Over the next several weeks, emerging adults will walk across the stage at commencement and right back into their childhood bedrooms.
In 2014, just over 32% of millennials were living with their parents. These living arrangements can cause difficulty for everyone involved, so it’s best to set expectations before your kid moves back in. Proper collaboration and negotiation will be key to maintaining a livable situation.
To set the stage for effective negotiations, start with a general conversation about each other’s needs. Talk about how living at home in the future will be different from how it was in the past. You all have changed a lot since the last time she lived there. Discuss the pros and cons of – and the alternatives to – living at home.
Most of all, make sure the process is truly collaborative: give your kid the ability to make some requests and add things to the agreement. Make some changes to accommodate her. Make it a contract, not a list of demands.
Here are some things that any agreement between parents and a kid moving back home must address:
It is vital that any adult child moving home pay for the privilege. It can be a nominal amount, but she must have some financial stake in the house. Many families take the rent paid and place it in a savings account that they eventually return to their kids. This is a great way to do it, but rent must be paid in full and on time as long as she lives at home. A security deposit and up-front payment of first and last months’ rent are good ideas, but not necessary.
It is also important that any adult child be responsible for feeding himself. This will mean paying for food, shopping for food, and most importantly preparing food. This is especially effective if your kid is responsible for cooking a meal for everyone at home at least twice per week. That will give you a chance to make sure he’s eating a healthy diet and to help him improve his culinary skills.
It is absolutely vital that this arrangement be as much like living on her own as possible. There should be distinct boundaries between the parts of the house that are her responsibility and the parts that are commonly held. Once those borders are established, she must be held responsible for keeping them to your satisfaction. Anything that you do to help her in the areas under her control will cost her. She pays for laundry and maid service.
This one seems simple to everyone, but is not. Parents seem to think that any kid responsible enough to graduate is also responsible enough to arrive home at a decent hour. Kids have radically different ideas of what “decent hour” means. If your kid can enter the house in a way that will not wake you, consider being very liberal with his curfew. If not, discuss what will work for everyone involved and set clear expectations. Make sure he understands that this is just a practical matter and part of getting along with his landlords, not an effort to run his life.
It is likely that your daughter will want to have visitors from time to time. Rules for these guests must be established ahead of time. How long will guests be allowed to stay? Where will they sleep? Which bathroom will they use?
Of course, this gets tricky if you’re negotiating with your kid about a romantic partner. Whether your kid is dating anyone at the time she moves home, you should discuss expectations about sleeping arrangements. This is something you want to handle ahead of time, not between dessert and going to bed on the first night of her boyfriend’s visit.
All good contracts specify consequences for breaking them. These should be built into the agreement you are making with your kid. The agreement should be written clearly and signed. This step might seem overly formal, but remember this is supposed to mimic the real world in which your kid will make a deposit, pay rent, and sign a lease.
Your responsibilities must also be clearly explained, along with consequences for violating them.
Parents and kids who set up agreements like these beforehand tend to get along better and to be more satisfied with the living together. In addition, it paves the way for true independence.
Shane G. Owens, Ph.D., ABPP is an authority on college mental health practice and policy, including college readiness and behavioral risk management. As a college administrator and in private practice, he works primarily with adolescents and emerging adults. He is a board-certified behavioral and cognitive psychologist.
Follow Dr. Owens on Twitter: @drshaneowens
For more helpful information, visit: drshaneowens.com