I do a lot of reading about adult children living at home. In the last little while, I’ve seen more and more journalists referring to the phenomenon of adult kids living at home in their twenties and even early thirties as the “new normal.” Is it the new normal? This doesn’t quite site right with me for a couple of reasons.
First, while the numbers of adult children living at home are increasing, for all age groups over 25, they are still in the minority. Adult children over age 25 are living at home in increasing numbers, but that number is firmly in the minority category. Even for the 18- to 24-year-old age group, the number just squeaks into majority territory (52.8% of 18 to 24-year-olds live with their parents according to researchers at Columbia University in New York based on data from the U.S. Current Population Survey). Fifty-two percent is not a large enough number to say “everybody’s doing it.” In fact, it’s only just over half. Is this the new normal?
Second, when things become “normal,” that generally means we know how to deal with them as a society. But the trend of young adults moving back in with their parents is not yet something we are equipped to deal with in North American society. The rules about financial support are especially unclear. In societies where it really is normal (and expected) for adult children to live at home, there is also an expectation of reciprocal support. Adult children live with their parents and may receive financial support, but they have defined roles within the household that may include looking after younger siblings or cousins, or contributing to the household work and cooking. When parents are elderly, their children are expected to return the favor through financial and emotional support. It’s a balanced system that is not currently in place in the broader North American society.
And third, calling adult kids living at home the new normal minimizes the emotional and financial impact it can have on parents, both of which are very real — and very challenging.
Adult children living at home may be a growing trend, but it is not (yet) the new normal. Both parents and adult kids living in this situation need to plan for the emotional and financial challenges and work hard to make the situation function well for both generations.
There’s something important going on in the homes where adult children live at home, and it’s something parents often don’t want to talk about. It’s the conflicted feelings many parents feel about having their kids at home, what it says about their success as parents (why is the adult child not able to live independently), and their emotional connection to their kids. These are all very real and important concerns, and it’s okay for parents to share these thoughts out loud.
Elizabeth Meakins, writing in The Independent, shares some of these thoughts in the context of her experience with her own two twenty-something sons, both living at home. She starts her piece by describing a dream, in which she initially feels she is being crowded out of her own home by the boys and their friends.
For any parents feeling emotionally unsure about having their kids move back in, or who are struggling after they’re already home, it’s an important read. You can find Meakins’s piece on The Independent’s website.
Several weeks ago, The Globe and Mail ran an excellent piece about the challenges Canadian young people are facing as they try to get established in the careers. As part of that story, they created an “audio slideshow” in which six young adults between the ages of 22 and 29 describe the difficulties they have experiences as they try to get them established in permanent careers and feel like they are truly functional adults contributing to the Canadian society. Their stories are typical of those facing this generation of young people, many of whom live with their parents as a way of making ends meet (42.3% of Canadians 20-29 live with their parents according to the latest census). It’s startling to hear these young adults describe their frustration in their own voices. It’s an interesting series and well worth a listen.
Click on the image below to view and listen to the audio slideshow on the Globe and Mail’s website.
These infographic from The Globe and Mail show two things. First the huge drop in employment for young people aged 15-24 over the last five years. And second, how the average cost of housing compares to the median household income. They are part of a very interesting story looking at the challenges young people in Canada are facing today. You can see the whole piece here.
A report published in the UK by housing charity Shelter shows that 1.7 million people aged 20 to 40 are living with their parents because they can’t afford their own home. What’s worse is that 40% of the parents in these homes think their children will never — ever — be able to afford their own home.
Parents are taking a financial hit, too. Forty percent are buying their kids’ groceries, and 20% say they have less money to spend on themselves.
“Money Matters With Jean Chatzky,” a TV show on RL-TV, is doing a story on boomerang kids. They are looking for parents in the NYC tri-state area who would like to discuss their experience having their child move back in with them — the good, the bad, the ugly — on camera. If you think you fit the description, please e-mail the producer at Seth.Goldman@NBCuni.com.
I am a firm believer that parents should never, ever, ever (is that clear enough) take on debt to support their adult children. It does not make financial sense for a generation nearing the end of its earning years to take on debt to support a generation with a full working life ahead.
That said, I know that some parents don’t heed this advice. They DO take on debt to support their adult kids, and they may find themselves in way over their heads.
If this has happened to you, you need to get your financial situation sorted out. John Skiba of Skiba Law Group has written an article explaining how to proceed with bankruptcy if you find yourself in this situation. You can find his information here.
W Network’s new reality show “The Audience” is looking for adult children living at home (or their parents) who are at a crossroads and need some advice. They’re also looking for people who would like to provide crowd-sourced advice. Here are the casting call details and contact information straight from the producers:
Force Four Entertainment is launching a groundbreaking new television series called “The Audience”, based on the popular UK show. “The Audience” is looking for people who are struggling with a life-changing decision, are at some sort of crossroads and in need of some thoughtful advice. We would like to find an adult who is thinking about moving back in with their parents, or the opposite, that is trying to decide whether to move out of the family home. We would also like to speak to parents who have some sort of dilemma with their adult child living at home.
Here are a few more details about “The Audience”: This W Network show draws on the “wisdom of the crowd” – how sometimes many minds can be better than one when it comes to solving a life-changing dilemma. For one week, the “person with a dilemma” is followed by 50 insightful people from diverse backgrounds who will ask the tough questions that will get to the root of the dilemma and then provide valuable advice and a possible solution.
We are also looking for participants who might be interested in being part of the group of 50 advisors.
If you have a dilemma or are interested in finding out more information about the series, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 604 669 4424 x148.
Wowza. I just read an article from The Winnipeg Free Press that begins with the following paragraph:
Accumulating statistics show today’s mollycoddled kids prefer the comforting velvet-cushion homespun pampering of the parental home to the cold realities of independent living. Life on a silver platter sharing the parental home is the option of choice for young people facing uncertain economic times.
I think the author has some negative feelings about adult children living at home! The truth is, some adult children living at home ARE mollycoddled. They live at home with no expectation of contributing to the cost of their stay there, they come and go as they please with no responsibilities, are fed and clothed, and may even have their laundry done for them. Sure, this is life on a silver platter. But it’s also not the only way.
If an adult child moves home for a defined period of time to allow him or her to achieve a specific goal (find a job, pay off debt, complete school, etc.), contributes financially to the household, and behaves according to the parents’ expectations in the home, it provides that young adult a huge advantage in what has become a very financially challenging world without creating ongoing dependency or mollycoddling. The key is to set a timeline for the stay and expectations for behavior and contributions (financial or otherwise), and to expect the adult child to take care of his or her own household responsibilities (keeping things clean, making meals, and so on). When the stay is managed intelligently, it can actually be a positive for both adult children (who get obvious financial and emotional benefits) and parents, who get to know their children as adults in a way we often don’t make time for in our culture.
Last week, I was a guest on CTV News Network’s Pattie Lovett-Reid Show (a nation-wide Canadian broadcast). Pattie and I talked about how parents can help adult kids achieve financial independence and avoid become the dreaded Bank of Mom and Dad… forever! Here are a couple of shots of my appearance on the show.