Harmony at Home: Living with Children who Have Grown Up

family at the porch

More young adults were beginning to return to their parental homes than ever before when the pandemic hit. Now, with people losing their jobs and the infrastructure of the governments of the world straining to respond to the crisis, it is even harder to find the work and support to live independently. As a parent, you know that you are ready to do whatever it takes to help your children succeed.  

But as a parent of an adult child, the dynamic has changed a great deal. The old rules no longer apply. You must work with your children to find a way to live in harmony that works for everyone. A large part of that is first ensuring that you have the space and capacity to take them in. If your home cannot accommodate them, it will cause more problems than good to invite them back.  

Modify your home where you can and within your means to make the living spaces more comfortable for everyone. Finish the basement and turn it into a separate apartment to give your children space. Install a new chilled water buffer tank to ensure everyone has enough hot water. Sit down with your children and work out a financial dynamic that will not put too much pressure on them or leave you with the entire bill.        

Establish Ownership  

Whether your children are returning to live in their old childhood home or the house you purchased after they left home, make it clear that they are guests and this home is yours. If they cannot accept that, then they are not mature enough to be house guests.  

They need to understand that your willingness to take them in is due to their love for you, but you are not obligated to allow them a return to a second childhood. They were raised to fend for themselves, and this is a temporary stop on their journey to help them get back on their feet. Your children need to accept this and show clear proof that they understand this before you allow them to take up residence.  

Set Respectful Rules  

Once they agree to live as adult guests within your home, sit down with them to work out the rules. Tell them that you do not expect them to follow every rule you had for them when they were children. Similarly, they cannot expect you to be okay with the same lifestyle they would share with same-age roommates.  

Discuss everything relevant to your situation. How much will they contribute to household expenses? How much will they pay in rent? What is the best schedule for working out chores? How will everyone share living space? Can their partner visit and stay the night? Can their partner move in? Write it all down and sign an agreement about these rules. It may sound strict, but clearly set boundaries are the best way to guarantee that everyone feels heard and respected within the household.  

family lying on the ground

Compromise Without Manipulation  

Compromise where you are willing but do not allow them to get emotional. If you agree to things out of guilt, then you know this arrangement will not work out. It is better to offer them a set amount of money to help them find an apartment.  

Your children need to have realistic expectations and must not think of you as an infinite resource. Without practicality and compromise on both sides, living together could severely damage your relationship with your children.  

Negotiate Shared Spaces  

Right now, with the pandemic, this might not seem like a big deal. But eventually, when it is possible for people to have friends over and plan parties, this will cause some tension if there are no clear rules about it.  

Young adults enjoy loud music and talking, and late nights. Older parents need quiet and sleep and sedate get-togethers. Put rules in place for how many times a month your children can have friends over and a curfew for when the gathering needs to end. Pick out dates for these events together so that you can also schedule times for your friends to visit. This can help both parties to get their socializing done without getting in each other’s way.

It is a good idea to get some family counseling to help you and your children find a good dynamic for living together. In the same way it is difficult for parents to not see their children as needing constant guidance, it is difficult for adult children not to see their parents as constant providers. Discuss this viewpoint with a counselor and set it aside before considering living together. Otherwise, it can cause tensions in many ways.  

Take food, for example. Food bills for a household with adults can be costly. Therefore, there’s a need for rules for food and drinks for the family and a different set of rules for food and drinks during parties. If your adult child wants to have a gathering, they need to provide for their guests out of their own pocket. Family groceries are not theirs to share with others. This is simply respectful of the shared living situation. This is just one example of how an innocuous situation can be stressful. Counseling can help you and your children to navigate these situations calmly.

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