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How to Deal with Your Adult Children Moving Back Home

(And set them up for financial success.)

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First it was the Great Recession, then the coronavirus pandemic driving grown children back into the family nest. What are moms and dads to do when they thought their hands-on parenting days were done?

It’s not unusual for recent grads to need an at-home transition period before full independence, but the class of 2023 faces an uncertain job market. It’s likely they’ll need a lot more time to land on their own two feet, whether it be a poor job market, low-paying jobs, or student loan debt.

And they aren’t the only adult children living at home. Many 20-somethings who were fully employed and living on their own just months ago have had to return to their childhood bedrooms because of lost work.

When any adult child moves back home, it can upset a household that’s grown used to their absence. This situation calls for a whole lot of patience and a little bit of parenting finesse.

Recognize that you’re all adults now.

No matter if it’s your firstborn, your middle child, or your baby, when your kid moves back home, remind yourself that they’re not children anymore. Treating them like you used to can mean adding a lot of tension and extra work into your life. Translation: They should wake up on their own and do their own laundry and other personal chores. Here’s how you can make that clear:

  • Set appropriate boundaries: This goes two ways as both you and your adult child deserve privacy and respect. Agree together on a set of ground rules for living in the same house.
  • Separate your finances: Although they may not be able to fully support themselves, adult kids should have their own bank account and pay for discretionary items like gas and entertainment, as well as other expenses, like food and utilities, should their financial situation allow it.
  • Share household expenses and chores: Having them pitch into the household kitty when possible and putting in some elbow grease as needed helps keep them grounded in reality, and not get too comfortable at home.

Support their career goals.

A good-paying job is the key to independence. If your adult child is unemployed, it’s their responsibility to find work, not yours. Badgering them won’t lead to a job offer. You’re better off making sure they know you’re there to help and listen as needed, like sharing resources to help them write their resume and cover letters when asked.

If your son or daughter is open to it, you can even offer to help them network by introducing them to colleagues or friends who might be willing to advise or mentor them on interviewing techniques or setting career goals.

Keep in mind that once your kid lands a job, there’s a good chance they may be working from home. Help them make a good start of it by respecting their workspace and time. (In other words, avoid interrupting their Zoom call by yelling up the stairs, “Honey, do you want a grilled cheese for lunch?”)

Encourage activity.

Motivation for independence can come and go, especially after your son sends out his umpteenth resume or your daughter gets a little too comfortable back in the old family groove. Even if they’re struggling to find a full-time, career-oriented job, that doesn’t mean they can’t work. There are lots of ways to make money online with a side hustle, a local gig or a part-time job.

The benefits of staying active speak for themselves:

  • Making money to pay for personal expenses and contribute to household bills
  • Building up savings for an eventual move-out
  • Adding real-world skills and experience to a resume
  • Showing initiative to prospective employers

Volunteering is another good way to gain experience. A recent college graduate with an accounting or marketing degree can offer to help manage the books or social media profile of a local food bank or other charity.

Promote financial well-being.

Day-to-day parenting is no longer needed, but there are still a few valuable lessons worth passing on to adult children living with you. Talk to them about how to manage and protect their money, such as:

  • Setting a budget: Help them to learn how to live within their means by using by creating a budget and emergency fund.
  • Checking their credit report: This is the first step in identifying and then disputing any errors or fraudulent activity that could jeopardize their credit history or identity.

Look for signs they’re getting too comfortable.

Your adult children are lucky to have the option of moving back in with you while they look for full-time work or pay their dues in lower-paying jobs that make living on their own difficult. No matter the good intentions at the start of this arrangement, sometimes life at home with mom and dad footing the bill starts to get so comfortable that the incentive to move out dries up.

Look for these telltale signs that these comforts are curbing your son or daughter’s desire to leave the nest:

  • Spends more money than saves
  • Buys a TV for their bedroom that’s nicer than the family-room TV
  • Drives a brand-new automobile with a hefty loan payment
  • Plans an extravagant vacation
  • Expects you to make dinner, do their laundry and clean up after them

You can combat such arrested development in a few ways. Start by setting a realistic expiration date on their time at home based on their job situation. Next, make it clear that you’re not their cook, laundress or maid.

Finally, ask them to pay rent regardless of whether you need the money or not. This gets them in the habit of setting aside part of their income for housing. Some parents even save the rent paid and gift it to their adult children when they move out, get married or buy their first home.

Lead by example.

You always love your children. The trick is managing their unexpected homecoming so that you still like them even as their stay wears on. Start with these tips and then do as you’ve done since the day they were born—show them the way.

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CUNA 2023 Diamond Award Winner

Financial Education

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