5 Tips on Parenting Adult Children Living at Home

Empty nesters no more. Are you parenting adult children that have moved back home? We've got tips and advice to help you adjust and cope.

Young adults sometimes move back in with their parents to save money, use as a launch pad while job-hunting – or both. Not all of these move-ins may be money-based, either. Sometimes, people just need a little time to regroup and re-evaluate after hard circumstances, such as a divorce or death in the family.

Christina Newberry, author of The Hands-On Guide to Surviving Adult Children Living at Home, has a few tips on making a successful go of sharing a home with newly returned adult children.

1. Be flexible

“There are sort of little things that come up,” Newberry says, “and you just have to come up with ways to make them work for everybody.”

When she moved in with her parents for about nine months after finishing college, one of the first issues that arose was the timing of her social life. Friends would call around the time her parents went to bed, and when Newberry went to hang out with friends at night, her parents would start to worry if she wasn’t home by a certain time.

They resolved the problem when she got a cellphone and Newberry agreed to send a quick email from her phone if she knew she would be home late.

“I didn’t have to call them in the middle of the night to wake them up, but they could just get up and check their email and know I was OK.”

2. Treat them like adults

“I think the most important thing for parents is just to remember that their children are not children anymore, and they can’t pick up parenting sort of where they left off,” Newberry says.

Parents need to help the adult children in their home establish independence but treat them like they would any other guest in their home. Respect their privacy and create rules that fit the mindset of a guest in the home, not a child home for summer break.

Parents and children need to have open communication about expectations and rules in order to avoid conflicts and make sure everyone is on the same page.

3. Kids should do their part

Children should be making some kind of contribution to the household. Newberry advises making some level of financial contribution so that the child can be used to paying rent when he or she moves out.

“It’s not free for parents to let their adult children live at home,” she says, “and there needs to be some kind of recognition of that.”

If it is not possible for the child to make a financial contribution, Newberry says, he or she should be “earning their keep” by doing work around the house. This should go beyond just doing personal care activities like doing his or her own laundry or cleaning his or her room – but rather, major household tasks like cleaning the gutters or painting the garage.

4. Create a contract

Parents and adult children living at home need to come to an agreement about what each expects of the other – and to stick to it.

“Put down the expectations in writing,” Newberry says. This provides a record of the rules of the house and encourages everyone to abide by them.

For adult children, this contract should include expected house behavior and financial or household contributions. For parents, the contract should outline things like the children’s privacy expectations.

5. Knowing when it’s time to go

When the adult child returns home, she says, part of the contract should include a timeframe for how long he or she plans to stay.

“As soon as there’s an adult child in the home, the parents’ entire role shifts to basically not kicking them out, but helping them get to a stage where they’re able to leave,” Newberry says.

“It’s not a good idea” for adult children to move in with their parents with the mindset of “We’ll just see what happens,” she says. “That’s not really emotionally healthy for anyone.”

A capable adult living with his or her parents forever takes an emotional and financial toll, so there needs to be a limit on how long he or she can stay.

If the adult child has never left home in the first place, Newberry says, the parents need to take advantage of a milestone, such as college graduation or a birthday, to set ground rules and help him or her prepare to move out establish a life outside the home.

From experience, do you have any tips to add to this list?

This post was originally published in 2011 and is updated regularly.


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