Five ways to live with adult children



Discussing boundaries, house rules and expectations can make the difference in healthy relationships when adult kids move home. ©THINKSTOCK

According to the Office of National Statistics, 3.3 million 20-34 year olds lived with their parents in 2013. The number of young adults living with their parents has increased 25 percent since 1996, despite the fact the number of people in that age group has remained the same. What does that mean for parents? Delayed empty nest, increased financial burden at a time when parents look forward to a little extra cash and possibly stress in the family dynamics.

Joy said she and her husband could not help with the cost of college for their three children. Therefore, they promised them if they needed to pay off student loans they could move back to their New York home until they were financially stable. At first their daughters took them up on the offer. Living with mom and dad, the girls worked jobs, paid off their loans and saved enough to move into a rental house together with friends. Although the girls added to mom’s workload by dirtying the kitchen and not taking care of their own laundry, they did shop, pay for groceries and make sure everyone got fed.

More recently Joy’s son graduated from college, moved back home and now works a part-time job while awaiting his upcoming marriage. He neither shops or pays for groceries and does not cook. In fact, Joy frequently needs dad’s intervention to get her son to take out the garbage. The tension mounts in this household as mom awaits the wedding not with the usual bittersweet feelings of having an only son leave home, but with joyful anticipation of getting her empty nest back.

In contrast, Diane, mom of two, enjoyed having her daughter live in their Maryland home until she was 28. She might still be there had mom and dad not decided to relocate to another state. But after the separation, Diane noticed her daughter blossom. She saw her develop the ability to provide for herself and be self-sufficient as a single woman. “My heart was broken into a million pieces for months after she left,” confided Diane, but “forcing her to leave was the very best thing we could have done for her.” Diane saw her “soaring as baby birds are meant to do.”

If part of that plan involves moving back in with mom and dad, give them a time frame for how long they will be welcome.

Whether you anticipate a positive experience of having your children move back home after college, or living at home after high school, it pays to be prepared. Parents that have been through this new stage in life—that falls between having all the family at home and the empty nest—are speaking out. They want to share what they have learned from their experiences. Here are five things they suggest others do to make it work.

Begin in high school

Joy says parents need to prepare for this stage while their children are still in high school. Encourage them to have a plan of action that includes more than just getting a job, which might not happen before the loans come due. If part of that plan involves moving back in with mom and dad, give them a time frame for how long they will be welcome. If your kids do not plan to go to college, require them to have a target date of moving out and being self-supporting. Then help them to formulate a plan that will help them get there.

Discuss everything up front

If your children talk of moving back home after college, have a meeting with the entire family. Make your expectations clear and ask them what they expect. If there are younger siblings in the home, ask them to contribute as well. If need be, put things in writing and sign it. Your agreement might include household responsibilities, room and board, vehicle use and target move-out date.

Stop micro-managing

Janet, mother of four from Maryland said, “They are adults and have been on their own. Stop micro-managing them.” Slowly letting our children go until they are self-sufficient is an important job as a parent; and that job should begin in the pre-teen years. Adult children do not need reminded to go to bed early, to take a sweater or to pick up their room. But since we, as parents, have been nagging them for years, we have a hard time breaking the habit. “Because he’s 23 and almost ready to be married,” said Joy, her son “doesn’t want mom to tell or ask him anything.”

Encourage paying their own way

Children earning a living need to pay their way. Granted they may be paying off student loans or saving to get married, but unless they understand the responsibility that goes with supporting oneself, they may never take the plunge. Diane said by not requiring her daughter to pay room and board at home they were holding her back. Once they asked her to move out, she found the way to make her self-employment pay the bills.

Steer clear of friction impacting your marriage

Sometimes one parent may take sides with a child at home over the other partner. That is a grave mistake. One day that child will move out and you will have an empty nest. When that time comes, you want to have a close relationship with your spouse. Joy said although there is tension in the home, “I love my husband too much to let it come between us.”

CAROL J. ALEXANDER is a freelance writer from Virginia.


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