What happens when grown children return home to live?

Kenneth Christian, MS, LCSW is an adult psychotherapist at the Aurora Behavioral Health Center.

Unlike any time we have seen in recent history, grown children are returning home to live with their parents.

A new study by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that males living at home increased to 19% from 14%, and the number of young women returning to the nest rose to 10% from 8% in the last six years. Unemployment at 9%, a weak labor market, fear about the economy, or just a desire to save money are all contributing to this trend.

This can create tension among parents and children alike who are accustomed to living independently. Ken Christian, LCSW, therapist for Aurora Behavioral Health Services offers his advice:

From a parent’s perspective, there are a number of things to keep in mind to help with the transition.

  • Flexibility:  Give them space, they will have different ideas about curfews, habits, etc.  Give them options, within reason.  You no longer should be expected to pick up after them (if that was ever the case).
  • Patience:  Issues will come up.  Stop and think before jumping in with knee-jerk reaction.  They are used to having more independence and won’t want to give that up. . . setting the state quickly for conflict.
  • Understanding:  Their priorities have changed.  Don’t assume it will be the same as when they were in high school.
  • Limits:  Basics, common courtesy, kids may have acquired some values (while gone) different from what you taught them, however when under your roof your values still prevail.  If they don’t have a curfew that doesn’t mean they can stumble in noisily at 3:00 a.m.
  • Your choices:  There has been much discussion over whether or not to charge a grown child rent.  This depends on circumstances, both theirs and yours.  If the purpose of living at home is saving money for a legitimate purpose, such as buying a house or saving for school, rent might be ignored.  But if there is no specific goal or plan and the grown child is working, then rent lets them know they are adults and expected to pay their own way.  By the way, paying rent does not give them the right to overlook your values or your rules.
  • Opportunity:  For you to continue to set examples which were on some levels overlooked when the kids were younger.
  • Give options and examples:  as opposed to using language like “You need to.”  Give them the benefit of your years of experience without dictating to them.  What seemed natural in grade school will no longer work; only irritate and stir up friction.
  • Speak positively about goals/potential goals.  If they’ve moved back in as an adult there’s a good chance their plans aren’t working out as they may have planned.  This creates tension and uncertainty in their life and the last they thing they need is any kind of ?message that they may in some way have failed or are not measuring up.  It’s called giving unconditional love, not to be confused with “You are an adult so I don’t have any right to tell you what to do.”

Be firm in a caring way—try to refrain from giving ultimatums!

Aurora Behavioral Health Services offers complete mental health treatment options, provided by highly trained professionals in a caring, confidential manner to meet individual and family needs.  If you or someone you know needs help, contact us — online or by phone at 1-877-666-7223 — as soon as possible.


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