. He has been clean for 5 months but I need help getting him out of the house. I am afraid if I throw him out he will relapse but I know he needs to be on his own and I want my house back.

  • CJ

    After I graduated High School I went to College and worked full-time while living at home. My parents asked for a nominal rent – probably the equivalent of half what I’d have paid to rent a room in a dorm. When I did move out my parents gave me back half of it. They’d saved it, without telling me, to help me with deposits, etc. My parents are smart and I’ve never had to move back!

  • krystal

    i’m emailing this to my mom so that she’s aware that i made the suggested 1.5 year cutoff, hopefully i get some sort of reward…