Under my roof—again?

June marks summer’s arrival and with it, a sense of freedom. For some that comes in the form of graduating college and entering the real world. Unfortunately that new feeling may be fleeting, as tough economic times may mean they cannot financially support themselves—a fact that might be even harder on the parents. A Pew study done last March found that 34 percent of millennials (born between the 1980s and the early 2000s) live with their parents.

As the Pew study revealed, most parents welcome their children home and are willing to do whatever it takes to help them succeed. But, it can be a difficult adjustment. The majority of parents I work with are glad to be finished with child-rearing and greatly enjoy the independence of this next phase of life. Both the children and parents should approach the return to the nest with open communication and reciprocal respect to ensure a smooth transition for everyone.

Welcome your child home, but remember that he is an adult and should be treated as one. Your child no longer requires permission to stay out late. He can drink and smoke without your consent and need not be home for dinner. However, you should set rules for how much drinking and partying you are willing to tolerate in your home and don’t feel obligated to prepare meals. When practical, he should have the option to return to his old bedroom, but don’t feel obligated to rearrange your life, he should graciously accept the next best offer, whether it’s the basement or a pull out sofa. If your child is unmarried, you have the right to assert your comfort level with sexual partners spending the night. Of course, if he doesn’t like these rules, he is free to move out.

Discuss finances well before moving boxes arrive. Many parents are uncomfortable talking about money, especially when it’s often the reason for the return home.

However, not doing so can lead to resentment and frustration—voice expectations clearly. Some parents expect a live-at-home adult child to work part-time at any job he can find until better employment materializes, while others want to know their children are networking or looking into continuing education.

I strongly recommend adult children participate in household chores like laundry, grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning. There is value to being a contributing member of the household and it helps continue the maturing process. I find that when young adults live at home without obligations, they are far less motivated to find employment or move out. This lack of purpose results in a sense of worthlessness and even depression.

Some parents welcome a child home for an indefinite amount of time while others place a limit on the stay—particularly if mom and dad intend to downsize or move out of state. Share expectations up front so everyone can plan accordingly.

Treating your child as an adult includes offering advice only if asked; don’t criticize, lecture or ask too many questions. Also, keep in mind that although not tragic, moving home can be a tough transition, shaking the newly minted adult’s self-esteem and causing self-doubt. This phase in your child’s growth requires your encouragement and patience as much as your roof over his head.

dr. susan bartell

dr. susan bartell

Dr. Susan Bartell is a nationally-recognized psychologist and author practicing in Port Washington. She also speaks throughout the country on a wide range of topics to help individuals and groups improve emotional and physical health and life balance. drsusanbartell.com