How do you cope if your grown-up children come back home to live?
The kids have left home and you’re rattling around the house wondering what to do with yourself.
But what if, after finishing university, or returning from travelling around the world, they’ve decided to move back in?
Over the last 20 years the number of ‘boomerang children’ – those who fly the nest but return several years later – has soared, so that now more than a quarter of those aged 24-30 are still living with their parents.
Round here, of course, property prices are so high that it’s hardly surprising young people can’t afford to buy or rent their own place, hence cases of boomerang children are much higher in London and the south-east than anywhere else in the country.
But is it a problem, and how do you cope when your not-so-little ones come back to live in the family home?
For Susan Dobinson, mother of two grown-up children, a Humanist, Wedding, Funeral and Naming Celebrant from Berkhamsted, having her 28-year-old son living back at home meant they all had to make some adjustments.
‘David had lived and worked away for some years when he decided he didn’t enjoy the corporate world and wanted to retrain to be a primary school teacher,’ says Susan. ‘He was 25 and it meant a huge change for him, but we supported him.’
David moved back home and they had a brief conversation about how it would work. ‘It wasn’t enough,’ admits Susan. ‘There’s a lot to get used to, having another adult in the house. There was the untidiness and the noisiness for us, and the lack of privacy for all of us.
‘Finally, two months after he moved back in we sat down and laid down some proper ground rules. Now he helps around the house and in the garden, and walks the dogs. It works much better.
‘He’s dependent on us financially because he’s training, but the plan is for him to move out as soon as he can, once he’s finished. We’re very close but it was important for us all that we knew there was a time limit to it.’
The golden rules of living with your grown-up children
If your adult children want to move back home, you might be thrilled. But even if you’re looking forward to having them around again, it’s important to remember that they’re no longer children but independent adults, and that your relationship will be quite different this time around. Beth Parmar, a parent and child coach from Berkhamsted, offers some advice on how to make it work.
‘The most important thing is setting down the ground rules before they even set foot inside the house,’ she says. ‘If you don’t, no matter how close you are, it will end up causing resentment and tension, and nobody wants that.’
The key points are:
It’s essential to communicate how you’re feeling before resentment arises. If you’re fed up with dirty dishes lying around, you expect them to pay their fair share towards the household expenses, or want them to cook a meal at least once a week, tell them. Neither of you are mind readers and it’s easier to talk about it than to seethe.
Laying out ground rules before they move back is essential to avoid problems later. Sort out financial arrangements if need be – if you expect them to pay a percentage of their wage for their keep, then say so. If you want them to do certain jobs around the house, make it clear from the start. You might not cover everything, but if you keep the lines of communication open then other things can be discussed later.
Respect for each other
You’ve been used to having your own space and so have they, so it’s important to respect each other’s privacy and needs. If you have enough space maybe you could create a room just for them to use, especially if their friends come round, or give them a TV in their bedroom so they can have some time on their own. Make sure you don’t let their habits and ways of doing things get in the way of yours, but also ensure you’re not just sniping about it behind their back if they’re not doing as you’d expect.
Work out a long term goal
You don’t necessarily have to say, ‘When are you leaving?’ the minute they walk through the door, but it’s important to establish a goal for them moving back out as soon as you can. If their goal is to save a certain amount of money for a deposit, then help them work out a way of saving that money. If the end goal is a timescale one – for example they’ve gone back to college or want to move back for a year or so – make sure you don’t leave it open-ended. If you make it too comfortable for them to stay they’ll never leave – and never learn to stand on their own two feet.