A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that 23% of adults 18-34 years old live with their parents. So what should you do if your adult children are still living with you (or moving back in with you)?
In this article, we’ve compiled some tips to help make living with your adult children as easy as possible for both parties. These tips are based on my own, personal experience (living with my son who just had his 31st birthday) and are not meant as professional advice. Every family is different, so you will need to find your own balance.
When your kids grow up, you expect them to move out and never come back. After all, it’s our job as parents to prepare our children for life outside the family home. But it turns out that a lot of them don’t follow the traditional patterns. This kind of typical home life is the source of much joy, and more than a few memes.
With the skyrocketing cost of living, millennials are either moving back in with their parents, or some are not leaving home until they’re well into adulthood…. and beyond.
It has long been the case when parents fear the “Empty Nest” syndrome, that odd feeling when all of the children have grown up and left the family home. But, today, a lot of parents are surprised to find that their kids don’t want to leave home when they reach adulthood.
When I was a child, one of my Mom’s best friends had two children. One left the home in her early twenties to get married and settle down. The other, Bobby, never moved out and ended up living at home with his mother until she passed away in her late 80s a few years ago.
It seemed odd to me – back then – that a grown man would continue to live at home as a full-grown adult. But that pattern has become more and more common these days, and with good reason.
And can you blame them?
Think back to when you were 18. What did your life look like? Did it consist of working 40 hours a week while living on top ramen noodles every night?
Don’t get me wrong, it was a struggle, but the cost of living has far outpaced any increases in basic salaries.
I remember when we bought our first family home, way, way back in 1993. It was a modest, 3 bedroom townhouse that set us back a whopping $115,000. Today, that same townhouse would cost nearly $700,000. In fact, the median home price has increased by 416% between 1980 and 2020.
Rent is more expensive. Car insurance is more expensive. Groceries are more expensive. The whole idea of striking out and getting a place of your own has become an intimidating feat.
How to Live With Your Adult Children
The good news is there’s no reason you should be upset about this turn of events; in fact, it can actually make your relationship much better!
Accept the fact that your adult children will be around for a while and make an effort to establish boundaries early on so everyone knows what’s expected of them (and what isn’t).
Establishing the House Rules
1) Get everyone’s input on house rules before making any final decisions. You don’t want to impose something on someone who will be living there for an indefinite period of time.
2) Be flexible about where your child can sleep; while they’re living at home, they’re an adult and should be able to pick where they want to sleep. They may not want to return to their childhood bedroom that has become a shrine to their younger years. However, if this is your first time living with a child again, don’t forget that you still have veto power over their sleeping arrangements (i.e., no one-night stands in the house).
3) Stop being the “do everything for them” parent; if your kids can’t put away their own dishes, it’s time to stop doing that for them. Stop doing their laundry, cleaning their room, making their bed, etc. Do for them what you would do for any other “roommate” you might consider living with.
4) Share the cost and the chores; if you’re both working, split the cost of groceries and other household expenses down the middle. And divvy up the chores so everyone has a fair share (including taking out the trash).
If these seem like basic rules that any parent would establish when their children become adults, it’s because they are. But sometimes we get too comfortable in our roles as parents and forget that it’s time to give the kids some space… and some responsibility. By setting up these boundaries, you’re not only helping your children develop into responsible adults but also fostering a better relationship with each other for years to come.
Be Firm, But Fair
One of the hardest parts – for both parties – about establishing a new living arrangement as they progress from children to adults is understanding that the dynamic must change.
You can’t punish or ground your adult children when they misbehave, but you also can’t allow them to turn you into their personal, unpaid housekeeper. Find a balance and way to express grievances without becoming confrontational.
Living with adult children can be a great way to save money, but it’s important to set some ground rules early on. By establishing boundaries, both parents and children can have a better relationship with each other while living under the same roof. Remember: be firm, but fair!
Carve Out a Space for Yourself
Nobody will question your love for your child if you want to have some alone time. You need a space to feel like yourself, and not just someone else’s parent.
This could range from creating a retreat inside your own bedroom, perhaps with a TV that is yours and yours alone. Or maybe you need a space outside of the home where you can escape to everyone once in a while, without inviting your roommate.
Neither of you should consider it an insult if the other wants to spend some independent time.
Find a Balance
Don’t try too hard; it’s not worth pushing them out of home… yet. But you don’t want to make it too easy on them, or they may never want to move out.
After all, if you could live in a luxury hotel with maid service, an in-house chef cooking your favorite meals, and you didn’t have to pay a penny for it, would you ever want to move out?
This kind of balance can be especially difficult to strike if your child is still at home because they are struggling with some kind of mental illness, depression, or anxiety. If this is the case, you may want to consult with a professional about how to help them (and yourself) create patterns and routines that reinforce their positive attitudes and develop the coping skills they will need to live independently one day.
Don’t Worry Too Much About the Future
Some parents are concerned that their child remaining at home will dull their prospects for love, relationships, or a family of their own someday.
The good news for parents is that millennials are getting married later than previous generations, so there’s less pressure to push children into independence earlier on or risk having grandchildren grow up without ever meeting grandma and grandpa.
So don’t put pressure on yourself or your kids by trying too hard; after all, you’ll only end up about something silly like arguing about who forgot to put the ketchup away.
Remember That It Is Your Home
There is an interesting distinction between feeling at home and owning a home. Although you don’t want your adult child who lives with you to feel like a constant guest, they need to remember whose name is on the deed.
No, that doesn’t mean returning to that cliched phrase of “My house, my rules!” But it does mean that key decisions regarding the home should be made by the homeowner.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t consult with your adult child on important decisions such as new living room furniture (after all, they have to sit on it too). But if you’re paying for it and it’s going in your home, you want to make sure that you will still want to use it after they have moved out, someday.
Living With Your Adult Children Isn’t Easy, But It Can Be Very Worthwhile
By establishing some simple ground rules, both parents and children can have a much more pleasant experience living together. Remember to be firm, but fair! And most importantly, enjoy the time you have together. It goes by quickly!
And remember that one of the best things about adult children moving back home is that it can save money on rent and utilities, which can help you sock more money away for your retirement. Every time they forget to put the ketchup away, remind yourself that their contribution to the household might help you take that Caribbean cruise one day.
Both parents and children need to be clear on boundaries early on so that everyone knows what is expected of them. Here are four tips for managing adults living with their parents
However, as your children get older and start to think about settling down themselves…. well….. let’s just hope they don’t try it at home!