It happens more often than you might think. You work hard, pay your dues (and your kid's college tuition) and are just getting used to peace and quiet again. Then, your adult child asks to come back home.
Maybe it's because nobody's hiring recent college graduates, or perhaps your grown kid has lost her job and has no money and nowhere else to go. Or, she might need a comforting place to stay after a bitter breakup or divorce -- possibly with children in tow.
Regardless of the reason, if you're going to be sharing a roof with your adult offspring, it's important to set some ground rules before he or she moves in. What first step should all parents take when dealing with an adult child moving back home? Find out on the next page.
Understand the Situation
Before everyone gets too cozy, you need to initiate a conversation about your kid's plans and living arrangements. Make sure everyone understands the reasons why he or she is returning home. And, everyone should be involved in working toward the same goal, whether that's your adult child getting her own place after securing a job and a car, or just that she's using your love and comfort for a few months before moving out again.
You'll all feel better if you're on the same page with a definitive end goal in place.
Don't Spend Your Retirement
It may be tempting to dip into your savings to help your kid get back on her feet. But, unless you've got boatloads of bucks sitting in the bank, you may want to hold off signing that check to pay off her car note or her high-interest credit card bill. It's understandable that you want to help your kids, regardless of how old they are (that's why you let them move back in, remember?).
There are limits, though. You shouldn't do anything to jeopardize your own financial future, and it's not worth you staying in the workforce an extra year or two to pay off your kid's convertible or designer handbag. Every dollar you donate to solve his or her problems is a dollar that won't be there when you want to retire, need to pay for an emergency or even splurge on a much-needed vacation. It's great to help out family, but you need to be able to take care of yourself, too.
Agree on a Time Limit
Forget months and years. Some parents live with their adult children for decades!
The idea of housing a white-haired version of your struggling son or daughter might seem ridiculous now, but it can -- and does -- happen. This is precisely why you should all agree to a move-out date before your kid moves back in. If the deadline passes and your grown child still isn't ready to move out, you can have a conversation about extending it.
In the beginning, it's important for you to establish that his or her time at home won't be forever. Regardless if it's a few months or years down the road, talk about the future before it's too uncomfortable to bring up the subject.
Remember Whose Roof You're All Living Under
She may be grown up and (formally) on her own, but this is still your house. It doesn't matter if she's 13 or 30, your daughter can't just do whatever she wants. She may not have assigned homework times and a strict, no-more-than-60-minutes-per-day TV rule, but that's no reason she can't tell you where she's going or call you to say she won't be home for dinner -- or even sleeping in her own bed tonight. These conversations may be a little awkward for both of you, but it's better than waiting up until the wee hours of the morning, worrying about her safety.
A few childhood rules still apply. Dish duty should still be mandatory, and there's nothing wrong with asking your adult kid to take out the trash every once in a while, too. Most importantly, if your boomerang child has an income, charge her rent! The extra funds will help cover the costs of housing an additional person, and paying up will help prepare her for the responsibility of living on her own (read: she'll be less likely to need to squat at your place in the future).
Accept That Your Child Isn't a Kid Anymore
We alluded to this fact on the last page, but we'll be a little less subtle now. He may always be your little boy, but he's also a grown man now. He's got an adult's life -- and an adult's agenda.
Chances are he'll spend the night out every once in awhile, and though it's OK to ask him not to bring dates home for the night, you can't expect him to act like he's living in a monastery.
If your adult comes home with children in tow, let him set the ground rules for his kids. Try to avoid cross-parenting. He's got his own child-rearing style, and though you should definitely be a voice of authority, the buck ultimately has to stop with Mom and Dad, not Grandma or Grandpa -- regardless of who's paying the bills.
The truth is, when an adult child moves home, it's not an ideal situation for anyone. Even if you don't mind helping out, it's a huge inconvenience and financial burden, and shacking up with Mom and Dad isn't how your kid planned to spend the next few weeks, months or (gasp) years of his life, either. Therefore, everyone involved should respect one another's needs, boundaries and authority. If all else fails and no one's happy, look into alternative arrangements. Yes, we're talking about forcing your once-little bird out of the nest -- it won't be pleasant, but it's got to happen sometime.
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- New York Life. "Adult Children Moving Back Home: Don't Let 'Boomerang Kids' Derail Your Goals." Dec. 2, 2010. (April 28, 2011).http://www.newyorklife.com/nyl/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=d0bd47bb939d2210a2b3019d221024301cacRCRD
- Palmer, Kimberly. "The New Parent Trap." US News and World Report. Dec. 12, 2007. (April 28, 2011).http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2007/12/12/the-new-parent-trap?PageNr=1
- Monster. "Live with Your Parents After Graduation?" 2010. (April 28, 2011).http://career-advice.monster.com/job-search/getting-started/live-with-parents-after-graduation/article.aspx