Adult Children Living at Home: Set Boundaries & Stay Connected

Peace at Home March 8, 2018 | Ruth Freeman

Is your little boy or girl all grown up?
Are you struggling to have a positive, productive relationship with your adult child?

Once your child is 18, you are no longer legally required to support him. However, many adult children live at home and receive both financial and emotional support from their families. While many adult children depend on their parents, hopefully they are also striving for independence. And while parents want their children to successfully launch, they may still be reaching for connection and, yes, even control. With these new dynamics, it can be difficult to set appropriate boundaries while maintaining positive communication with your children when they are adults living at home. And recognizing what you can and can’t control, as well as what you should and shouldn’t control is an important part of this stage. This can be a learning experience for many parents and adult children.

Maybe your child lives with you during his college years or decided to move back home after college. Maybe she is still financially dependent on you at an age where she should be able to sustain herself. Whatever your current situation, if you have an adult child living at home, these tips may be helpful to you:

1. Set Clear Expectations

After 18, living at home is a privilege, not a right.

Set clear guidelines and rules for your adult child about what is acceptable and unacceptable, and make sure to stick to them.

  • Do you want to know if and when your child will be home?
  • Is he allowed to invite people over anytime?
  • Which chores are her responsibility?

Decide what your expectations are and communicate them, before your child re-joins the household if possible. It is ideal to negotiate these expectations as a team, which includes your adult child and any other adults living in the house. If your adult child does not meet these expectations, agree in advance on consequences or how amends will be made. Perhaps he will pay a small fee to whoever had to complete his chores, take on additional chores the following week, or discuss what will lead to “eviction” if conditions don’t improve. Consider creating a contract together for both of you to discuss and sign.

2. Help Your Child Reach Financial Independence

Finances are an important part of adulthood. Both you and your child will benefit if you teach the tools young people need to financially support themselves. Together, create a specific plan and agreement with your adult child about finances. Be sure to include the following considerations:

  • Will you help with student loan or car payments?
  • Will she child stay on your cellphone plan?
  • Will he contribute financially to your home by paying rent or covering the electric bill?
  • If your adult child eats with the family, should he start buying groceries?

Be as specific as possible – detailed planning is important.

3. Stay Involved

Young adults need space to make their own decisions, but they still desire your approval and emotional support. Even though you live in the same house, it is still important to set aside time for one another. During that time, be sure to stay curious and open; listen to their plans and dreams without judgement. Once you have agreement on living guidelines, chores, and finances, it is important that you refrain from criticism and suggestions unless your child requests them. If you have something you want to say, ask if the child is willing to hear your idea. Respecting boundaries during this important transition is just as important as your child respecting yours.

This is a time in your child’s life when huge decisions will be made and your relationship will change. But remember, your influence still matters and he still wants you involved in this exciting part of his life, especially if you can remain positive and encouraging. Save your worries, comments, criticisms – and even your brilliant suggestions – for your partner, friends or other patient listening supporter. This will be crucial during this period of change for you and your adult child.

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