A tough job market, student loan repayments and high rents are forcing adult children to move back in with their parents. Experts say setting ground rules that are amenable to all will stave off problems later.
Some of the tales from parents whose grown children moved back in with them can be heartbreaking and maddening. For example, a 22-year-old with a beauty-school diploma stays in bed until the afternoon, won’t help with household chores and uses her parents’ car to go out with friends. A 31-year-old lived with his parents while recuperating from surgery and refused to pay rent after he went back to work. He told his mother, "No parent does what you do and charges their kid rent." Meanwhile, he stays up all night playing Xbox, for which he pays $1,000 a month (from Empowering Parents ).
While these stories might be extreme, many older parents can probably relate. A 2011 Pew Research Center study found that 29 percent of adults ages 18-34 say they had to move in with their parents in recent years. More adults are living in multi-generational households than at any time since the 1950s, according to a Pew analysis of Census Bureau data.
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Next Avenue offers “50 Ways to Send Your Boomerang Kid Packing.” Here are a few tongue-in-cheek tips:
Today, many parents are happy to have their children return home because they can establish a relationship that may not have existed when their kids were younger. At the same time, empty-nest parents may be enjoying their freedom and resent their child returning home. It’s a new situation: Both parent and child are meeting each other as independent adults. Because of the inherent challenges, experts recommend setting ground rules.
It’s important talk about what each person expects from these new circumstances. Having a discussion before your child moves in with you can prevent problems later for everyone. Consider asking these questions:
- What is the time limit for living at home? When does your daughter expect to move out? When would you expect your daughter to be living on her own? Timing can be linked to finding a job or saving enough money for a security deposit on an apartment. Or, choose a time period: Maybe everyone will need space in six months or a year.
- Will your son help with household chores—cleaning, walking the dog, shoveling snow?
- What about groceries? Will you cook the meals for your daughter? Or will she microwave her own pizza?
- Will your son do his own laundry?
- If your daughter goes out, do you want her to let you know if she’ll be late or where she is? Or will she let you know that she doesn’t want to be worried about? Maybe she doesn’t want her parents hovering over her, like when she was young.
- Are friends allowed over, or how about parties? Especially, how do you feel about letting your daughter’s boyfriend stay the night? Are you OK with your son or daughter drinking at home?
- Will you let them borrow the car? Are they covered with your insurance?
- What about television use, especially when different generations have their favorite shows?
Schedule times to revisit the game plan, either weekly or monthly, to see how everyone’s doing with the arrangement and which problems or new circumstances have cropped up.
Be Clear About Money
Discussing how much your child will contribute, especially for rent, is a difficult and sensitive topic. While most parenting experts agree that charging some rent is a good idea, to prepare the adult child for living on a budget, there is no hard and fast rule for how much. About half the boomerang kids who move home pay some sort of rent, and almost 90 percent help with household expenses, according to a 2012 Pew Report.
Making the rent too high prevents your child from saving money and moving out, while rent that’s too low gives them little incentive to find work. It partly depends on the parents’ and children’s financial situation. One expert suggests using the average cost of a rental in your area as a basis for setting monthly payments. Another says parents should charge 30 percent of their child’s income, if they are working, just as a rental property or mortgage company would calculate how much a person can afford to spend on housing. If your child doesn’t have a job, you can have him do household chores as payment.
Beyond rent, should you ask your child to contribute to grocery, utility and gas bills? As much as you want to help your child, it’s important to take into account your needs and consider retirement and how much you will need to live comfortably. Keep in mind that your children have more years to make money than you do.
Treat Each Other With Respect
When having your child move back home, there are also emotional aspects to consider, and finding a balance between hands-off and hovering is helpful. Experts say it’s important to remember that your child is now a young adult, who has been independent for several years.
Says one young man: “I would just love for my parents to understand that I am not the same person I was when I last lived with them in high school. I don’t eat the same food, go to bed at the same time or hang out with all those same people. I still do my own laundry and don’t need instructions on how to lock the front door when I come in late.”
It’s probably not necessary to wait up all night for your child to come home from a party. You shouldn’t assume that your child will always be home for dinner or that you always need to cook for them. It’s best, as in any adult relationship, to offer advice only when asked. Sometimes your children just want you to listen and provide emotional support.
On the other hand, your children need to respect you. For example, they need to let you know if they aren’t going to make it home for dinner after you volunteered to cook their favorite meal. They shouldn’t treat you like the parent who always cleans up after them. Your children should be able to express gratitude for your generosity in sharing your home (not theirs) and not act like they are entitled to their old bedroom that you’ve been using as an office.
Don’t forget to consider your own needs. Do you need privacy or an opportunity for you and your spouse to spend time together? Are there other children still living at home who also have needs? Or, with your child home, maybe you’re happy to have companionship and help around the house with difficult chores. When having your adult children move home, experts advise not basing your decisions on feelings of guilt that you’re not being a good parent.
You may find yourself in a situation where your children are getting too comfortable, maybe with all that home-cooking and the familiarity of their old room. If your grown kids are showing no signs of leaving, you can take some slightly hostile actions to get them to leave, like making a habit of banging pots and pans at 7 a.m. or taking up the trombone. See sidebar for more humorous suggestions.
“Adult Children Living at Home? Part II: 9 Rules to Help You Maintain Sanity,” Empowering Parents
“What to do when your adult child moves back home,” June 26, 2013, Washington Post
“How To Set Money Ground Rules For A Boomerang Kid,” June 3, 2015 Forbes
“Coping With Your Unemployed Adult Child,” Nov. 15, 2013, Huffington Post
“5 Key Things To Remember When Your Adult Child Moves Home,” April 4, 2014, Huffington Post
“5 Steps To Survive Your Adult Child's Return Home,” July 9, 2014, Huffington Post
“6 tips for living with boomerang kids,” Bankrate
“It’s Official: The Boomerang Kids Won’t Leave,” June 20, 2014, New York Times