It was a pleasure to appear this morning on the Global BC Morning News to talk about how to deal with adult children living at home. You can watch the entire segment below.
A reporter is looking to speak with a parent or parents of boomerang kids to find out how they have made things work, financially and otherwise, for an article in an ongoing retirement series in a major Canadian daily newspaper.
The reporter will need to use your real name, but there is no need to get into detail about financial numbers – just a sense of what agreements were in place, if any, and how you handled it more generally. [Note: I recommend you ALWAYS put an agreement in place – in writing! But the reporter would be happy to speak with you whether or not you did so.]
If you’re interested in sharing your experience, please email the reporter directly at email@example.com.
New research by MetLife shows that 25% of adults over 50 have children aged 18 or older living at home. Here are some of the other findings from the report:
- 43% of adults living at home pay absolutely no rent and do not contribute financially to the household in any way
- Parents are spending about 3,700 pounds a year (about $6,000) to feed and house their adult children living at home
- 21% of parents lend money to adult children (an average of 2,600 pounds, or $4,200) even after they leave home
I’m a huge advocate for adult children making a financial contribution to the household when they live at home (I explain why in this video), so it’s troublesome to see once again that so many parents have adult children living at home absolutely rent-free.
If you know a family with adult children planning to move home in the new year, or where adult children are already living at home (and maybe things aren’t going as smoothly as everyone had hoped), you might be thinking about holiday gifts that could help return peace to the household. Since you’re reading this post, you may even have thought about giving a copy of The Hands-On Guide to Surviving Adult Children Living at Home.
You may also be feeling some hesitation, unsure how your friends or loved ones will react to the gift. Will they appreciate it? Or will it get their hackles up if you suggest they may need some help?
What I can tell you is that families who have implemented the advice in my book — and used the family contract template that’s part of the package to create a clear plan for their adult children’s stay at home — say that they have better relationships with their adult children, both during their stay at home and after they leave. Some parents have even told me the book has saved their marriage. What better gift is there than that?
If you want something to wrap and put under the tree, you can get a paperback copy of the book from Amazon (in Canada, Amazon.ca). If you’ve left your gift shopping to the last minute, you can order the eBook for an instant last-minute gift. Both the eBook and the paperback come with the family contract template and a family budget calculator.
Happy holidays to you and yours!
If you have an adult child living in your home (or are expecting one to stay with you over the holidays while visiting) the key thing you can do is sit down and talk about what the living situation will be, before your grown son or daughter comes in the door — or soon afterwards.
You need to make sure you all agree about what’s acceptable, and a written agreement can be an great way to make sure you cover all the issues and everyone is on the same page.
After all, the relationship between parents and their children is always a parent-kid relationship, with all that that entails, no matter how old the child is or how long they’ve been on their own.
Here are some issues that should be part of the conversation, to ensure peace and goodwill in your home this Christmas:
– Household rules, including swearing, late nights, and noise: Especially if your kids are coming home from college and is used to college-style language, music, and hours. Talk about what you’re comfortable with, and what you’re not.
– Who covers additional expenses: If your adult kid is just home for the holidays, this probably isn’t an issue. But if they’re home for a month or more, who’s going to pay for the extra groceries they consume and the electricity they use? Remember that food bills especially can pile up over the holidays.
– Which chores your grown kids will be responsible for: A Christmas break with no help from your adult kids could leave you fuming. Make sure you agree on what’s expected beforehand so your kid doesn’t feel imposed upon, and you don’t feel resentful.
For more tips on keeping the peace — at any time of year — check our my 115-page eBook, contract template, and household expense calculator, all for only
USD $27.97 now just $19.97 for the holidays for a limited time!
Daisy Goodwin, a writer for the UK paper the Daily Mail, recently wrote about her experience living with her adult daughter, Ottilie, who has recently moved home. And I have to say, Daisy is doing it all wrong. Her 22-year-old daughter is walking all over her and making her miserable in her own home. Here’s what she should be doing differently:
- “Even before Ottilie moved in, an email arrived laying down her rules: ‘I am not a dogwalker,’ she stressed, putting paid to my hopes of an extra pair of hands to help with my daily chores.”
I’m sorry, but Ottilie does not get to lay down these kinds of rules. She is an able-bodied adult living in her parents’ home completely rent-free. She absolutely should be a dogwalker – she just needs her mother to work up the nerve to tell her so. And she should be helping with the other chores, too.
- “And the day after: ‘I think I will need a bigger bed, the one I have at the moment is for a child.’”
I know it is hard on an adult child’s self-esteem to sleep in a single bed. This is exactly what I did when I moved back in with my parents when I was going through a divorce. It was a difficult symbol to deal with, as it so clearly meant I was not operating in grown-up territory. But it would have been outrageous for me to ask may parents to buy new furniture to accommodate me, and it is outrageous that Daisy did exactly that for her daughter. An adult is absolutely capable of sleeping in a single bed!
“Then there is the matter of the family car. Every time we go out as a four, there is a moment when, instead of us both automatically climbing into our allotted seats — me in the front and her in the back — we pause. ‘Do you mind?’ I ask. She never objects, but I can see it is only a matter of time before she is asking me whether I mind going in the back with the dog.”
She may ask, but I sincerely hope Daisy never says yes, unless Ottilie is offering to help share the driving on a long trip.
- “God, the mess. I am not a fanatically tidy person by any means, but my daughter is the sort of person who leaves a trail everywhere she goes. You can tell a child to tidy up their stuff but when that child is an adult it is rather different.”
It is absolutely no different when that adult is living in your home. If your adult child wants to keep her own room as a pigsty, bite your lip and just make sure she closes the door. But the rest of the house needs to be comfortable for everyone. This is why I make the distinction between house rules – which parents can and should enforce with their adult children – and life rules, which are a no-no. The short version is that rules for how adult children behave in the parents’ home are completely fair game. When they’re away from home, even if they live with you, they are adults and should be left to their own devices. With the following exception…
- “Adults should be allowed to come and go as they please but, when you are lying awake at 3am straining to hear a key turn in the lock, it’s hard to remember that.”
There is no reason an adult child can’t let you know when to expect them home. I’m not a fan of curfews, but I am a BIG fan of respecting the people you live with, and not causing them to worry about you.
“Unlike, say, a paying lodger — and no, we are not charging Ottilie rent — no room in the house is sacrosanct, and despite having a perfectly nice room of her own (with a new bigger bed, as requested), she likes nothing better than to spread out on my bed, leaving a spoor of paperbacks and soya-milk cappuccinos in her wake.”
I just cannot understand why Daisy allows this. One of the most important factors when adults live together is that everyone has their own space. Those boundaries need to be established and respected. I cannot imagine ever having behaved in this way, even as a petulant teenager. To do so as an adult is inexcusable, and Daisy needs to tell Ottilie that.
This post has gone on long enough, so I’ll end it there. But parents, please, remember that your home is your home. When your adult children move back in, you need to establish boundaries and outline your expectations so that everyone can live happily together.
Canadian families: A TV production company in Vancouver, BC is looking to hear from you. If you’re interested in being on TV, or just sharing your situation, you can get in contact with them at the email address below. Here’s the scoop:
A Vancouver, Canada production company wants to hear from Canadian parents of 20-something adults who have moved back home and are causing stress. They might be failing to pay rent or other expenses or do their share of the housework, not looking for work, making their parents uncomfortable by bringing home friends or partners, relying on their parents for free childcare, stealing, or dealing with substance abuse issues. All stories and names will be kept completely confidential. If interested, please send an email with a paragraph or two describing your situation to firstname.lastname@example.org. There is a potential for some assistance, financial or otherwise, to be offered at some point down the road in exchange for willingness to participate in this documentary-style TV series, but a response to this callout in no way obligates the respondent to participate.
This weekend, Globe and Mail columnist Elizabeth Renzetti wrote a piece about how both parents and adult children can benefit when adult kids live at home. She said:
“It’s seen as a terrible failure that 36 per cent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 31 still live at home, the highest figure in 40 years. But when Pew Research asked them how they felt about living in the basement, 78 per cent said they were happy chez mom and dad. Interestingly, their parents were happy too: The ones who had adult kids at home were just as satisfied as those who didn’t… And look what parents get in return: companionship, affection and an antidote to loneliness, which is the true killer these days.”
It’s true that when families plan ahead, have open communication, and all get on the same page about the expectations for the adult child’s stay at home, there can be benefits for both generations. The benefits for the adult children are obvious: parents provide ongoing support, both financial and emotional.
And parents do get the companionship and affection Renzetti refers to. Even more important, they get a chance to really get to know their children as adults. The fact is that in most modern Western societies, we don’t make a lot of time for our parents once we are no longer under their roofs. Spending some time living together as adults changes the nature of the relationship between parents and their adult children, often with lasting results. Both generations get a chance to see each other as adults with real goals, dreams, and insights. Having the time to make those discoveries can be precious.
Of course, it’s not always so wonderful. If parents and kids have different expectations about anything from who does the laundry to how much the adult child should contribute financially, there’s the potential for lasting effects on the relationship that lean toward disastrous rather than delightful. Real, open, honest communication is the most important factor in just about any relationship, and that’s especially true for parents and adult children who live together.
So much of the stress in our lives is caused by relationship challenges that we either have not acknowledged to ourselves, or that we have not acknowledged to others. This is true for all relationships, whether it’s with a spouse, a friend, an aging parent, or an adult child. We fall into the trap of expecting others to read our minds, or believing that everyone has the same expectations we do. This leads to huge amounts of underlying frustration, resentment, and stress that seep into all areas of our lives.
The worst part is that when we’re frustrated, angry, and resentful, we assume the worst of the people in our lives, rather than the best. That means when a challenge arises that we actually recognize as stressful, we are disinclined to give people the benefit of the doubt. We start to believe they are stressing us out on purpose, which escalates our frustration and resentment even further, so it’s a tough cycle to get out of!
The most important way to eliminate the hidden stress in any relationship is open communication. We really do need to tell people how we feel, and address minor snags in relationships before they blow up into huge problems that become so common we don’t even recognize they’re there – even though they cause us stress daily. The challenge is that we don’t necessarily know how to have those tough conversations. That’s why one of the most rewarding messages I get from families who have used my book as a guide is that it helped them get those tough conversations started – and make them productive. I’ve had stressed-out parents (and step-parents) tell me the book has saved their marriages, since they’re finally able to really talk about how they’re feeling, and start building an atmosphere of open communication.
May this new year bring you a new lease on all the difficult relationships in your life. Remember: Honesty may be difficult, but if you are clear, level-headed, fair, and reasonable, your openness will clear the path for much less stressful relationships all year long.
All the best to you and your family in 2014!
Here’s a strange little video from the Wall Street Journal, titled “Living With Parents Can Lead to Financial Independence.”
Gosh, I hope so! “Can” is a troubling word here that implies sometimes adult kids do not become financially independent after living at home. Remember, once your children are adults, the main goal of any stay at home should be to get them to the stage where they don’t need you anymore — that is, to get them to financial independence.
In any case, it’s peculiar in that there seems to be just one example of a woman (in her 30s, so I’m not sure she’s a “girl,” which is what the guest calls her) who happened to avoid being personally hit by the housing crisis of 2008 because she was living with her parents at the time. There’s no actual information about how living with your parents could be seen as financially empowering, which is what the title seems to promise. It would be more accurate to title this video “Living with your parents will save you money.” But this is obvious, no?
One final thing before I actually show you the video. The jokey way these two men chat about the idea of living at home troubles me a bit. Essentially they seem to be saying, Ah, well, as log as you’re all buddies, it will work out just fine. I’d suggest this is the kind of attitude that leads families to end up in situations of conflict. Planning (a timeline and expectations for the stay at home) and budgeting are both hugely important to making the situation work.
Anyway, here’s the video. What do you think? (Note: There’s a 15-second ad before the video starts.)