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.

I have two adult children and at various times they’ve moved back in with us.  I loved it….but I knew it wasn’t their ultimate choice and I knew it wasn’t really the best thing for them.  They want to be independent.  They need to be independent. But for a variety of reasons and economic necessity sometimes back home they come despite doing everything possible to teach them the right money skills when they were younger.

In my experience as a dad and as a financial planner, it’s important for you to have a game plan.  This will support your kids getting back on their feet as quickly as possible and it just might help you retain your composure and sanity.   Let’s get to it.

1. Ground Rules.

Rather than imposing all the rules on your children, treat them as the adults they are. Brainstorm a list of ground rules together.  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 how are they going to improve their own situation?
  • Who will do the cooking and cleaning?
  • Do you have any restrictions on having your child’s guests 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.

This may sound crazy, but just to make sure they are telling you the truth about their financial situation, you might want them to run their credit score and hand you a copy. 

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 and there really is, you might build up a resentment which will bubble up the wrong time.

3. Monthly childrent moving back home

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 again.

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?   Is he sleeping later and later every day rather than looking for a job? 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.  If things go south, the best way to help your kid might be to show him the door.

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 moved back in with your parents, what was it like? Would you do anything differently? Did it impact your relationship?  How?


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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.


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.


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.


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.


Neal Frankle July 23, 2012 at 8:22 AM

LOL….glad it worked out Brent!


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.


Neal Frankle July 23, 2012 at 8:27 AM

Great idea. Thanks….


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