When the kids leave home, you go through a whole range of emotions. There’s some initial sadness, then plenty of optimism, and – eventually – a bunch of happiness that’s tinged with a tiny bit of guilt.
But what about when your adult child asks to move back in? Is it an exciting opportunity to welcome home your son or daughter? Or is it a recipe for conflict and discomfort? The reality for most families is something in between. In this post, we look at some information and tips to help you make your cohabitation a more positive experience.
It’s Not Unusual
OK, let’s start by getting a big misconception out of the way. Having your child living at home is not at all a bad reflection of your parenting. And you’re not part of an unlucky minority (or a lucky minority, depending on how helpful your child is around the house).
In fact, over the past few decades, adult children living at home has become more and more common. In the US, around 32% of 18- to 34-year-old people are living with their parents. The numbers are similar here in Australia and throughout the western world. This means 1 in 3 Aussie parents are sharing their home with at least one of their adult children.
There’s a variety of factors that contribute to adult children choosing to head back home, including:
- Financial troubles
- Relationship break-ups
- Career changes (including unemployment)
- Educational decisions (such as commencing or completing a degree or course)
- Housing problems.
While the reasons to move back in aren’t exclusively negative, it’s important to recognise that they frequently are. This means your child may need more than just a safe roof over their heads – they are likely also looking for the emotional support and life advice that you’ve given them since they were first learning to walk and talk. Understanding this means you’ll be more able to help them land on their feet and prepare to move out again when they’re ready.
New Roles, New Rules
Your child is an adult now. Ideally, this means they’ll act like one and you’ll be able to treat them like one. They won’t be doing chores for pocket money anymore. They should be helping out around the house because it’s just the right thing to do.
To make their role as a mature resident of your household clear, it can be helpful to create a roster of duties. This means setting a schedule for things like:
- Who will cook dinner each day of the week
- Who’s on laundry and dishwasher duty
- Who is in charge of the unpleasant tasks (e.g. taking out the rubbish, toilet cleaning).
No, you don’t want to treat your son or daughter like a live-in maid. But if they’re already living with you, they might as well make themselves useful, right? Sharing household responsibilities isn’t just good for you, though – it will also help alleviate any guilt your child might feel about moving back home. Letting them contribute around the house could stop them from worrying about being a ‘freeloader’.
Some Dos and Don’ts
- Set clear expectations and share responsibilities.
- Encourage open dialogue about what is and isn’t working.
- Prioritise your own needs as much as your child’s (if the arrangement isn’t working for you, take action).
- Respect their privacy – no more entering the bedroom unannounced to pick up dirty laundry (if they haven’t put their undies in the laundry basket, they’ll just have to wash them themselves).
- Stick to the same rules they had as a teenager (your adult child doesn’t need an 11pm curfew or a ‘no overnight visitors’ policy).
- Let them control the relationship or take advantage of your hospitality.
- Compromise on important expectations (if you expect them to contribute to expenses or you’re determined to keep your home a party-free zone, ensure your child knows this is non-negotiable).
- Nag them about eating more vegetables (well, OK, maybe just a little).
Setting a Timeframe
It’s a good idea for both you and your child to have a clear arrangement in place with a planned end date in mind. An indefinite staying period can lead to confusion, and frustration can begin to build up as the months go by. Though they might not ‘outstay their welcome’ as such, it can become tiresome waiting for an undetermined day when they’ll move out. Having a target date will help to alleviate this while also providing some extra motivation for your child to actively seek that new job or save up for that home loan.
Finding a Place for Their Stuff
While the idea of taking your child back in may be easy enough to come around to, don’t forget that with them comes all of their stuff. Don’t let your child take over your home with their excess belongings. If you don’t have space for their furniture and appliances, keep them in a self-storage unit until they need them again. This will keep their belongings safe and organised and allow you to maintain a tidy, clutter-free home.
Having your adult child move back in doesn’t need to be a disruption to your life. Follow our helpful hints to make the transition as smooth as possible, and enjoy the extra time you have together to discover your new adult relationship.