What To Do If Your Twenty-Something Is Moving Back Home

What To Do If Your Twenty-Something Is Moving Back Home

Maybe she graduated from college and hasn’t had time to find a real job yet. Or perhaps he washed out of military training. Or, maybe college or the first job experience was a flop. Whatever the reasons, your child is moving back home. What can you do to prepare?

Have a plan/don’t wing it.

You may think you’re ready. You’re an experienced parent. You’ve known this kid for twenty plus years. He lived in your house for most of his life. You talk to her twice every day. But if your child has been living away from home, functioning as an independent adult, going backwards to living with parents might be difficult.

Imagine what your adult child may be expecting.

What does your young adult have in mind for the move back home? If he is like most, he’s anticipating good home-cooked meals, a climate controlled living space, relief from the pressures and stresses of the greater world, and for things to be a lot like his holiday visits home. Except that he expects to be respected. He’s an adult now. He probably won’t want to be micromanaged or controlled. He’ll want you to trust him to manage his own business.

And now think about what you expect.

When your daughter moves in, do you envision things running like they did when she was in high school? Will you cook her meals? How will you feel if she stays up until four a.m. and sleeps until two in the afternoon? Are you anticipating that she will behave as a responsible adult? Will you require her to get a job or take a class? Will you step back and give her trust and respect automatically, or will she have to earn it with responsible behavior? Has she been made aware of your expectations?

Perhaps this won’t be so easy after all.

Consider which kinds of rules you might implement if a young adult other than your child was moving in – perhaps a niece or nephew.

To gain some objectivity about your own child, and your role in his or her life, imagine what the arrangement might look like with a young adult you care about, but don’t plan to “parent.”

Here’s my offer to my nieces and nephews:

You can move in to the guest room rent-free if you want to go to school or look for work here. I won’t oversee you or supervise you, but I have some non-negotiable rules. Consider these rules your rent for staying here: No drugs, ever. No overnight guests, unless we have agreed well ahead of time. Don’t park behind my car or I will run into you. Clean your living space, do your laundry, take care of your own stuff, and don’t ask anything of me. Likewise, I won’t be giving you money for gas or food. I have already offered a room, rent-free; I think that’s enough.

Does your offer for a niece or nephew look like mine? Is something missing? Do you need to add specific details? If a family member of the same age came to stay in your guest room, how much “parenting” would your expect to provide?  What kind of supervision would you expect to give the niece/nephew? Should your arrangement with your own adult child be similar?

Write the plan out in a contract.

After stepping back and thinking through your new arrangement, you’re ready to make some rules. It’s best to write those down. Writing it out reduces the risk of forgetting the details and keeps everyone on track.

Sit down and discuss it together. Sign it.

To further reduce the risk of misunderstandings, it helps if parents and adult child review the written agreement together for clarity and then sign the contract. Pointing to the document and reminding one another, “We had a deal,” might be more effective later than arguing who is right and who is wrong.

Stick to it.

And finally, it will be important to stay the course and stick with the plan. No forgetting, no giving in. Failure to stick with your agreement can invite bad behavior from your budding adult child.


Dr. Deuter is a psychiatrist who specializes in the care of emerging adults.

Posted on March 3, 2014 .