“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?
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.
What resources can you give your adult child to make the move out process as simple and safe as possible?
While not all adult children will move out, there often comes a time when moving out is the best possible situation for both you and your adult child. If this is the case for you, there are many ways that you can assist your child in smoothly transitioning to their own living space. When it comes to locating an apartment, let your child take the lead on starting the search, as this is their first step in becoming independent. It’s ok to offer your help, though. Try suggesting apartment search tools like MyApartmentMap or PadMapper. If your child decides to conduct their search another way, that is perfectly fine, as well. Another resource that may be worth suggesting is a tenant screening service like SmartMove. As your child submits rental applications, they will most likely need to provide private financial information before getting approved. Make sure they are doing this in the safest way possible by using an approved and secure tenant screening service. It’s important to remember that as they make the move out of your house, you should offer support in any way that you can while still allowing them to be autonomous in this new chapter of their life.
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?