Are you the parent of a young adult who has recently moved back home? If so, you’re not alone. Turns out, according to a 2015 study from the Pew Research Center, one in four young adults ages 18 to 34 are now living with their parents.
The reasons young adults are moving home in record numbers is part economics — massive student loan debt and outrageous rents in many major cities. But Jeffrey Griffith, Education and Career Specialist at Yellowbrick — a psychiatric facility based in Evanston, Ill., that focuses on treating those ages 17-30 — says it’s also partly a result of closer relationships that this generation of parents have developed with their children.
“Millennials are much closer to their parents than previous generations were, and that’s a good thing,” Griffith said. “They’re more open to accepting help and parents seem more receptive to helping.”
And although having your children move home with you may seem like a great idea financially, it also can come with significant challenges. Not only can tensions develop between parents and kids over rules and boundaries, but if not handled correctly, children also can regress and have less motivation to get out on their own.
If you’re thinking about letting your young adult child move back in with you, we asked Griffith and Dr. Bryn Jessup, Director of Family Services at Yellowbrick, for their tips to help make it successful for both of you:
- Don’t freak out. If your young adult child is moving back home, don’t assume he will be a loser the rest of his life. “A kid returning home is not a fatal catastrophe,” Jessup said.
Jessup said there is a myth that kids who return home are lazy and don’t want to grow up, but in fact, it’s normal for young adults to have some ambivalence about taking on lots of adult responsibilities. After all, who among us really wants to go to work, pay bills and get our oil changed? Just because kids are reluctant to jump into the adult world doesn’t mean they won’t. The good news, he said, is that by age 30 nearly all young adults are financially independent.
- Negotiate boundaries and expectations. If you’re planning to let your young adult children move back home with you, one of the first things you have to do is have a conversation about what is and isn’t OK in your house. For example, you may want to lay out what chores your child is responsible for and whether substance use is allowed in your home. “Parents should make their expectations explicit. Don’t play it by ear,” Jessup said.
And, Jessup said, remember to let your child have a say in what they want, too. “These conversations need to be collaborative. You need to keep the communication channel open, not shut it down,” he said.
- Give them freedom. When your kids move back home after college, they’re going to be used to having more freedom than they did as teenagers. They may bristle if you try to clamp down too hard. For example, you might need to let go of having a curfew or having regular family meals. And remember, you can only control so much.
“What the child does outside of the house and outside of the family is their own business unless it interferes with the family,” Jessup said.
- Have them contribute. Although you’re allowing your child to move home to help with his or her finances, adult children should be required to contribute something to their living expenses. It will help them learn the value of budgeting and develop healthy financial habits and self-esteem. “Even if unemployed, parents should create an allowance from which the young person pays their share of the bills,” Jessup said.
Griffith said young adults should be willing to take a part-time job while they continue to look for full-time work. “It’s important that young adults get some kind of job and are required to pay for some of their bills,” he says. “When people have to work, it really gives them perspective.”
- Set up a timetable. Griffith said parents should be clear about how long they are willing to support their young adult. He says by telling your child that you expect her to be able to support herself within six months or a year, you actually will ease tensions between both of you.
- Don’t micromanage. Another mistake parents make is asking too many questions and becoming overly concerned with what their children are doing every minute of the day. “Stepping away from the microscope is not only a benefit to the kid, it’s also a benefit to the parent,” Jessup said.Griffith agreed. “People start to feel more entitled to details when they’re financially involved,” he says. “You need to step back and let them succeed and fail on their own.”
- Watch out for depression. 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, watch to see if your child becomes increasingly angry, withdrawn or despondent. If so, you may need to encourage them to seek counseling.
Adult children with parents photo available from Shutterstock