You can foster independence and responsibility while you set boundaries.
Do you have an adult child living at home part-time or full-time? Are you considering this kind of arrangement? You might be struggling as you think about how to nurture and honor their adulthood while still being the adult parent in your home. I’ve got essential principles and practical help as you set boundaries with adult children. Let’s begin by examining the adult in the somewhat strange term adult child.
Everyone begins life being cared for by others. And if we live long enough, we each end our lives being cared for by other people. Somewhere in between is the chapter of life we call adulthood.
Adulthood: When you bear the responsibility of taking care of yourself.
If you’re a parent, you’ve brought a child into this world who began life utterly dependent on you. But as any toddler will show you, the desire to be independent is built in. It’s human nature for the toddler to protest and say, No, I’ll do it myself. That’s a healthy predisposition. Remember: The ultimate goal of parenting is to transition a dependent person into an independent person.
Parents raise future adults who do life themselves.
The toddler can’t actually do it themselves, and we don’t expect them to. But when is it reasonable to expect your adult child to be responsible for themselves and no longer dependent on you?
The transition can be tricky. It typically occurs between the late teens and early 20s. How do you know when your child is an adult? Every individual is different. You know where your young adult is from a developmental standpoint. But there are some significant signposts.
18 – Legally accountable. Vote. Enlist in the military. Marry without parental consent.
21 – Can buy tobacco, alcohol, and in many states, cannabis.
25 – Rent a car.
26 – Latest age they can be on most parents’ health insurance.
What do you see when you look at those numbers? From 18 to 26, there’s a window of time where adult freedoms and responsibilities kick in. Hopefully, we prepared our kids for the “training wheels” to come off during their teenage years. At 18, the training wheels are definitely beginning to come off. By the early to mid-20s, the transition is complete.
Your toddler is now an adult peddling through life on their own.
★ If we don’t give our adult children responsibilities, they can’t be independent and reach adulthood. This only extends their childhood and delays their maturity.
There are legitimate circumstances that may cause your adult child to be at home: College, unemployment, experiencing childbirth, illness, even a broken marriage or partnership. Our goal as parents is to promote independence through education, employment, financial stability, and ultimately, living on their own. Moving back home (in most cases) should be a temporary arrangement marked with tangible goals leading to their moving out.
Think of an adult child living at home as more like a housemate and less like a teenager. Your name is on the mortgage or lease. Sure, there should be healthy conversations. But you get the final word.
★ Something(s) To Think About. As parents, we have an impulse to do anything we can for our kids. Know your limits. Understand the healthy freedoms & responsibilities your adult child needs to grow into an independent adult.
Will there be an agreed-upon end date?
What signposts can you put in place to mark educational & occupational goals?
Will you be dealing with a young person who has drug or alcohol issues? Significant mental health issues?
Will your child be bringing a baby with them?
Despite your good intentions, realistically, can you handle this?
Avoid problems before they happen. Address and agree to boundaries before an adult child moves back home (if possible). Put them in writing. Sign them like a rental agreement or contract.
What are sensible, reasonable requirements or conditions you would have for a housemate to reside with you?
1. They’re reasonably easy to live with. They respect you, your property, and your boundaries.
Start here. You and your adult child living at home will occasionally experience friction. That’s reasonable. They’re adult family.
(If it helps, think of your adult child as a stranger who is renting a room at your place. There would undoubtedly be limits.)
Sadly, there are numerous cases of adult children intimidating, manipulating, or even verbally and physically abusing their parents. You wouldn’t put up with that behavior from a renter. You can’t tolerate such behavior from your adult child. Basic respect is a minimum requirement. Understand what abuse is in all of its forms.*
2. They’re a contributor, not just a consumer – a giver, not just a taker.
This arrangement shouldn’t just be a net financial gain for your adult child. It should instill discipline and be instructive. Catch this: The person doing the work is learning and growing. The person sacrificing is the person developing character and life skills. This person must be your adult child.
What resources do they have? Income? What amount can they reasonably contribute? Tough Love Alert: If your adult child is enrolled in school, they can probably work part-time. If your adult child isn’t in school and is unemployed, their job is to find a job.
What about time & energy? Your adult child can help with household cleaning, laundry, yardwork, and meal prep & clean up. Organize these responsibilities with systems and schedules. Focus on clear communication. If you’re providing childcare while your son or daughter is at work or school, factor that into the division of labor. (I know, I know, but this is your grandchild, right? Call up a local daycare or preschool. Understand the value of the service you are providing.)
3. Hopefully, this is a harmonious, temporary situation.
Don’t be surprised if adjustments take some time, it’s difficult, or it isn’t working out. It’s ok to feel bad if your adult child is in a tough spot in their life. It’s understandable to want to help. Maybe you can. Perhaps you shouldn’t. What’s certain is that you can’t be motivated by guilt or a well-intentioned, “I can fix this.” Let that stuff go. Be the parent your adult child needs today. To let them play video games 24/7, “borrow” money constantly, or take advantage of you is to stunt the growth of their adult independent living skills. You love them too much to do that.
4. If you allow your adult child to move in with you, the situation should be right for you both.
Communicate and set boundaries upfront. Agree on how you’ll know the arrangement is working and can continue to an agreed-upon end date. As difficult or uncomfortable as it may be, communicate the signs and consequences that will bring an end to this arrangement.
Remember: Your adult child is becoming the person they will be for the rest of their life.
*Domestic Violence Hotline
Do you feel unsafe? For a free, confidential, and clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here, or contact the Domestic Violence Hotline, 24/7, at 1−800−799−7233.
The college transition is hard on both parents and kids. When college students return home for breaks after spending 10 months basically without a curfew, not having to answer to anybody about their comings and goings, and no chores, the homecoming has the potential to be a bit rocky, especially for freshmen.
“We weren’t exactly sure what to expect when our daughter came home from her freshman year,” says Kim Clausen. “She was used to being on her own. When I asked where she was going and when she would be back, I got looks like, ‘Why do you need to know that?’ We had to re-acclimate to her being home and she had to get used to being with us. We all survived, but it took some adjustment on everybody’s part. Things were definitely different.”
Planning Ahead for Adjustments Can Help
Like so many families, the Clausens had settled into a new routine with their two remaining teens at home. Excited about their daughter’s return, they honestly didn’t think a lot about making adjustments as they brought her back into the fold.
“If we had it to do over again, we would have a conversation prior to her returning home about expectations, schedules and the like,” Clausen says. “When she is away she can do what she wants, but when we are trying to juggle work, the schedules of our other two teens and life in general, we need everybody to be on the same page.”
Clara Sale-Davis also found herself in the same position as the Clausen family. Before her daughter made the college transition, she thought about how to make the move easier.
“I remember when I went home for the summer,” says Sale-Davis. “I thought I was going to be running around doing whatever I wanted. Mom would wash my clothes and have dinner ready. I quickly found out I was delusional. While I am honored that my daughter wants to come home for the summer, I wanted to be proactive with her so she would know what to expect.”
Sale-Davis let her daughter know that while they wanted home to be a safe haven, it would not be a resort. She encouraged her daughter to find a job and told her that chores would be awaiting her. She also discussed what seemed reasonable for everyone when it comes to staying out late with friends.
“I thought it would be better to have the conversation ahead of time,” Sale-Davis says. “We talked over the phone and I could hear her eyes rolling. It isn’t that I don’t trust her. We just don’t need to worry unnecessarily.”
Here are some suggestions for making it a pleasant break for everyone.
Establish expectations. Know your priorities, communicate them clearly and discuss what is and is not negotiable. Be clear about what will happen if they do not adhere to your expectations.
Don’t expect your young adult to have the same mindset they had when they left for college. They have been making decisions for themselves, so encourage them to continue to do so while respecting the house rules.
Choose your battles carefully. If you are encouraging them to make their own decisions, realize that they may not make the same decisions you would make for them.
Take this time to help your college student understand what it will be like when they are finally out on their own, paying rent, bills and doing their own laundry.
The college transition to home can be interesting, to say the least. While young adults are in the process of becoming more independent, they still rely on their parents in many ways – including providing a roof over their head during the breaks – not to mention paying college tuition.
After Kerri Crawford’s graduation with a college degree in Child and Family Studies, she planned to earn a minimum salary of $30,000 working with adolescent girls.
“I had some pretty grand ideas about how things would go after graduation,” said Crawford. “It was much harder finding a job than I thought it would be, and the salary was not close to what I expected. My friends and I have joked that you should add a few zeros after your age and that is more likely to be your salary right after you graduate.”
Just like going from home to college was a transition, so is moving from college to the working world. Working eight hours a day, possibly moving to a new city, living alone, no more fall, winter, spring and summer breaks, and no more cafeteria food (not necessarily a bad thing) are pretty dramatic changes when you are used to going to a few classes a day, hanging out with friends, having your food prepared for you and maybe working a part-time job.
“I wish someone had told me how different it was going to be,” Crawford said. “I was so proud of my accomplishments, but I had unrealistic expectations. So I definitely have some advice for people who have just graduated from college.”
Some things would have been really good to know for after graduation, according to Kerri. She said, “I wish someone had told me…:
Not to sell back all of my textbooks and to keep some of the notes I took in class. There seems countless times when I wished I could refer back to something I read or heard in a class.
How important it is to build relationships with classmates. The world is a lot smaller than you think. I have run into so many people I never thought I would see again. These people become your co-workers and are great contacts in the community.
Have an open mind when you are looking for a job. I wanted a job working with adolescent girls. I work mostly with adolescent boys in a job that I believe will be a stepping stone.
Have good relationships with your professors. They know people in the community and can give good job leads and recommendations.
Practice your interview skills ahead of time. I thought interviewing for jobs would be a breeze. After the third or fourth rejection, I had to rethink what I was doing. You have to learn how to sell yourself and what you are capable of to the person interviewing you.
Experience in your field is an asset when you graduate. Every interviewer asked me if I had any experience. Looking back, I wish I had volunteered more so when they asked me if I had experience I could have responded with a confident yes.
The real world is a full-time job. Not only do you have to adjust to a new work situation, you must also adjust to life outside of work. Instead of pulling all-nighters and taking naps in the afternoon, try to get a decent night’s rest. Be ready for financial changes. It is a whole new ballgame when you are responsible for rent, groceries, utilities, insurance, gas, etc. You may have to say no to the “wants” until you get on your feet.”
Making it to this point is what many young people strive for from high school on. Even though the working world is challenging, it’s time to put all of your learning into practice and experience life in the world’s classroom.
You can prepare them now to thrive after they leave.
Do you remember your young adult years? You know, the times when you ate Ramen noodles and searched for spare change beneath the couch cushions and between the car seats because you were a starving student or just starting a new job.
There is nothing like knowing you are just barely making it – but still surviving – on your own. Looking back, you may realize those hard years helped you appreciate what you now have.
The landscape looks vastly different than it did twenty years ago.
According to a 2016 Pew Research Center report, more 18- to 34-year-olds are living with their parents.
Researchers speculate this is fueled in large part by the number of people choosing to put off marriage.
If you think back to your teenage years, most teens couldn’t wait to be out on their own. Even if they didn’t have a job, they were determined to prove they could make it independently. So why are so many young adults choosing to live at home these days?
She surmises that young Americans may be living in their parent’s basement in part because they don’t have the economic or social tools to set out on their own. In a desire to protect and love their children and to shield them from experiencing potential problems in the world, parents may be unintentionally creating more obstacles for them.
This raises some important questions for parents to consider as they prepare their children to leave the nest.
Are you teaching your teens how to develop networks or do you encourage them to rely solely on your networks? Guiding them through the process of building their own network is a powerful step toward independence.
Do you allow your child to fail and learn from their mistakes? Or, do you take care of the consequences so they don’t have to experience the pain? Figuring out how to move forward in spite of failure builds confidence.
Does your teen understand the definition of and the value of a good work ethic? Employers constantly lament many young people’s understanding of punctuality or being respectful and motivated to do a good job.
Have you encouraged your teen to find a job without doing it for them? It’s important to teach your teen how to look someone in the eye and put their cellphone away. Help them learn how to dress appropriately and what questions an interviewer may ask. These things are far more helpful for your teen in the long run than if you pick up the phone and make a call for them.
Except for special circumstances such as disability, emergencies or providing care to parents, is allowing adult children to live at home really the best thing for them?
Part of launching into adulthood is learning how to navigate challenges and celebrate accomplishments. As hard as it may be, encourage them to learn the meaning of perseverance, relentless pursuit and independence.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/YoungAdultsLivingWithTheir-Parents.jpg9001400Julie Baumgardnerhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJulie Baumgardner2017-10-02 00:00:002022-03-15 14:20:48Young Adults Living with Their Parents
If you have teens or college-age young adults, you’ve probably had (or soon will have) ongoing conversations about how they’ll spend their break.
As kids try to get permission (and money!) for the trip, you’ll hear phrases like:
“I’m almost an adult. This is a rite of passage.” Or, “It’s what college students do. We go to the beach and hang out.”
The pressure is on for sure. But before you give in…
Here’s what research shows about spring break safety issues:
The average male reported drinking 18 drinks per day, compared to 10 drinks for the average female.
Of 783 young people surveyed, more than 50 percent of men and 40 percent of women said they drank until they became sick or passed out at least once.
The U.S. State Department’s “Spring Break in Cancun” says that alcohol is involved in most arrests, accidents, violent crimes and deaths suffered by American tourists there.
This is a major issue on some Florida beaches, so places like Gulf Shores and Orange Beach police departments have taken precautionary measures to avoid problems. These cities have already posted open letters on Facebook to spring breakers.
“We have said it before, but just so we are clear… if your top priorities when visiting the beach are being drunk and disorderly; breaking what you consider to be small rules like underage drinking, littering and leaving glass on the beach, urinating in public, using drugs, or engaging in violent or indecent behavior, Gulf Shores is definitely not the place for you.”
Risk-taking peaks during adolescence.
Instead of weighing risks based on logic and wisdom, teens are usually more concerned about how their choices will impact their peer relationships. They see being unaccepted relationally as a threat.
While a teen might usually make good choices, science shows that adding friends to the mix changes things. It makes them more likely to take risks for the reward of acceptance instead of considering the cost. The presence of other spring breakers can make it seem like the rewards of risk outweigh any consequences.
If your goal is for your spring breaker to be safe, consider these things:
Even if they don’t like the idea, you may decide to go along if you feel they aren’t ready to fly solo. You don’t have to constantly hover, but checking in regularly with an adult can decrease the potential for poor decision-making.
Help unsupervised teens and young adults prepare well. Discuss their plans and where they are staying. Establish clear expectations about everything from social media and location check-in to communicating with you by phone at designated times.
Address the dangers of underage drinking, meeting up with strangers and the potential consequences (legal and otherwise) for poor choices. They also need to know how to protect themselves from sexual assault, date rape, drugs and the like.
Ultimately, the goal is to keep people safe over spring break. We all know that one irresponsible decision or crazy social post can change someone’s life. (Check out How to Talk to Your Teen About Drinking.)
Most of us would probably agree: It’s better to leave no stone unturned than to wish we had said something. Don’t be afraid to be “that parent.” You know, the one who encourages new experiences, knowing that a strong foundation can help them make the most of their opportunities.