According to the latest US Census Bureau, there are more than 22 million adult children living with their parents. This may be due to economic factors, such as the cost of housing and the challenging job market, cultural factors, such as changes in the average age that people are getting married, or developmental and medical factors. Regardless of the reason, parenting adult children raises unique challenges for which many parents are unprepared; issues such as discipline, rules, and consequences become especially challenging when your twenty and thirty-plus child lives at home.
Four guiding issues—the four “C’s”—will be important to consider. Communication of expectations will be particularly important, including chores, curfews, rent, and other household rules (e.g. are guests permitted overnight?). Be up front about what your expectations are so that there is little room for confusion later. Compromise will also be important; it is rare that adults with different wants, needs, and goals can live together without some compromise. Decide with your spouse what is negotiable and what is not so that you are clear about what is negotiable. Consequences will no doubt look different than they did when the kids were small but will still be necessary at times. Are there things that will not be tolerated and will result in your child needing to make alternative arrangements? Will rides not be offered if certain rules are violated? Lastly, as parents it will continue to be important to Create Motivation by discussing goals with your child (savings acquired, job attendance). It can be helpful, yet intimidating, to set a target date for when the child is expected to have a separate residence.
We all want what is best for our children and, sometimes, it can be challenging to distinguish between nurturing our children—which never ends—and catering to our children. Ultimately, one of our major goals as parents is to help our children to make it on their own. That will continue to be important even if they are adults and are living with you.
Linda Cohn-Rosenberg, LICSW