Five ways to make living with adult children peaceful
The number of young adults living with their parents has increased 25 per cent since 1996, despite the fact that the number of people in that age group has remained the same. According to the Office of National Statistics in the United States, 3.3 million 20-34 year olds lived with their parents in 2013. We can assume Canadians are having a similar experience. What does that mean for parents? Delayed empty nest, increased financial burden at a time when parents look forward to a little extra cash, and possibly stress in the family dynamics.
Joy said that she and her husband could not help with the cost of college for their three children. Therefore, they promised them that if they needed to pay off student loans they could move back to their home until they were financially stable. At first their daughters took them up on the offer. Living with mom and dad, the girls worked jobs, paid off their loans and saved enough to move into a rental house together with friends. Although the girls added to mom’s workload by dirtying the kitchen and not taking care of their own laundry, they did shop, pay for groceries and make sure that everyone got fed.
More recently Joy’s son graduated from college, moved back home and now works a part-time job while awaiting his upcoming marriage. He neither shops, pays for groceries nor cooks. In fact, Joy frequently needs dad’s intervention to get her son to take out the garbage. The tension mounts in this household as mom awaits the wedding not with the usual bittersweet feelings of having an only son leave home, but with joyful anticipation of getting her empty nest back.
In contrast, Diane, mom of two, enjoyed having her daughter live in their home until she was 28. She might still be there had mom and dad not decided to relocate. But after the separation, Diane noticed her daughter blossom. She saw her develop the ability to provide for herself and be self sufficient as a single woman. “My heart was broken into a million pieces for months after she left,” confided Diane, but “forcing her to leave was the very best thing we could have done for her.” Diane saw her “soaring as baby birds are meant to do.
Whether you anticipate a positive experience of having your children move back home after college, or not, it pays to be prepared. Parents that have been through this new stage in life—that falls between having all the family at home and the empty nest—are speaking out. They want to share what they have learned from their experiences. Here are five things they suggest others do to make it work.
Begin in high school
Joy says that parents need to prepare for this stage while their children are still in high school. Encourage them to have a plan of action that includes more than just getting a job, which might not happen before the loans come due. If part of that plan involves moving back in with mom and dad, give them a time frame for how long they will be welcome. If your kids do not plan to go to college, require them to have a target date of moving out and being self-supporting. Then help them to formulate a plan that will help them get there.
Discuss everything up front
If your children talk of moving back home after college, have a meeting with the entire family. Make your expectations clear and ask them what they expect. If there are younger siblings in the home, ask them to contribute as well. If need be, put things in writing and sign it. Your agreement might include household responsibilities, room and board, vehicle use, and target move-out date.
Janet, a mother of four said, “They are adults and have been on their own. Stop micromanaging them.” Slowly letting our children go until they are self-sufficient is an important job as a parent; and that job should begin in the pre-teen years. Adult children do not need to be reminded to go to bed early, to take a sweater, or to pick up their room. But since we, as parents, have been nagging them for years, we have a hard time breaking the habit. “Because he’s 23 and almost ready to be married,” said Joy, her son “doesn’t want mom to tell or ask him anything.”
Do not allow free-loading
Children earning a living need to pay their way. Granted they may be paying off student loans or saving to get married, but unless they understand the responsibility that goes with supporting oneself, they may never take the plunge. Diane said that by not requiring her daughter to pay room and board at home they were holding her back. Once they asked her to move out, she found the way to make her self-employment pay the bills.
Do not allow any friction to influence your marriage
Sometimes one parent may take sides with a child at home over the other partner. That is a grave mistake. One day that child will move out and you will have an empty nest. When that time comes, you want to have a close relationship with your spouse. Joy said that although there is tension in the home, “I love my husband too much to let it come between us.”