November 16, 2009

Christina Newberry
Phone: 778-232-1584

Keeping the Peace when Adult Children Come Home for the Holidays

VANCOUVER, BC — Adult children home for the holidays may feel that, since they are adults who no longer live with you full-time, they should be treated as guests, without any rules or restrictions for their behavior or their comings and goings. But Christina Newberry, author of The Hands-On Guide to Surviving Adult Children Living at Home, says that adult children are nothing like other houseguests.

“The relationship between parents and children will always be a parent-kid relationship, with all that that entails, no matter how old the child is,” Newberry says. “An adult child visiting for Thanksgiving or Christmas may expect that you’re going to do their laundry and cook their meals, whereas you may expect that you’ll finally get a break from cooking every night because your adult child will be around to help out. If you don’t talk about this beforehand, you’ll both end up disappointed, resentful, and angry.”

The most important thing you can do is talk about what the living situation will be like before the adult child is home for any length of time, and make sure you all agree about what’s acceptable, and what works for everyone. A written agreement can be an excellent way to make sure you cover all the issues and everyone is on the same page.

Newberry recommends that all families with adult children returning home from college for the holidays agree upon guidelines for:

– Household rules, including swearing, late nights, and noise: Remember that your college kid has been dealing with 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 a long weekend, this probably isn’t an issue. But if they’re home for three months, who’s going to pay for the extra groceries they consume and the electricity they use? What about long-distance calls they make keeping up with college friends?

– Fair use of shared resources: Make sure you all agree on appropriate use of the family computer and TV. You don’t want to have battles over the remote just as someone’s favorite show is about to begin. And be very clear about any guidelines for using (and gassing up!) the family car.

– The thorny issue of overnight guests: Whether you like it or not, your kid’s probably been having sleepovers with his girlfriend while at school. Can he have her stay over in his room at your home?

– Privacy rules for both you and your adult children: These rules will be different than they were when you kid lived at home full-time. You should agree to stay out of her room and her mail, and she should agree to stay out of yours.

– Which chores your grown kids will be responsible for: A Thanksgiving weekend or Christmas break 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.

Resources and tips for setting up an agreement with adult kids for their breaks at home are available at


Christina Newberry is the author of The Hands-on Guide to Surviving Adult Children Living at Home. For more detailed communication strategies that can help you establish a healthy home base for your adult children’s college breaks, along with a customizable “Under one Roof” agreement template and household budget calculator, visit her website at