It’s no secret that family life in the U. S. looks very different than it did 20 or more years ago. One aspect in particular that has steadily changed is the increased age that grown children live at home before moving out. One research study (Pew Research Center) found that the number of adults between the ages of 18 and 31 living at home rose to 36% in 2012—the highest percentage in four decades. Some of the reasons cited for the increase include children having higher student loan debt and less savings, children taking longer to find jobs in their field of study, and even children enjoying the standard of living their parents are able to provide. Whatever the reasons, having grown children living at home longer comes with challenges, and it may not always be the best for everyone. Nonetheless, if adult children understand their parents’ expectations in advance, and if parents have good boundaries and understand their changing roles, having adult children living at home can be a good experience for everyone.
It goes without saying that having adult children living at home is much different than having young children or teens. Adult children understandably want to be treated as adults; and while parents know logically that they are adults, making that transition to treating them like adults can be difficult. In raising children, parents have to be very hands on and involved. However once their children near the end of high school, the transition begins from being a “supervisor” to a “consultant.” When parents have trouble making this transition, there is usually some resentment on the part of the child. Additionally, parents are sometimes guilty of doing things for their adult children that they shouldn’t, such as washing their laundry and cleaning their rooms. When parents do too much, the result is often an “entitled” attitude on the adult child’s part. Afterward, a cycle of resentment and anger occur because neither understands their new roles and responsibilities. Adult children need to remember that they can’t “have it both ways,” meaning they need to behave as responsible adults if they expect to be treated as such. Parents need to remember that, as much as they may enjoy having their adult child at home, a parent’s primary role is to prepare their children to live on their own. Likewise, adult children should understand that parents are owed respect because they are their parents, and because it is their home. There should usually be some inherent appreciation of parents for giving them an opportunity to prepare for living on their own. Adult children should also understand that if their living at home is causing too many problems, then it is best if the adult child finds their own place. Often parents and adult children’s relationships improve once the children move out and are on their own.
Overall, grown children living at home can work to the advantage of both adult child and parent. Some suggested steps for making the relationship work optimally are:
- Talk to your child before and after they become adults about expectations for living at home, including specific expectations about chores, financial contributions, and the length of time they will stay and what the plan is to move out on their own. Of course if this changes, the revised timeframe should be discussed.
- If your adult child shows a pattern of not following your guidelines or being disrespectful, have a non-threatening but frank conversation reminding them of your expectations. Listen to understand if they have legitimate challenges, but don’t allow them to become comfortable living in a way that they wouldn’t be allowed to in the real world.
- Lastly, the parent should stay mindful and make sure that whatever they are requiring of their adult child is leading to the ultimate goal of preparing them to be successful in their career as well as in their home life. A person who learns to live harmoniously with their parents in the parents’ home will gain valuable experience when they have to live with others in future living situations.
If you are an adult child living at home or the parent of one and need assistance in this area, an experienced counselor at our practice can assist you.