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Full House: Adult Children Coming Home

Almost 3 million adults moved in with a parent or grandparent during the months of March, April, and May 2020.1 A large percentage of them were college students returning home early because their campuses shut down, but many were young adults who had launched careers and were living on their own. Some returned because their family home was a safer place to quarantine, while others lost jobs or faced other economic hardships.

Although COVID-19 has created a unique situation, there was already a shift to living in the family home. In 2014, a third of young adults ages 18 to 34 were living with a parent, up from one out of five in 1960. And for the first time on record, dating back to 1880, the percentage of young adults living with a parent was higher than the percentage living with a spouse or partner in their own household.2

Having your adult child live with you can offer precious family time and new opportunities to get to know one another as you are today. But it can also be a challenge. Here are some ideas to help ensure a peaceful and productive living situation.

Treat your child like an adult. When an adult child returns to the family home, it’s easy to fall into old patterns and old roles. Both generations need to work to avoid this, but you can take a big step by treating your child respectfully, as you would with any other adult in your home.

Have a plan and a purpose. Discuss the reasons for moving back home and the time your child expects to stay. Is it until public health conditions improve? Until he or she finds a job? While completing education? Open-ended? You both may have to be flexible, but it helps to have a road map.

Agree on ground rules. Develop a plan for sharing chores, making meals, and buying groceries. Discuss schedules for work, sleep, and other activities, and respect the need for privacy and quiet time. Look for solutions together rather than dictating hard-and-fast rules.

Require some cost sharing. If your son or daughter is working, consider charging a low level of rent (especially if you are still paying a mortgage) and/or a portion of other household expenses. On the other hand, if your child is out of a job, paying off student debt, or saving for a specific goal such as a security deposit on an apartment or a down payment on a house or car, you might pay all housing expenses for a period of time. A working young adult who is on your mobile phone plan or covered by your medical insurance should pay an appropriate share of the monthly phone charges and out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Establish whether monetary help is a gift or a loan. Allowing your adult child to live with you is one thing, but paying his or her personal expenses is a different level of support. Depending on your child’s age and overall financial situation, you might make direct financial help a loan with a realistic repayment schedule.

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