Making it work when adult children move back in with their parents

Making it work when adult children move back in with their parents

Joseph Darby

Five tips for when adult children move back in with their parents

Graduating from university, getting an apprenticeship, or taking an OE (overseas experience) used to be a right of passage, not just for young adults but also for their parents. It marked a glorious time when the young “left the nest”, and the parent’s job was done. The child had been raised to become an adult, and now they were embarking on their own journey in life.

How times have changed.

Due to New Zealand’s small population size, data is hard to come by in this area, though below are some figures which may be similar to NZ’s numbers:

  • Australian data suggests that more than one in four Aussie adult children move back home, according to comparison website Finder.
  • The latest US numbers show that the number of adults living with a parent or grandparent is at an all-time high.

In NZ, it’s reasonable to expect that the impact of Coronavirus on the careers of many young adults will be significant, as new opportunities dry up and as they’re among the groups most affected by pandemic-related job losses, in particular over the next year or 18 months. This means more young adults moving back into the family home.

Here’s five tips to make the most of this situation – for parents and the adult child.

1. Everyone chips-in

It should go without saying that anyone who is living under a roof, should contribute to the upkeep of that roof and all that goes with it.

Paying rent or board is good for adult children too: it helps them develop or maintain healthy financial habits, maintains a sense of perspective, and self-esteem. If a young adult can’t afford to pay much, they should be doing well more than their fair share of chores, or perhaps working on maintenance and improvements to the property.

If out of work, the requirement to pay board might encourage young adults to take a part-time job while they continue to look for full-time work.

2. Negotiate boundaries and expectations

For parents – remember, it’s your house

One of the first must-do things is having a conversation about what is and isn’t okay in your house. This may include:

  • What is and isn’t a shared space,
  • Laundry arrangements,
  • Meal arrangements,
  • Power, water and internet access,
  • Privacy – for the parents and child,
  • Possessions – such as things the adult child might want to borrow,
  • Visitors – including overnight visitors,
  • Chores, and
  • Behaviour – this might include whether music, smoking, or drinking is allowed in your home.

Make expectations clear, playing things by ear in this area is a sure-fire way path to disappointment and conflict.

Remember to let your child have a say in what they want, too. Ideally they’ll choose their own chores – they’re more likely to get done that way!

For adult children – remember, it’s not your house

Politely and openly talk about your expectations, and how you’ll contribute.

If you like listening to loud music, then ensure you’re open about when you’d like to play it, and for how long. If your parents aren’t interested, then find a workaround – in this case maybe going for a drive to play the music or getting some high quality headphones so you don’t disturb anyone.

When you’ve got your own home one day, you can make the rules.

3. You’re all adults

Adult children that are moving back with their parents will usually be accustomed to a lot more freedom than when they lived at home as a teenager. Compulsory family meals, a curfew, or other restrictions might not be appropriate – unless that interferes with the rest of the family or parents.

Parents should avoid asking too many questions and becoming overly concerned with what their children are doing every minute of the day. Treating their adult child as an adult will help them get back on their feet sooner!

4. Timing matters

Establishing a time frame is crucial for both parties – the parents and the child.

Parents should be clear about how long they are willing to support their adult child. It’s a wise move to work towards a cut-off date when the adult child is expected to move out and support him or herself. This could be within six months or a year.

This will ease tensions by giving you both something to aim for.

Learn more: Don’t let supporting your adult children ruin your retirement

5. Stay level-headed and watch out for depression

Many Kiwi’s think that adults living with their parents shows irresponsibility, laziness, or not wanting to grow up. There’s an attached stigma of being a member of the boomerang generation – that returns to the parental home like a boomerang.

Just because an adult child moves back home, this doesn’t mean that they’re going to be a loser for the rest of their life.

Unfortunately, although moving back home may be financially necessary, many young adults may feel guilty about accepting their parents’ help. They may become increasingly depressed and doubt their own self-worth. While some of these feelings may be common, parents should keep a wary eye out to see if their child becomes increasingly angry, withdrawn, or despondent. If so, you may need to encourage them to change things up or seek counselling.

The bottom line – making it work when adult children move back in with their parents

Grown children moving home can be a good experience for all involved. Young adults might learn more from their parents as they can relate in a way they couldn’t when they were younger. Parents can also get to know the person their child has grown to become.

Sticking with the following steps will help the parents and child alike:

1. Everyone chips-in

2. Negotiate boundaries and expectations

3. You’re all adults

4. Timing matters

5. Stay level-headed and watch out for depression

No matter how enjoyable this time together might be, it shouldn’t last forever – that’d be no good for the parents or child.

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