How to deal with adult children living at home

With nearly 3.8 million families sharing a household with their adult children, according to Census 2021, this generation of parents need some new strategies on how to deal with adult children living at home. In fact, these statistics mean that 1 in 5 families live with their adult children.

What’s more, the London School of Economics released a study in 2018 that has claimed that the current generation of parents is ending up ‘more miserable’ because of this.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out why we’ve got this ‘boomerang generation’. Increasingly high barriers to entry for the housing market mean that often there’s not much choice in the matter. Additionally, the pandemic and the cost of living crisis may have added to renting or buying difficulties for young adults. However, this doesn’t mitigate its impact. So how can we deal with adult children living at home, so that there’s peace in the nest for everyone until the fledgling can truly fly?

How to deal with adult children living at home?

1. Don’t let it just happen:

In reality, it will likely ‘just happen’. There won’t necessarily be much conscious thought and there isn’t always an actual moving date. Just one day, they are there more than the last. Rather than simply accepting this, realise you need to all sit down and assess how this is going to work in practice. It’s not the same as a university holiday, and the boundaries need changing. It’s when you drift back into old ways that things get tricky. So sit down, and figure out the necessities, such as their responsibilities they’ll have while living at home, and if you need a plan to help them back on their feet so that they can move out again.

2. Take it to the grown-up level:

If you want to prevent too much locking of horns, then you need to drive the shift in your relationship from parent-of-teen to parent-of-adult. It’s distinctly different, and you’ll do better treating them more akin to an equal than a subordinate. You need to shake off the old parent-child dynamic, and with it assert healthy boundaries. Not barging into their room without permission will likely result in a better reaction when it comes to expecting them to do household chores as an adult. It all comes down to mutual respect.

3. Hold fire on the opinions unless asked:

It’s a different world for a young adult just starting out, and offering opinions without being asked is a sure fire way to underline the sense that you ‘just don’t get it’. You don’t need to know every detail of their life. They need to be able to make their own mistakes, while your role is to be the moral support. Of course, offer advice when it’s asked for and you might even find that you’re asked more often!

4. Build in opportunities for space:

Many adults under the same roof is a hugely different experience to a gaggle of kids. You all need mental and physical space. Encourage weekends away, and take some yourself. Have zones in the house that are no go for the opposite party, even if this is just the bedrooms. Respect their privacy when they have guests over, and expect them to respect yours.

5. Take advantage of the benefits:

It can help you feel less of an imposition if you give some thought to how you are benefiting from the arrangement. Does this mean that you have someone else willing to take the dog for a walk, fixing that computer glitch, or a more able body for helping get stuff out of the loft? Think of your adult child in terms of what they are bringing to the table, which you wouldn’t have if they didn’t live with you.

6. Don’t shy away from the M word:

Money. The issue is going to come up eventually and it’s best to be upfront about it. Adult children often boomerang back precisely because they need to save, to stand any chance of moving out. This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t contribute. Different families will have different perspectives here and many ask themselves: should I charge my child board or rent? Even if you don’t want to keep hold of the rent, charging it and stashing it away for a house deposit not only builds the nest-egg, it also gets them in the habit of spending the bulk of their wage on accommodation and teaches them an important financial lesson. If they really aren’t in a position to contribute financially, make it clear that their input will be required in other ways as a condition of living with you.

7. Communicate:

Whilst you shouldn’t expect to know the minutiae of your adult child’s comings and goings, communication is key to heading off many problems. Explain why you want to know if they will be home for dinner, but also expect them to shoulder some of the catering experience for the household too. Don’t wait up for them like a naughty teen, but do request that they drop you a text to let you know they are safe.

8. Enjoy it whilst you can:

It may feel like forever right now. You may have been glad this stage of your life was seemingly behind you and that’s why you’re resentful now. However, these problems stem from both parent and adult-child not moving the relationship on to a new dynamic. Instead, focus on the opportunity to build your relationship going forwards. Don’t blame them, or yourself, for the fact they’ve had to move back home. This generation is different and no one is to blame.

9. Re-evaluate:

From time to time look at how things are going and reflect on what’s working and what’s not. Be honest with each other and make adjustments to boundaries and expectations as time goes on.

Multi-generational living with the ‘boomerang generation’ isn’t plain-sailing. Put in the strategies above and it’ll be easier on you both in the long run. Mutual respect is at the upmost important when living with adult children and having regular discussions on how your child will move out is important so that you don’t all get stuck in a situation that you’d all rather not be in.