Adult Children Moving Back Home: Too Much of a Good Deal


It always gets that bad ‘unlucky’ rap, even in these progressive days and times. There’s just no escaping it.

So it will be no surprise to parents, who thought they saw the backsides of their children when they sent them off a full-paid college experience, that 13% of parents with grown children now claim to have at least one back in the home with them (see Pew Research Center citation below).

And here’s a good one. About 52% of recent grads live with their parents, up from 40% reported in 2009 (see Monster’s 2010 Annual Entry-Level Job Outlook, quoted by Peter Vogt).

Since we’re having so much fun growing these numbers, here’s one for you: almost 60% of twenty-two-to-twenty-four-year olds are living at home. The way I understand statistics (which is not at all), that sounds to me like if you had 5 children between 22 and 24 (which isn’t that likely, now that I think about it), 3 of them would be living with you. [That’s what you get for having five kids in two years, I say.]

The truth behind these numbers is that many college graduates simply can’t find jobs that will support them in their own homes and allow them to build independent lives.


But there’s a fine line between moving back home to wait out the job market, and staying at home because it’s pretty great there. Even if you don’t mind your adult children living at home with you–and it’s a lovely thing if you don’t–it’s best for them  if they can achieve as much independence as possible in life, and that includes heading outside the four walls of their childhood.

However, there’s a distinct difference between not finding a job in the field you want, at the salary you want–and not finding a job at all.

My younger daughter got her master’s in education, and as time for graduation approached her career counselor informed her of the facts:

“You’re going to go in to a job interview and tell them: ‘I’m looking for a job in first grade. I love first grade. I’m an expert in early literacy. I did my student teaching in first grade. I think it’s adorable when kids lose their teeth. I’m a Dr. Seuss addict. I don’t mind when children pick their noses. I’ve always dreamed of teaching first grade. This is my calling.’

And they’re going to say back to you, ‘Well, we’ve got a job, teaching 7th grade science to behavior-disordered boys. It’s up to you.’

And you won’t even have time to inhale before you say: ‘When do I start?'”

Because if a person truly wants to work, they can almost always find something.

But let’s say that, for whatever reason, your child has come home to roost. For you and for your child, it’s best to set some expectations around this arrangement, with the end-goal of having your child live a more adult, independent life.

First, although this will be fluid, set a time-table you both agree upon. Realizing his days are numbered might light a fire under your child like no amount of nagging ever could. If this date has to be extended, make it a very finite extension, without possibility of further negotiation.

Be cautious of making home too ‘homey.’ Living with one’s parents shouldn’t be so great that a child never wants to leave.Rules you feel strongly about must be clarified and enforced. If your child can’t, in his twenties or thirties, keep his room clean of food, hang up his jacket, put back items he’s taken out, ask you before he has friends stay over, stay clean and sober and wake up at a reasonable hour, you may need to re-negotiate his staying.

Remember the days when you had a grocery list up on the fridge, and each kid got to write in his favorite foods that he wanted Mom to pick up from the store? Those days are over.

As are the days of your doing your child’s laundry. You can either make it a communal task, or your daughter can take over her own wash. [Does she need to throw her towel down he laundry chute after every shower? I mean, you get out of the shower clean, right?]

If your child would like to benefit from the maid’s time, she might either pay for that from earnings or by doing some other household chore.

Children should be responsible for some amount of food prep–and some amount of cleanup.

Make clear your expectations of your child.  In the posts “But What If?: Adult Children With Extenuating Circumstances” and”Adult Children With Extenuating Circumstances: Some Plan B’s” I offer a list of ways in which even disabled or temporarily disadvantaged adult children can contribute to the household, from errand-running to food prep to dog-walking to computer maintenance and more.

Well and able-bodied children are capable of even more extensive contributions, from financial ones (they can pay rent, to teach them about financial discipline, or can contribute something to the mortgage) to computer ones (they can run Dad’s website, they can keep the family’s finances on an Excel spreadsheet, they can set up and run computerized bill-paying programs for the family) to DIY ones (they can help re-model the basement, creating a living room for themselves and a rec room for the family; they can fix failing appliances, saving the expenditure on a handyman), to practical ones (they can drive mom to the bus stop every morning, they can take in the family cars to be serviced,

They can take on responsiblity for household pets, they can be in charge of their littlest sister after she gets home from school so they can deal with her spoiled tantrums).

And, finally, don’t protect your child’s savings at all costs. Whether from their bar mitzvah, their Sweet Sixteen, or some other occasion, many children have savings that parents are loathe to touch. But if your having your child is becoming a financial burden to you, or if dipping into those savings would enable your child to finally transition out of your home–well, that’s what the money is there for.

26% of parents have had to take on more debt to support their adult children, but older adults can afford the debt less than their offspring. Before you put yourself in hock, let your child spend some of his money contributing to the household or going solo–he has more time and years to make it up.

In short we need to return to the two main concepts involved in raising children of any age, but particularly when dealing with adult children who don’t seem to be moving on as quickly as we might hope–the concepts of “setting boundaries” and “just say no.”

If you can institute those two techniques, and follow the advice given here for establishing expectations, the time you have with your adult child at home might actually be a special and unexpected gift.

Or. . . .

at least it will be time-limited.



I help adults and adolescents through the particular struggles of our time: tension between couples, parenting frustration, blending new families, separation and divorce, (un)employment, cancer, and loss. When relationships come to an impasse, I use mediation techniques to try to ensure that each party will have his/her needs heard and accounted for in a dignified way. In addition to talking, listening, and reframing, I utilizes the tools of metaphor, active teaching, role-playing, visualization, and hypnotherapy.for families and businesses, as well as in cases of divorce.

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