How to Deal With Adult Children Living At Home

by Neal Frankle, CFP ®

Are you ready to have your adult children living at home with you again? Like it or not it’s a distinct possibility. According to a Pew Research Center survey done recently almost a third of all parents in the United States are seeing their adult children move back home.

With one child living overseas and another away at college, I can tell you that it would be a dream come true to have my kids back home – for me. But I know that my children, like yours, strive to be independent. Living at home is not my kids’ first choice and the same is probably true about your children.

It’s important to be aware of this dynamic because your kids may move back home. It’s difficult to land a job these days. Wages are low and the cost of living is high. What is the best way to make this situation work for everyone involved?

1. Ground Rules.

Rather than imposing all the rules on your children, treat them as the adults they are. Bring up topics that are important to you and ask them what issues they would like to raise. Here is a partial list of important agenda items:

  • How long will the children be at home?
  • What contributions will you expect of them? Rent, chores, shopping?
  • What contributions will they expect of you? What are you going to pay for on your child’s behalf? Are you going to provide food and shelter only or is cable TV, clubbing costs and car insurance going to be included as well. Make sure that both you and your kids are clear on this.
  • What is their plan for becoming independent again? Will they go back to school? Change their career? Save enough to buy a home? In short, what is the reason for the move and what are they doing to improve their own situation?
  • Who will do the cooking and cleaning?
  • Do you have any restrictions on having your child’s guest over?

To make sure there are no misunderstandings down the road, I strongly suggest that you have a written agreement that both you and your children sign that spell out these rules.

2. The Costs.

Don’t make your kids feel guilty but let them know what you are giving up (if anything) by this new living arrangement. Will the added food costs make it harder to reach your own financial goals? Will you have to give up your free time to shuttle them around or watch your grandchildren? Be honest about it. If you try to pretend there isn’t any problem with the new situation you might build up a resentment which will bubble up the wrong time.

3. Monthly Meetings.

Situations rarely unfold as planned. The reality of your children moving back in is going to be far different from how you imagine it.

The kids may develop grievances and so might you. Allow for a specific day and time each month to discuss how things are going. Ask your children what they like about the situation and what they wish were different. Then, share your own feelings and ask for a commitment to make appropriate changes.

4. Help Your Kids.

You might be doing your kids a huge favor by opening up your doors to them again. But if you really want to help them, explore what steps need to be taken to get them on their own two feet.

Is your son moving back because he lost his job? OK. Is he in the right profession or does he have to go back to school to prepare for a better career? Should he start looking at employment that doesn’t require a degree?

Is he sleeping later and later every day rather than looking for employment? The best way to help him at that point might be to insist on him paying rent and to get a firm move out date.

As you can see, you must handle each situation on a case-by-case basis.

It could be wonderful to have your children living with you again – and it should be. The best way to make sure it is a great experience is to get clear on expectations and mutual ground rules and for both you and your children to be willing to adapt as problems arise,

Have your children moved back home with you? Do you want them to move out? What other important tips can you share to make it a better experience? If you are moved back in with your parents, what was it like? Would you do anything differently? Did it impact your relationship with your parents for the good or bad?

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Patrick November 2, 2012 at 11:58 AM

This whole article reeks of ethnocentrism. In my culture it is the NORM for 3 generations of FAMILY living under one roof. The situation today in the US is pathetic; where animals are much more valued than children and the idea of FAMILY is old fashioned and forgotten. How sad.

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Neal Frankle November 3, 2012 at 9:34 AM

WOW…fascinating. I didn’t see that coming Patrick. The post is talking about helping kids get on their own two feet. There is nothing wrong with having multiple generations under one roof. I think there is a lot wrong with having (even one) generation not do the very best they can to support the family. In your case, it sounds like everyone is kicking in their fair share.

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Pollyanna July 26, 2012 at 11:37 AM

This is really wise advice. We had a boomerang son when he graduated from college in May 2010. It took about a year of odd jobs and moving around, but he landed a solid job June 2011 that he is still with (oh, and moved out at that time). Setting expectations (plans, timeframes) is excellent advice so that days of doing nothing stretch into weeks and months and, heaven forbid, years.

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Brent Pittman July 23, 2012 at 7:53 AM

Good advice, glad my parents didn’t read this years ago! I would’ve had to work instead of playing video games while I applied to grad school.

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Neal Frankle July 23, 2012 at 8:22 AM

LOL….glad it worked out Brent!

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Mike July 23, 2012 at 7:43 AM

I like the idea of allowing the kids back in as long as they have a plan in place on how they will get back to work in the near future. Could be a good topic to discuss at the monthly meetings you mentioned.

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Neal Frankle July 23, 2012 at 8:27 AM

Great idea. Thanks….

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