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The Informed Parent

When Adult Children Move Home

by Carolyn Warnemuende, M.S.
Published on Mar. 05, 2007
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Many think of The Informed Parent as a publication for parents of children and adolescents. Grandparents and parents of young adults also make up part of the reading audience. Occasionally articles will focus on topics appropriate to them. This feature is one.

Current trends indicate that grown children live in their parents' home longer than in the past several decades. They also show that more adult children move home, either alone or with their family after having established households of their own. If this should happen to you, it would pose challenges for both you and your adult children. If you have not had children living in your home for a number of years, a different pattern of living has been established. This will be disrupted. Your children have developed a lifestyle of their own which may not fit easily into your home.

Careful planning and communication are required for success during the time they live with you. Several strategies can make this time one of joy and learning.

Have a timeframe

Two common reasons adult children move home are health or financial needs. When health is the concern, staying in the parents' home until one is able to run his or her household again is reasonable. If the need is longstanding, it might be better to find alternatives.

I knew a woman in her forties who was in a serious car accident. She moved into her parents' home and was still there five years later. She was not willing to begin an independent life that included learning to live with her disability. Her parents were unwilling to assist her in returning to the status of an adult.

When health issues require moving home, it is valuable for all concerned to face the situation straightforwardly. Living with mom and dad is a stopgap. Ultimately one must become a part of the adult world again. This may require assistance such as counseling or community services for the entire family.

Many young adults return home when they hit financial snags. This can become a touchy issue. It's often comfortable to have the cushion of a place to live and the support of parents. For parents who do not have a rich life of their own, having an adult child around brings meaning back into the household.

With financial setbacks, parents need to make clear how long their home is open for sharing. There have been times when adult children have assumed that they could live at home indefinitely. Parents need to take the parental role and assist their offspring in knowing that supporting themselves as young adults is what is expected and what is necessary. A parent might say, "You may live at home for three months while you get back on your feet. We expect you to look for work while you live here. If you cannot move out on your own in that period of time, we will discuss options."

Plan financial responsibilities

Before grown children return home, decide what the financial arrangement is to be. If you have means, this may be a time of providing for the family. This "give early" philosophy means that parents give to their children now instead of leaving as much for inheritance. If a family has less money, sharing financial obligations becomes both necessary and important. Whatever plan you devise, discuss it with all concerned so that it is clear to everyone.

I had a friend whose daughter moved home. She was unable to pay rent or buy groceries. She was a massage therapist so my friend asked her to provide a weekly massage in lieu of a financial contribution. She then referred friends to her daughter. As this young woman began to generate an income, she was able to share with the household finances.

Determine household responsibilities

Occasionally adult children move home with the expectation that they will be cared for as they were when they were children. This is neither appropriate nor in anyone's best interest. For combined families to run smoothly, a division of labor is required. Talk together about who will do the cooking, cleaning, and specific household chores; who will care for the children and run errands. Remember that your adult children were running a household of their own before they moved back home. They have skills. They must be utilized.

Communicate

Changes in lifestyle create stress. Combining households poses challenges for both you and your offspring. They do not live as you do and vice versa. Your patterns may not mesh the way they did when the children were young. Keep the doors of communication open. When changes need to be made, discuss them. When situations are addressed straightforwardly, little room for resentment exists.

Acknowledge

When young adults request moving back into their parents' home, they may feel a sense of embarrassment or shame that they have not been able to make it on their own. They may feel that they are imposing on you. Even if the move is short-lived, they know that it will change everyone's life patterns.

Acknowledge your willingness to have them with you. Let them know when things are working well. Even if they do not live as neatly or do things as carefully as you do, acknowledge the assistance they give. There is more than one way to load a dishwasher or fold the laundry! They want this time with you to work as well as you do.

Create space

As much as possible, create a space that is separate for you and for them. It is important that each family have some place to go where they are alone. If this is not possible, find times to have separateness from each other by taking turns leaving the house for a while.

Maintain your patterns

While it may not be possible to maintain all your common routines and patterns, especially if your offspring has come home with a family, do your best to continue a semblance of your regular life such as exercising and getting together with friends. Plan time alone with your spouse or significant other.

Be patient

Be patient with yourself and your family. Recognize that you will be more tired than usual. Understand that the more people living in a household, the more noise and activity there will be. This liveliness is exciting and exhilarating. It is also exhausting. Know that you and your significant other will have less time with and for each other. Remember that this situation is temporary.

Having adult children return home provides opportunities to know them and their family more intimately. It offers time for fun and laughter. It also brings challenges and perhaps some pain. It gives you a chance to look at your life and reevaluate the choices you have made. Often when the children move out, you do not return to the same life you had before.

Parenting never ends. It changes. When parents of adult children who move home do their job effectively, they leave when their situation improves. By keeping doors of communication open and following the guidelines provided above, at the end of the stay, each person can look at the other and say, "This worked well."




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