New reality: Grown kids moving back home
When Sue Jenkins’ 35-year-old son moved back home, the Auburn, N.H., family sat down and established ground rules.
“We talked about how we lived our life, our routines and what we expected of him,” Jenkins says.
The Jenkins’ situation, in which a grown child is moving back home temporarily after a job loss, creates family and financial issues that an increasing number of American households are facing. More adults between the ages of 25 and 34 live with their parents now than in 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. For young men, the percentage has grown from 14 percent in 2005 to 19 percent in 2011. For women, the figure has risen from 8 percent to 10 percent in the last six years.
If you’re the parent of a grown kid who is moving back home, you may feel overwhelmed by the new living arrangement. Here, experts share ways to set financial parameters for when your adult child returns to the nest.
Begin a dialogue
Family meetings can help avoid misunderstandings, reduce tension and resentment, and set ground rules for behavior in the home, says Betty Frain, co-author of “Becoming a Wise Parent for Your Grown Child: How to Give Love and Support Without Meddling.”
Sit down with your adult child and set clear boundaries and expectations for the new living arrangement, Frain says. Think about financial factors such as paying rent, dividing utility bills and shopping for groceries. Also, consider who will do the cooking, and what, if any, hours will be set aside for quiet time.
Talk about guidelines for having friends over, alcohol use, playing music and how long the invitation to stay at home will remain open.
In the Jenkins’s case, the family set up a rule to call ahead if either party was going to come home late or not come home at all.
Ask your child for rent
Maintaining an additional adult in your household costs an average of $300 per month, says Robert Michon, manager of Foreclosure Resolution Center LLC in St. Charles, Mich.
If your child is able, have him or her contribute toward the rent or mortgage on your home, says Linnda Durre, a psychotherapist in Winter Park, Fla. Consider tying payment to your child’s income such as making it 15 percent of his or her monthly take-home pay.
If your child does not have a job or is unable financially to pay rent, set up a barter system such as exchanging work for room and board. These services might include shoveling snow, mowing the lawn, painting a room or cooking a meal once a week. The exact duties matter less than the responsibility factor involved, Durre says.
Come to an agreement
Regardless of whether your adult child will be contributing financially through payments or services, or a combination of both, consider putting it in writing, Durre says. Have your child read through the contract, and make sure both of you agree on the provisions. Then sign and post a copy in a visible place such as the kitchen or the child’s room.
Michon says if you agree to allow your child to stay until he finds a job and gets back on his feet, figure out what that’s going to take. Then set up steps to make that happen and write them down. It can be much harder to make changes once your child has been under your roof for several months.
Make it a learning experience
If your child doesn’t have a job, consider outlining your expectations for job hunting, says Ruth Nemzoff, author of “Don’t Bite Your Tongue: How to Foster Rewarding Relationships with Your Adult Children.” This might include talking to one person each day about an internship, scheduling time for an Internet job search or volunteering at a workplace to gain experience.
For young adults struggling with credit card or student loan debt, a frank discussion about managing debt may be the best approach. Going to a financial planner for professional help is another option.
If your child moves home with kids of their own, keep in mind you may be caring for those children more than you plan, says Michon. Depending on your child’s income level, government assistance for child care may be available.
Review the arrangement periodically
Consider meeting once a month to go over your child’s situation. Discuss what is going well and what is not, Nemzoff says.
You might be anxious for your child to leave, but in the meantime, focus on the perks of the living arrangement, Nemzoff says. “Think of it as a chance to get to know each other as adults and to redefine your relationship for the future,” she says.
In the case of the Jenkins, her son moved out after a short time. “As it worked out, he just needed a roof over his head for a while,” she says.