For the first time since the Great Depression, the majority (52%) of adult children have moved in with family members, according to a 2020 survey by the Pew Research Center. Other adult kids come home for the holidays or during a summer break. And there’s a third group of adult kids who never left home after graduating.
Having a young adult in the house can be stressful for both parties. They know that you have rules that apply to everyone who lives there. But at the same time, you’re now dealing with grownups who have the right to make their own decisions.
So, you do you balance the two? Keep reading for several tips on how to set appropriate guidelines.
Since your son or daughter is an adult, it’s important to respect their right to privacy. To that extent, you should treat them the same way you would treat an adult visiting your home. For example, you need to knock on their bedroom door (and wait for a response) before entering. You should not be snooping in their bedrooms or going through their belongings (unless you suspect they’re doing drugs or engaging in some other type of behavior that requires an intervention).
Also, you also shouldn’t be reading their mail just because it’s being delivered to your home.
Let them opt out
Many of your family rituals may no longer apply to your adult kids. For example, if you’re cooking, you can tell them that dinner is ready at 5pm, but don’t require them to be at the dinner table at that time. If they prefer to warm up their food at 8pm, or eat in their room (unless you have strict rules against anyone eating in bedrooms), they have the right to choose when and where they want to eat.
They can also decide to skip family meals in lieu of eating out with friends. However, if you’re in the habit of cooking family meals, they should let you know in advance so you won’t include them in your meal count. Of course, the food can always be placed in the fridge and they can eat it later.
Also, since your kids are now adults, they should not be expected to attend religious services and social functions with you if they prefer to sleep in, or accompany you to grandma’s birthday party if they would rather not go.
Up all night/out all night?
You do have the right to set guidelines regarding what type of activity can occur in your home and when. For example, you can decide that all visitors must leave by midnight, or you may decide to let the boyfriend/girlfriend spend the night.
You can also set rules to cover whether your adult kids and their friends can drink alcohol, or smoke cigarettes or marijuana on your property or not. And you can forbid some of their unsavory friends from coming to your home.
However, you should not dictate what time your adult child should come home. If arriving in the wee morning hours is going to disrupt your sleep patterns, consider other solutions. For example, maybe they can crash on the sofa in the living or family room instead of coming up those creaky steps and walking past your bedroom door.
Also, while you should respect your adult kid’s right to stay out all night if they choose to, it would be nice if they let you know (and a text message is fine – and no, you don’t need to know why) they’re going to be late so you won’t be sitting up worried that something has happened to them.
Something else you may need to consider is how you will handle vacations. Will you still pay for your adult kid or expect them to pay their own way? If you let them stay at home while you’re gone, you may need to set additional guidelines to determine who can come over in your absence, whether parties are permitted, etc.
If your kids are staying longer than the summer or the holidays, you can ask them to contribute to the household’s expenses. Certainly, this wouldn’t come close to what that they would pay in rent. However, if $50 to $100 a week wouldn’t be a significant burden on them, this money can be used to offset the costs of groceries and utilities, and it will also help them get in the habit of paying bills.
I know one couple who collects this money from their young adult son and puts it in a secret account for him.
Some adult kids are financially stable, but they’re living at home to save money. These individuals can afford to pay a flat rate to help cover the mortgage, utilities, etc., and should be expected to chip in with household expenses.
However, if it would truly put a strain on your adult child to pay you anything, I strongly advise against taking this route. Your home should always be a place of refuge for them, and that strain could push them to go live with those unsavory friends you wish they wouldn’t hang out with.
You also have the right to assign chores to your kids. They can cut the grass, wash dishes, and do the laundry. You can also ask them to stop by the grocery store to pick up items, and if they’re handy in the kitchen, it’s not unreasonable to ask them to prepare meals every now and then. And of course, they should pick up and clean up after themselves.
Your young adult’s future plans should also be discussed so you’ll be in agreement. For example, if they’re looking for a job, are you okay with them sleeping in until noon? This isn’t a big issue for kids coming home for the holidays, and shouldn’t be a major problem for those home for the summer – as long as they complete their chores in a timely manner.
However, for adult kids who are living with you indefinitely, you have the right to ask about their future plans and provide some ground rules to ensure they’re not slacking off all day. This doesn’t mean they need to give you a status report every day – and inquiring on a routine basis can exacerbate the stress they may already be feeling. Also, keep in mind that they may be up all night submitting applications online, and that’s why they’re sleeping late during the day.
However, it is important to communicate your expectations that they should indeed be actively looking for a job.
The bottom line
Having your adult kid at home can be stressful. However, by setting reasonable guidelines, and showing mutual respect, it could also lead to a strong relationship – or at least keep you from pulling your hair out.