A Parent’s Guide to Living with Adult Children

By on March 5, 2012

By Amandah Tayler Blackwell –

What happens when adult children and their family (pets too) move back home because of divorce, separation, health issues, or job loss? How do you handle the strain of them moving back home? I conducted and Q&A with a couple of experts. Below are tips to help you live with your adult children.

How to Cope When Adult Children Move Back Home

Setting ground rules and deadline to move out

According to Michael Harmann, MSW, “The answer to this question depends on the circumstances and person. Is there an addiction issue? Does the adult child have a history of being dishonest, inconsiderate? How much will the adult child’s return impact the parent’s lives? There are so many relevant variables that affect this important part of the process. Regardless of the adult child’s specific issues, we must learn how to survive and take full responsibility for ourselves. The regression of moving home indicates that the functioning of the adult child has diminished to a point where parents are faced with the tough decision to step in and make up the difference or not.”

Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, Ed.S., LMFT says, “It’s so important to begin right at the beginning, which is actually even before an adult child moves back home. Have talks; a meeting might sound too formal, but you do want to be formal about the boundaries. A deadline should definitely be discussed in terms of you understanding what your child might have in mind. This is a question to be directly asked so that you can judge the situation.”

Parents must establish and set ground rules before adult children move home. Otherwise, the living situation will become uncomfortable for everyone in the home.

How do you avoid becoming a permanent babysitter for your grandchildren?

Neale Godfrey tells parents, “Be honest about what you’re willing to do and how long you think you can fill-in. If you are not sure, again be honest and say that you will do this for 2 weeks and check back to see how it is going.”

Michael encourages parents to speak up and say, “I’m not watching your kids today. I have a life! Why do you feel so comfortable making your children my responsibility?” He also believes “grandparents are a gift to children because they have the same level of love for the child but less attachment to what the child does or does not do.”

The bottom line is that grandparents have their own lives and shouldn’t be expected to put their lives on hold because their adult children are at a crossroads. Adult children shouldn’t assume their parents will be more than happy to watch their kids. After all, they still have a life.

Finding support

According to Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, Ed.S., LMFT “Support can be found in self-help books, a counselor or therapist, and importantly with your husband (you two need to be a team on this) or others already living in your home.”

Michael Harmann, MSW, says, “I suggest that parents’ in this situation seek out a therapist that they can see together for the purposes to processing their needs as individuals and as a couple. Many fights can arise from dissent surrounding disagreement with the right move for “our kid.” Blame get thrown around, fingers pointed. Parents are wise to move toward forgiving themselves for the mistake they believe they have made in the past that contribute to the adult child’s current predicament and dysfunction.

Support is all around you. Confide in close family and friends and seek counseling if you must. Don’t think you can handle this situation alone because it could be more stressful than you realize.

How to have the “It’s time to move out” talk

“The topic or conclusion shouldn’t be a surprise, especially if there’s been an appropriate amount of communication and boundary setting,” Michael Harmann, MSW.

“Discuss honestly your needs, financial, emotional and otherwise. Express your empathy and understanding about their situation. Ask how you might be helpful now in other ways. Maybe you will have a short list of possibilities to offer up,” Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, Ed.S., LMFT.

Neale Godfrey says, “You must set the parameters as soon as they move in. You have a right to know their plans. Explain that it may be an economic burden, or even an emotional situation that you didn’t count on. Just tell them that you love them, but you (and they) were not counting on this—let’s work it out!”

Recap

  • Set and enforce ground rules.
  • Join a support group.
  • Create a contract which outlines information such as the splitting of household expenses, estimated move out date, etc.
  • Ask your accountant if you can ‘claim’ head-of-household if your adult children have been living at home for one year or more.

About the experts

Michael Harmann, MSW (Graduate of Columbia University), is a behavioral consultant and works with parents and kids of all ages as well as “Failure to Launch” type clients. He’s based in Weston, Connecticut and offers services nationwide. Visit www.adolescentbehavioralconsulting.com to learn more about Michael.

Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, Ed.S., LMFT, is a marriage and family therapist/consultant in Westchester, NY, who has been in private practice for over twenty years. She is the author of A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage and Sheltering Thoughts About Loss and Grief. She can be contacted through her website, www.ashortguidetoahappymarriage.com.

For over 30 years, Neale Godfrey has been a recognized expert on family and children’s finances, appearing on Oprah Winfrey, The Today Show, Fox Business, CNN, and The Nightly Business Report (PBS). Recently, Neale has been recognized by Garden State Woman with their Financial Literacy Award. Visit http://www.childrensfinancialnetwork.com/ to learn more about Ms. Godfrey and her work.

Amandah Tayler Blackwell is a freelance and ghost writer for industries such as travel, magazine publishing, real estate, the arts & entertainment, pets, and more. She’s passionate about traveling, art, writing, staying fit, and advocating for animals, children, and the environment. Her website: http://savvy-writer.com/.

About Amandah Tayler Blackwell

Amandah Tayler Blackwell is a freelance and ghost writer for industries such as travel, magazine publishing, real estate, the arts & entertainment, pets, and more. She’s passionate about traveling, art, writing, staying fit, and advocating for animals, children, and the environment. Her website: http://savvy-writer.com/.

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A Parent’s Guide to Living with Adult Children