Despite even the most excellent parenting, some adult children need more time living at home. According the U.S. Census, nearly a third of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 (and more than half of those 18-24) live with their parents. While these arrangements are often mutually beneficial, there are times when living at home beyond high school can be problematic.
The Benefits of Staying at Home
Multigenerational cohabitation goes back to the beginning of time. Financially, relationally, and practically speaking, so much goodness can come when adult children live at home. Why expose them to added financial burdens if living at home makes sense? Staying with parents for a few more years can help adult children save money, strengthen their value to the marketplace, and set themselves up for a better future.
Healthy communication is crucial. What are everyone’s goals? To minimize conflict, systems can be super helpful; maybe a text thread or a calendar on the fridge for reserving common areas. If staying out late, both parents and adult children should check-in—no details needed—just common courtesy so no one is worried.
Sit down on the same side of the negotiating table, learn about each other’s wants and needs, and consider putting something in writing. By taking the time to actively listen to each other, both sides feel heard and validated. While signing a contract might feel silly, the process of sharing and agreeing on reasonable expectations can make for a cool bonding experience—and more importantly—establish standards for mutual respect that ensure everyone is on the same page.
Monthly / Quarterly Meetings
Healthy communication is paramount. Regularly scheduled meetings allow both sides to clear the air while reviewing progress on agreed-upon milestones, better equipping parents to support and encourage children as they work towards independence. Confess concerns, sincerely apologize for mistakes, and ensure we are doing all we can to support our children as they prepare to empty the nest.
Don’t check their browsing history, snoop through their cell phone, or invade their personal space. For the parent-child relationship to remain healthy, respect for personal boundaries is a must.
One thing should be clear: dad and mom are not maids. A few basic rules can help big-time: in all common spaces, personal belongings should not be left laying around. If you take it out, put it back. If you dirty it, clean it. If you are done using it, put it away. These simple expectations allow each family member to do their part in keeping the house uncluttered.
Reasonable expectations on food are important. Grocery costs? Cooking duties? What about food in the fridge? Is there an off-limits cupboard? Sometimes, we just don’t feel like sharing—maybe that’s ok—maybe it’s not ok. Food for thought—peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are delicious.
What if They Don’t Want to Leave?
What if we want them to move out, but they refuse? This is a difficult situation. “Failure to Launch Syndrome” prohibits our not-so-young ones from establishing their freedom and independence. If we feel we’ve done a good job as parents and want our children out, the living situation is likely to be stressful. Mothers can inadvertently compound problems by introducing elements of shame or guilt. When we work to understand their struggles, we are better equipped to help make a positive difference. Even if it takes longer, maternal support typically leads to superior outcomes.
Working Towards Independence
It’s important to refrain from offering supports which resemble a free ride. Which household chores are assigned to them? How much is their expected financial contribution? Have a heart-to-heart and work together. Ambiguity sets the stage for misunderstandings. Flexibility shows grace. Mutual respect fosters responsibility. Teamwork facilitates buy-in. Do they have a reliable vehicle? What does healthcare look like? How is their credit? What size down-payment might they need as a first-time homebuyer? While every situation is different, the key is to help them become more and more independent with each passing day.
If we want them out on their own, don’t make things too comfortable at home. Consider agreeing on a set percentage of their take-home pay towards either sustaining the household or towards the savings they’ll need to achieve independence.
Adults who experience financial challenges have choices: get a second job, come up with a side-hustle, or develop new and improved skills. Why should our adult children be any less accountable? Don’t solve their money problems—coming to their rescue will only discourage their resourcefulness. Surround them with motivational forces that inspire them to improve their skills and value to the marketplace.
How to Get Them Out
Ideally, parents and adult children should work together on a mutually acceptable plan with realistic goals and expectations. With respectful, two-way communication, mothers best support adult children by offering fair and reasonable time to prepare alternative living arrangements. Unfortunately, some frustrated mothers struggle with their own maturity and go nuclear, ruining the chance for level-minded negotiations. It’s imperative that we maintain our composure, protecting our ongoing involvement in our child’s life.
When They Just Won’t Leave
Family should be a place of love and hospitality. Unfortunately, some adult children loathe accountability. Some parents are intolerant. Things can get nasty when consistently irresponsible choices clash with higher expectations. A written agreement can help provide the structure needed to manage living arrangements. However, if an adult child doesn’t honor their end of the agreement, tough love may be in order.
If children plan to live at home well into adulthood, against their parent’s wishes, with no intention of leaving, legal action may be necessary. That said, this path can be very unhealthy, especially compared to both sides honoring the terms of an agreed-upon game plan. Although highly undesirable, some adult children leave well-meaning parents with no choice but to force them to assume responsibility for their adult lives.
As adult children balance security and freedom, every situation is different. Many parents prefer that adult children live at home. Many adult children undermine their own best interests by staying in the nest for too long. By offering unconditional love and support, mothers are responsible for setting healthy expectations and enforcing normal consequences to guide the natural progression of real-life.
What parent doesn’t want their children to grow up to be happy, responsible adults? Yet despite parents’ best efforts, some kids never successfully make the transition to independently functioning adulthood. Sometimes, a tough-love approach can help both you and your child. Set yourself free from the repeated pain of your adult child’s broken promises, lies, and deception.
Are you struggling to connect with your child now that they’ve left the nest? Are you feeling the tension and heartache as your relationship dynamic begins to change? In Doing Life with Your Adult Children, bestselling author and parenting expert Jim Burns provides practical advice and hopeful encouragement for navigating this tough yet rewarding transition.
PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Mothers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.